It has been exactly one year and five months since I acquired my first set of houseplants from a friend who was moving off-island. That first collection consisted of two planters and six common houseplants.
In due course, my enthusiasm would evolve from obsession to full-fledged madness. I became a certified crazy plant lady. I hoarded plants. I frequented nurseries every week. I acquired agricultural import permits and imported exotic collections from Asia, the U.S. mainland and South America. I studied their basic taxonomy and classifications. And yes, I foraged the wild (with permission from taotaomona lest I get sick).
Over the next several months, I would amass a medley of houseplants and my house would succumb to their space-consuming and pest-promoting maladies. I had plants in my kitchen, my living room, my entryway, my front yard and my backyard. Real estate for human space grew smaller and smaller. Plants took over my space, my time, my life. And before I knew it, I could not keep up with all their needs — the different watering schedule, the humidity check, the pest control, the indoor light adjustments.
With the Covid-19 lockdown forcing everyone to stay home, gardening made history last year. Home Depot and nurseries became therapeutic refuges for many. Gardening seeds and soil mixes were flying off the shelves faster than toilet paper. And with increased demand came a spike in price tags.
Houseplants were more affordable when I first started in 2019. Most of the species in the genera of philodendron, monstera, anthurium and alocasia were still reasonably-to-mildly priced. I bought my first pink princess philodendron (PPP), 8” pot, for only $15 at the flea market. Today, you’re lucky if you can find one priced at under $100 — if you can find one locally at all. Online prices for PPP’s average around $175 for a 4” pot. A small monstera Thai constellation sold for $25 three years ago could start at $250 today.
Then there are the ultra-rare and elusive cultivars that command for only the serious of plant enthusiast (or those bedeviled by a real addiction) like the Philodendron longilobatum lelano miyano, native to Brazil, which is easily priced at over $3,000. Or the more endangered cultivar, the phenomenal philodendron Spiritus sancti. Native to Brazil in the state of Espirito Santo, this stunning hemiepiphytic plant with pendant leaves that grow up to 29” was priced at over $11,000 on NSE Tropical, an online plant store, in October 2020. Fortunately, I haven’t surrendered to a troubling plant addiction and I don’t think I’ll ever have the “itch” or the budget to acquire a houseplant with a ridiculous price tag like that.
After one year, as my house turned into a crazy jungle and as the plant community grew, I felt overwhelmed and became oddly incurious about plants. I decided to slow down from collecting and began to purge to make room for only the plants that I had a connection to. I moved a majority of my indoor plants outside, removed unwanted plants and pest and rearranged to make more space for humans.
I’m happy to say that my intense interest for plants has reemerged. Since the purge and spring cleaning, I’ve spent many mornings and afternoons in my garden reflecting and keeping still. Most of the time, my eyes would wander about the curation that my garden provides, like a museum of finely curated art. I can never grow tired of being here.
I can’t explain it scientifically, but when I sit here staring at them, I feel like I’m absorbing something magical, presented as an alchemy of life. The plants radiate a sort of energy that is mixed in with my aura, a formula that defies explanation. The transformation is subtle but profound.
And in the purest essence, houseplants don’t only make our space look good, they are also good for our health and well-being. Studies have found that houseplants help clean indoor air by absorbing airborne toxins. They are therapeutic to care for and can help reduce stress, boost overall mood, productivity, creativity and concentration. In simpler terms, #plantsmakepeoplehappy.
Anyone who is immersed in the plant world know that when you take this journey, you become transformed into a better version of yourself. Your world feels lighter, happier; your capacity to love and to be human expands. You’re more patient, more kind, more understanding, more giving. Your troubles and worry become transient. You are more self-aware and more conscious of the natural world. In essence, you become the manifestations of the plants you grow.
Rubyjane Buhain-Redila is an artist and marketing professional. You can find her on