From the Left



Watering plants is actually good for you

Froma Harrop on

I know this is an outlier story. It's about Brooklyn brownstone couples who pay over $2,000 for professionals to choose and care for their houseplants. Houseplant designing is actually a service being offered to the urban and suburban gentry. One such "Plant Doctor & Stylist" charges an hourly rate between $125 and $175. Those are psychotherapy prices.

What I see, sadly, are busy careerists outsourcing basic acts of living. It's one thing to pay for child care. But indoor-plant care? Is carrying a glass of water to the ficus on the windowsill such a time-wasting, big deal?

It's not like these people have a quarter-acre lawn to mow (for which they'd no doubt hire someone).

"We do all the dirty work for you," Lisa Munoz, one of the houseplant nannies, told The New York Times. In my experience, however, caring for a houseplant rarely ruins a manicure. And there's a fashion item called gardening gloves.

Perhaps a plant will need a bigger pot. Well, go buy a bigger pot and a quart of soil, and move the plant into the larger container. Or leave it outside for a neighbor to take, and go buy another one the right size. Whatever you do is going to cost a heck of a lot less than $2,000.

Beyond laziness, other factors may be at work here. A certain insecurity stalks many young professionals. With their super-styled homes, some may fear appearing dated and unfashionable in their houseplant choices.

And wouldn't having a houseplant die under one's care be a humiliating sign of failure? It's happened to me, and I know the sting. I recall coming home from a vacation and finding my water-loving peace lily dried to a crisp.

But I dusted myself off, went out and bought a ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). The ZZ is a fleshy succulent that, like the peace lily, thrives in low light but needs little water. By the way, it's really fun to go to a store and look over the houseplants.

It's been long known that houseplants enhance your health. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which we humans need. A study by NASA found that houseplants remove an enormous amount of toxins in the air. On the psychological side, they have been found to calm us and reportedly improve concentration.


But the act of caring for plants is itself a healthy form of nurturing. Nature-oriented pursuits like gardening are known to relieve stress. True, you're not going to burn off calories and build muscles applying fertilizer to the philodendron -- this is not digging potatoes -- but you are communing with something exotic. Ferns, after all, came to us from tropical rainforests. And this is wholesome time away from screens.

Plant amateurs often produce the more interesting, quirky arrangements than people in the business. Drive through a posh neighborhood where full-time landscapers do all the work. The results might be tasteful, but they tend to be conformist and often dull. The same would apply to arrangements of indoor plants. Do you want your home to feel like a law office? (Don't answer, some of you.)

With jobs and workouts and restaurant bookings, professional couples can be very busy. But it seems a shame that so much of their life is being automated, never mind the expense.

Every year, I buy a lineup of amaryllis plants to ensure a bloom from December through early spring. The latest one started out as a bulb already in a container. I simply watered and watched the green leaves emerge inch by inch. The buds just exploded into parrot-red blossoms. Gosh, that felt good -- and I never had to give up Twitter.


Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at


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