Why I Filled My NYC Apartment With 500 Houseplants

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

"My mom wanted me to tell you that you have beautiful plants," my guest said as she walked into my home.

"That's wonderful!" I replied. "Tell her thank you."

"But you don't understand," she emphasized. "My mom's like 60 years old. She lives in Thailand and doesn't even use a computer. I don't know how she found out about it!"

Surrounding myself with green is simply how I love to live.

My Brooklyn home recently and unexpectedly went viral thanks to houseplants—many, many houseplants. What started off as one fiddle leaf fig in my bedroom around seven years ago eventually dominoed into 500 beautiful plants, sprawling, climbing, and stretching their leafy green arms across my five-room space. The simple act of getting one houseplant quickly became a lifestyle choice; surrounding myself with green is simply how I love to live.

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

I grew up in the country, and I acknowledge that I miss it—the fresh air, the green grass beneath my feet, the forests behind my house. I suppose if I lived like that here in Brooklyn, I wouldn't have to overcompensate by bringing the outdoors in. (I've often said the plants in my home are indirectly proportional to the time I spend outdoors!)

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

Most people would agree that we have a lot to learn from one another, but I also think that houseplants can teach us a thing or two if we choose to listen. Here are some of the lessons I've had the pleasure of learning from my green companions over the years:

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1. Get the right amount of rest.

In the workaholic, partyholic world we live in, it's not uncommon for us to push ourselves to the limit. This can, and often does, work against us.

Plants, like people, require downtime. At first, this seems counterintuitive because you figure the more light or the more nutrients you give a plant, the more it will grow. Not true. Too much light can photooxidize a leaf's membrane lipids, making it susceptible to leaf bleaching, and too much fertilizer can lead to wilting. A healthy balance of growth and rest is important for both plants and people, or else we'd all be dull and wilted.

2. Take a moment to breathe.

Plants undergo photosynthesis during the day, capturing sunlight and converting it into energy. During the process, oxygen is released into the atmosphere to become part of the air we breathe. This unique partnership—of plant and human—shows us the beauty and importance of taking deep breaths all throughout the day.

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

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3. Learn to be still.

Every month I open up my home to the community for a meditation by way of Medi Club, a quickly growing group of modern meditators. It's a beautiful way to commune with neighbors and offer up a respite from the cacophony of city living. I've found my home to be very suitable for meditation, thanks to the plants I've cultivated along the way. In a way, their quietude helps others find their own stillness.

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

4. Love your microorganisms.

Both plants and people have evolved to develop partnerships with beneficial microorganisms. As a matter of fact, if we removed or compromised our own good bacteria, we would severely compromise our health and well-being. It is now estimated that we have as many beneficial bacterial cells in our body as we do human cells, and it's important to feed our body cells as well as our bacterial cells if we want to stay in tiptop shape. The same goes for plants. Our green friends take in nutrients through their roots, but oftentimes beneficial microorganisms, much like those found in our gut and on our skin, can form partnerships with the roots to increase nutrient uptake or just encourage plant growth in general. Moral of the story: Tend to your microbiome!

Photo: Homestead Brooklyn

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5. Take care of them, and they take care of you.

At some point, even the most self-sufficient plants (e.g., cacti) need a little attention from their caretaker. However, the time and care you put into your plants is only given back. The same can be said of friends and strangers alike. The good vibes that you give to people will always come back your way in time.

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