How my plants kept me sane during the lockdown

My plant babies proved to be such good company, I never felt alone during the quarantine. It felt good being surrounded by these beautiful living things. As if all was well in this troubled world.

This corner is always full of sunbathing plants

A friend who had stayed in my house once said that even if the world was ending, she would feel all right inside with all my beautiful plants. It’s quite an urban jungle. I have about 50 plant babies, with a full-grown tree MacArthur palm (a rescue plant) lording it over the pack, and a number of so-called “It” plants such as the Monsteras (Monstera deliciosa, Thai constellation or variegated Monstera deliciosa, and Swiss cheese vine or Monstera adansonii), the black beauty Zz Raven, and the finicky fiddle leaf fig, among others.

Black beauties Zz Raven and Calathea rattlesnake

Some of my plants are notoriously difficult to care for, such as the calatheas and peperomias, but I also have a lot of the easy ones like snake plants and pothos all over the place. I have been planning to start growing my own food for sometime now, and so I have this avocado I have grown as a water plant (I have to plant this soon as the seed is almost gone now) and a taro in a Buddha head planter in my bedroom.

Each leaf of this rubber tree is a study in variegation.

Tending my plants every morning made me forget the pandemic and the lockdown for a while. I have always found it therapeutic, but even more so during these trying times. Feeling like I had all the time in the world, I checked the soil carefully before watering. I cleaned their leaves regularly (by wiping them with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water and soap) so they could breathe well. I sprayed some of them every morning.

Tending the plants every morning is therapeutic, even more so during the lockdown.

Plants have different watering, light and humidity requirements. Generally, plants need some time to dry out between watering, but it got very hot during the lockdown so they were thirstier than usual. Some plants need damp soil all the time, but overwatering is fatal to them. And of course, the succulents just need water once a week (and on a fixed schedule, or else!) no matter what.

Author Doreen Jose: This monstera has grown taller than me in just a few months

Some plants, such as the ponytail palm, are actually succulents but they grow quite big and the name is misleading, so they only need to be watered once a week. I also took care not just to sunbathe all the plant babies regularly every morning, but also to move the babies away from the window or shield them with a curtain if the sun got too much for them in this cruel summer.

Plants and books filled my days kept me busy during lockdown

The plants loved it that I made such a fuss over them. And how they bloomed! The purple shamrock showed off its dark purple triangular leaves and lots of trumpet-like flowers! It’s not a one-time bloom, either. They came back from last year’s seeds, with more leaves and those delicate flowers. Monstera deliciosa is now taller than me. Thai constellation is now a galaxy with its many speckled leaves. The variegated rubber tree has grown taller and has many new leaves, with each one unique in its variegation. The colorful calatheas (lancifolia and ctenanthe tricolor) are also much lusher and very perky, folding their leaves at night as if to pray.

This peperomia raindrop has grown into such a beauty.

The peace lilies were still the drama queens, drooping to signal that they needed water, but hey they were so green and healthy the whole time so they must be happy despite all the drama.

As I was paying more attention to the plants during this time, I noticed the peperomia raindrop (many of the plants get their name from the shape or appearance of their leaves) tucked into a corner of a plant shelf in my bedroom. It had grown into such a vibrant beauty! I had been so preoccupied with all the other plant babies all this time I had almost forgotten about this one, so it was such a pleasant surprise. This baby is now in the living room, getting bright indirect light and more attention than it used to get. This also encouraged me to try my luck again with high-maintenance peperomia watermelons, currently my favorites as they look so yummy.

Pothos are probably the lowest maintenance plants ever.

My plant babies proved to be such good company throughout the lockdown. I never felt alone with them. True, some of them can be quite complicated, but once you get them, they know how to reward you. It felt good being surrounded by these beautiful living things. As if all was well in this troubled world.