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The Art of the Plant Pause and Managing Plant Parent Overwhelm, 111




What a year it’s been. I’m thankful 2020 is coming to a close and excited for 2021, I think a silver lining 2020 has given us is truly understanding the power of plants and how they can help us relieve stress and cultivate more joy in our lives. My goal for Bloom and Grow is to help everyone successfully care for plants for that exact reason, to make the world a kinder and greener place. Now… there is also a dark side to this hobby of plant care. There is a moment in all of our lives where our hobby teeters the thin line between joyful and stressful. Where we fall so deeply in love with plants, maybe we bring too many home at once, or go through a season of life where we can’t care for our collection and then feel disappointed in ourselves. I initially thought my struggles with plant parent overwhelm have been unique, an outlier in our community, but after hearing from you in the listener survey, or in dms and emails, I know this moment of Plant Parent Overwhelm is something we all struggle with.


On this episode of BAGR, we revisit highlights of Episode 43: Your Brain On Plants, in which I interviewed Dr Caitlin Vander Weele, a neuroscientist about what chemically happens in our brain when we get addicted for plants. The conversation was eye opening, and on this topic, feel like the things Caitlin shares shed so much light on a problem so many plant parents struggle with at one point through out their plant parenthood.

Here’s a recap of what Caitlin and I discussed

  • Stages of obsessive shopping
    • Anticipation – getting antsy around buying plants, obsessing, creating situations in which you show up in places you can buy plants
    • Preparation – researching what plants you want to buy obsessively, obsessing over when/how you’ll get your next plant (in a way that feels unhealthy and not joyful)
    • Shopping- “engaging in the thrill of the hunt”
    • Purchase-  rush of dopamine from the purchase followed by a crash
  • Signs to look out for:
    • Spending out of control- showing up for a hoya and leaving with $200 in plants instead
    • Obsessing and putting yourself in situations to buy plants that aren’t normal- I shared that in my unhealthy period, everytime I went out I would think about where the nearest plant shop was 
    • Feeling like buying a plant is what makes you feel better or anxious on days you don’t buy plants 
    • Focused on quantity not quality- too focused on growing urban jungle and not on the plants that i had already

After snippets of that episode with Caitlin, I then share experiences, strategies and suggestions on how to deal with Plant Parent Overwhelm and how to go on a plant pause. 

plant parent overwhelm

How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm 

  • Understand your “number”.
  • Finding the number of plants that brings you joy and not stress is THE key tip I can give you.

    • Everyone’s “number” is different. One of my plant friends has 6 plants and has a totally minimalist approach. Another friend has 300+ and adores her plant routine and that number works for you. The key is that your plant care routing and plant collection should help you relax, bring you joy and also… the plants should be able to stay healthy for the most part. In order to find your number, you might have to give plants away. I highly suggest pairing your collection down at some point, because it can be a freeing experience. Assessing your plant collection and recognizing the plants that don't work for you and then parting with them can be a very empowering experience.
  • Accept that it’s happening and forgive yourself. This happens to EVERYONE. It’s honestly PART of being a Plant Parent. It’s your next steps that will define how you bounce back and create a healthy relationship with your new hobby.
  • Asses where you are. What is currently bringing your stress about your plants?
    • Has your collection gotten too large to manage? Consider gifting some plants to friends, or loaning plants to a plant friend to “babysit” until you can bring it back to your home with a healthy mindset
    • Are you unable to stop buying plants? Put yourself on a plant pause and focus on your current collection. This will be hard at first but it’s SO worth it. See my “Tips for Going on a Plant Pause” below
  • Set a budget and stick to it! Spending over your budget is a key indicator that it might be time to take a deeper look at your approach to your plant collection
  • Find a focus. If your general plant collection is overwhelming you, maybe niche down to a focus? Get super curious about a certain genus of plants, experiment with propagating, spend time learning about the plants you already have.
  • Work with what you’ve got. When I took my plant pause, the first thing I did was organize all the plants I had in my collection. I was so focused on growing the collection, I didn’t even focus on styling or how the plants would fit in my home. I got a grow light to set some high light plants up for success, I organized plants on coffee tables and windowsills. I cleaned leaves, pruned and observed flowers and tried to find moments of awe and joy in my current collection. 


plant pause

Tips for going on a plant pause

  • Define your rules. A Plant Pause can look different for different people. Here are some options:
    • Halt all spending on any aspect of plant care. Plants, accessories, pots, lights, the works. Strick pause to really dive in to what you got.
    • Committing to not bringing any form of plant (purchased or traded) home for a certain period of time
    • Assessing your current “plant number” and deciding to reduce it and making plans to gift, donate or sell your plants
  • Involve your community. Share your goals with whoever you live with and closest friends. Billy asked me to go on a plant pause, so my situation is a bit specific, BUT I was so out of control at that moment, I really needed an accountability partner to help me break the bad spending habits I was getting into. A positive other side affect was once I started bringing plants home again, I would ask him first, or he would sometimes even ask about bringing a plant home. My plant care hobby became much more collaborative because we started involving each other in it. 
  • Set a time frame. Sometimes putting yourself on a plant pause with no end date can feel really upsetting and unattainable. BUT anyone can not buy plants for a  month! For me, it was around 6 months (with several special exceptions) and around the 6 month mark, I decided it was time to start adding to my collection. Your pause could be as short as a week or as long as a year. But giving yourself those deadlines will actually give you more freedom to really commit to it. 
  • Be kind to yourself. We’ve all gotten into bad habits that need to be broken… and we ALL know how hard that can be. This might not be easy, you might not be successful. The thing to return to is you are trying to better yourself, and any step towards self improvement is better than none. You are AMAZING, I BELIEVE in you. You’ve GOT this.
  • It’s about quality, not quantity. Find your number and stick with it (until you can add or subtract from a healthy place. Focus on creating a thriving collection of happy plants that bring you joy. That TRULY can mean two plants for some people. 


What to do in a plant pause

  • See how you can streamline and design with what you already have
  • Learn the latin names of your plants
  • Learn to propagate your current plants
  • Figure out your best fertilizing routine
  • Repot and give other plants you have TLC that need it 
  • Learn Learn Learn! Watch plant-tube, binge podcasts, read blogs, expand your knowledge not your actual plant collection. 


Remember: This can be seasonal

The new year and winter time in general  (for our northern listeners) is a beautiful time to stop, reset, hibernate, experience dormancy and reevaluate and set goals for yourself.


In the episode and conversation with Dr Van Der Weele we learn:

    • [03:09] Why Maria wanted to tackle plant parent overwhelm in this special episode
    • [07:17] How this AMAZING liquid fertilizer lessened my stress about plant care
    • [08:56] Maria narrates her personal experience with plant pause and Billy’s intervention when she peaked her plant obsession
    • [10:11] What is dopamine? How does taking care of plants, or successfully growing an herb garden in Maria’s case, release dopamine and fuel our plant craze?
    • [13:16] Dr Caitlin explains how the dopamine in our brains can cause compulsive behaviors a.k.a. buy more plants than we intend
    • [14:41] What is a neurotransmitter? Dr Caitlin describes the molecules, synapses, and receptors in layman’s terms, for better understanding of that new plant high!
    • [17:16] How are plants different from our other ‘material obsessions’? What is oxytocin and why does taking care of plants (and babies) release this hormone?
    • [19:12] The four major stages of compulsive buying behavior: anticipation, preparation, shopping, and regret
    • [21:31] Dr Caitlin explains different research and hypotheses exploring why plants are good for our mental health
    • [23:36] Why being in nature unlocks our creativity and brings us a more positive emotional state
    • [24:09] Maria shares how checking her plants regularly in the morning makes her feel settled and less stressed
    • [25:13] How does plant care affect our brain and how we process our thoughts?
    • [26:33] What are some of the things you can look out for to avoid an unhealthy relationship with plants? Maria gives her personal experiences when she went through an unhealthy obsession with plants
    • [28:27] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #1: Understand your plant number
    • [30:00] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #2: Accept that you’re overwhelmed and forgive yourself!
    • [30:42] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #3: Assess where you are
    • [31:16] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #4: Set a budget and STICK. TO. IT.
    • [31:47] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #5: Find your focus
    • [32:16] How to Manage Plant Parent Overwhelm Tip #6: Work with what you got! 
    • [33:38] Maria shares her plant pause experience, her realizations during her plant pause, and how it benefited her plants and her home
    • [35:33] Plant Pause Tip #1: Define your rules — YOU know what YOU can do
    • [36:51] Plant Pause Tip #2: Involve your community (and get closer with them)
    • [38:16] Plant Pause Tip #3: Set a timeframe
    • [38:50] Plant Pause Tip #4: Be kind to yourself
    • [39:25] Plant Pause Tip #5: Remember it’s quality over quantity
    • [40:15] If you decide to take a plant pause, don’t worry! Maria shares some fun things you can do while on your plant pause
    • [40:27] Streamline your design and collection, learn your plants’ Latin names, propagate, fertilize, and learn learn learn while doing your plant pause
    • [41:24] Plant parenthood can be seasonal and you can have times when you aren’t being the best plant parent to your plants, and that’s okay!
    • [42:11] Maria shares her musings about the year that’s passed and about the new year to come
    • [43:38] Maria’s exciting news! What’s in store for Bloom and Grow Radio in 2021


Mentioned in this episode:

BAGR Episode Root-Ology with Leslie Halleck

BAGR Episode Your Brain on Plants

Thank you to our episode sponsor:

Espoma Organics: for responsibly made, fabulous indoor and outdoor organic soils, fertilizers, pest control sprays and more visit to find your local dealer or check out my amazon storefront of my favorite Espoma products here.


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