Opinion: Growing pains and plants during COVID-19 quarantine

A little home gardening might be just the thing for people needing a low-stress hobby to cope with the crisis and pass the time.


Raquele Decker

A pothos plant is seen inside Moss on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

I never considered myself a green thumb growing up. My father, on the other hand, cherished the flower bed in our front yard every growing season. We have a section in my scrapbook of him elbows deep in the dirt while I stood in the background, smelling the flowers he was about to plant. 

During the first week of freshman year, I was given a small spider plant in a yellow mug to put by my window sill. Suddenly, I had something to take care of. While my mental health took a slight nose dive, I cared for that plant as if it was my family dog waiting for me at home. Seeing it in the dreary months of winter perked up my feelings as I reminded myself spring was right around the corner. 

Ecowatch has a small article listing seven ways houseplants benefit your health, both mental and physiological. They boost mental health by giving a bit of greenery in a boxed-in area; they improve the air quality by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen; they give their owner a sense of routine by watering and checking their status. NASA has even done a study in the international space station on why they have their astronauts raise plants — the real reason is to improve air quality, but I like to think it is because plants are nice to look at — a splash of green among a mostly white and grey living space. 

Soon I had more than just a small spider plant, I had a windowsill covered in plants, along with the corner of my desk. My spider plant graduated two pots and is now bigger than my torso. It sits on my desk and covers half of my computer screen. 

Instead of becoming the crazy cat lady, I earned my title as the crazy plant lady. 

Since the University of Iowa enforced a longer spring break and moved classes online because of COVID-19, I have returned home with all of my plants, including my boyfriend’s plant because he could not travel on the plane with it. While I can go outside to my front yard and such while practicing social distancing, the weather has not been kind to us and has kept us indoors most days. Even so, my “bucket forest,” as my dad fondly calls it, has brought joy to me while stuck in four walls. 

Despite all of the hardships of sudden transport and replaced dirt, they continue to thrive. One has even flowered again after almost dying by dehydration — thanks, dad, for not watering it while I was gone. Another has almost outgrown its pot and will need to be relocated to a bigger one any day now. They all continue growing, each turning into bigger and stronger plants while never being outdoors.

While I try not to wax poetically about having the indoor garden, it gives me and my family a chance to admire nature from indoors. As I inspect the plants daily — which involves a routine of checking the soil, watering them, and even talking to them if they need encouragement — I am reminded of a scene in the hit anime Cowboy Bebop. While living on a spaceship in space, the tough, scarred character Jet delicately takes care of a bonsai garden and spends a part of each day taking a moment of peace to relax in their area. His life is chaotic and often dangerous, but the plants do not care. All they do is sit and grow, and do not have expectations for the character. 

So as I sit here at home during my self-quarantine, I will continue to take care of my plants as a way of self-care. Because in these trying times, we all need someone or something to invest our time in. So why not a plant? I might even add another one to my collection during my time here.