It’s May, and close to Shavous, the holiday of greenery and flowers. Incidentally or not, the end of May is the best time to plant outside in the North East.
Plants, both within your home and outside, offer tremendous benefits. In addition to filtering the air, greenery provides a calming, meditative effect for the environment, giving you a mental break from all the screens, is shown to boost creativity and prevent depression, and is a great way to incorporate low-intensity exercise for the elderly and disabled. Gardening is also a great way to teach children where our food comes from and how plants grow.
This is why in place of flowers, I love to give and receive plants. They are the gift that keeps on giving. Many people say that their homes are where plants come to die, but I assure you this does not need to be so.
I’ve discovered in my thirties that I have a green thumb. Although this may seem like a gift from G-d, really, it is as simple as paying attention to the plants and, more often than not, ignoring the advice given by the garden vendors – many of times I followed a path laid out only to see my plants begin to wither and die. Instead, pay attention to the plants, they will tell you what they need.
Plants require three things in order to grow: dirt, water, and sun – and the proper combination of the three. To give your plant a good start, use potting soil. Make sure to place your plant where it can get a solid few hours of sunlight. Very few varieties of plant can exist without natural sunlight; light from a regular light bulb does not count. I remember the time I bought a small succulent from a vendor in a pretty little stoneware pot. He told me I could keep the pot on the dining room table, as the succulent could use the light from the chandelier. He was wrong. The plant was dying – until I decided to move it to the kitchen window. Now it is flourishing.
Finally, check the dirt regularly with your finger every day or so, to see if it is dry or moist. Dry dirt needs water, regardless of what the vendor said. I have no idea why vendors say plants only need to be watered once a week; it is almost never the case. Water the dirt, not the stalks so the plant can utilize the water effectively.
If you get a bad haircut, you know that your hair will grow back. Feel free to experiment with your plant. As long as it gets dirt, water and sun, it will grow back – no matter what you do to it.
My husband once gave me a pot of tulips. Once the flowers died, I cut them off down to the layer of dirt and left them by a bedroom window, hoping they would regrow in the spring. Instead, they regrew all year long, nourished by the warm heat given by their proximity to the steam.
Another time, my husband bought me a beautiful blue flowering hydrangea bush for Pesach. I put the plant by the dining room window, enjoying the beautiful vista the flowers created. By the first day of Chol HaMoed, the flowers had withered and died. My neighbor recommended cutting up the flower buds, promising me that the plant would regrow the flowers. I cut off the bulbs and waited for the flowers to reappear, but they didn’t. However, the plant was still lush and green, so I decided to repot it outside, adding soil from a leftover bag. The next year, despite the cold New York winter, the bush survived and surprised me by growing big purple flowers. I hadn’t realized, but by adding new soil to the plant, I had changed the ph balance, causing the change in color.
I explained what happened to my children, and they were easily able to grasp the science behind it. This plant regrows year after year, giving pleasure to all that pass by.
Buy a plant or two, and see how this simple, economical pleasure can enhance your daily life.