One of the weirdest things I’ve learned during this pandemic is that succulents are low maintenance, easy growing, pest resistant plants and yet I am incapable of keeping one alive. I have witnessed the rise and fall of many great succulent clusters and these dynamics usually reflect my stress levels and mental health, mostly pertaining to those same clusters. This was a realization that really stuck me because, as a self-proclaimed Type A personality, I had done weeks of extensive research before I bought my plants, becoming a sort of armchair expert in all things succulents and house plants. My struggle with succulent care has also helped highlight my struggle with my own mental health and my journey with it. So today in an attempt to encourage you to not make the same mistakes as me, here are my top four tips for keeping succulents alive that also pertain to maintain your metal health.
Make sure your succulents get enough light. Adult succulents love light and need around six hours of sunlight per day, which is 12 times the amount of sun the average human needs, about 10 – 30 mins. So, perch your succulents by the window and watch an episode of The Office with them and you’ll both get all the sun you need.
Water according to the season. Like a succulent I can go a long time without thinking or checking in on myself. I am durable, but just because I am resilient doesn’t mean that I will last forever if I fully ignore myself. That same sentiment goes for succulents who, ironically are native to deserts, mostly die of under-watering. Water your succulents more in the summer and spring and less in the winter and fall, and always let your soil fully dry before watering it again.
Keep succulents clean. Your indoor plants will gradually pick up dust on the leaves and other surfaces, so will everything else in your space. And by engaging in the ritual of cleaning, research shows that we feel more optimistic, as tidying up can actually boost self-esteem and confidence. To some extent, the act of organization provides a physical signal to tell the brain that we have achieved success in being orderly, which will inevitably result in feelings of affirmation. So, take a damp cloth and gently wipe off the leaves and wipe down and pick up around you.
Plant succulents in the right soil. Taking the time to create and maintain a comfortable living and working space is key to maintaining your mental health. Soil, like your spaces, is where your succulents live and grow, so choosing the right soil is key to proper plant care. Cactus soil or mix soil is the most ideal.
This leads me to THE weirdest thing I’ve learned during the pandemic, which is that knowing how to do something, even in extensive details, doesn’t mean you are actually doing those things. Look at me, I just wrote an entire blog on keeping and maintaining healthy clusters, yet Sylvia Grey is still buried in my backyard being an active part of the circle of life. So, what’s the lesson here? I don’t know. All I really know is that if succulents and social distancing has taught me anything, it’s that taking care of a succulent is very similar to taking care of your mental health – but knowing how to do it does not absolve you from actually doing it. Most importantly, the key is to not just robotically following the steps, but rather making an active effort to check in with yourself, listen to your needs and find ways to meet them.
Remember you’re not wasting your time if you are spending it on yourself, and don’t worry – your mental health will thank you later. Hopefully, writing this article will hammer these same messages into my head and I too will learn to put in effort into my mental health in the same way I strive to in my gardening. All in all wish me luck, as an active believer in second chances I’m off to give a better future to baby Sylvia the Second.
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