How (and why) to grow houseplants when you’re also busy growing kids


November 4, 2019

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This article is part of a mini-series we’re doing about how to grow houseplants in your home. We’ve asked a few mamas to share their best tips and tricks, so whether your thumb is black or green, we’ve got you covered. To see the first article in this series on how to grow a fiddle leaf fig tree, click here. 

Rebecca Lynch is a wife and mom who has gathered quite the impressive plant collection in her historic Michigan home. Because she’s a homeschooling mom of four, we also know that she has a lot on her plate and can’t devote all day to her plants, so we asked her some questions on how (and why) to grow houseplants as a mom — and which ones are compatible with mom life, even if you’ve never grown a houseplant before. 

With a few tips from Rebecca, you can have cheery, healthy, thriving green plants in your home in no time. Find out more about Rebecca by following her on Instagram. 

EM: Have you always been a “plant person”?

Rebecca: My first house plant was a tall, decorative aloe vera that was given to me as a gift when my first daughter was born, 5 years ago. I admired it greatly … and then stuck it in a room and basically forgot about it for at least nine months. I maybe only watered it twice in that time.

Eventually, as I started getting a little more organized and my daughter came out of the infant stage, I began to notice a theme in every picture of a beautiful home that caught my attention — they all had plants! Thankfully, that little aloe was a hearty beast of a plant and had only lost a couple of leaves in all the months of neglect.

I brought the plant out to a more prominent place so I would remember to water it, and with a little TLC it started growing and multiplying like crazy. 

photo by Rebecca Lynch

In the last few years I have split countless shoots off of that same plant and shared them with everyone and anyone who is willing to accept them. My husband calls it the weed of houseplants because it grows so fast and is taking over our house (right now I have 8 pots of that aloe with 21 total shoots, and this is after recently trimming and purging!).

photo by Rebecca Lynch

EM: Why do you like having living plants in your home? 

Rebecca: I am a huge fan of the way plants breathe life and peace into a space, and I think being in nature has a deeply calming effect on our minds. So being able to have a little bit of nature inside my home makes the atmosphere that much more calming — which is definitely something I need with 4 small kiddos running around here all day. 

photo by Rebecca Lynch

I think having house plants also helps get me through the long Michigan winters when the world outside feels so dead. There might be 6 inches of old dirty snow on the ground in February, but on this windowsill there are 6 vibrant rainforest plants reaching toward the sun, so I think I’ll be okay until spring rolls around.

photo by Rebecca Lynch

EM: What plants would you recommend to someone who has never successfully grown a houseplant before? 

Rebecca: Haha, remember that decorative aloe plant I told you about? Come take some of those off my hands! 

photo by Rebecca Lynch

But for real, a plant like that is what you want to look for if you’re new to all this. You want something that just grows super slowly when it gets forgotten for a while, instead of straight up dying. Most aloe plants and other succulents should be pretty forgiving. 

Besides those, I’ve been really impressed with the hardiness of my pothos plants. I think the vines are beautiful and they handle the occasional bout of neglect with grace.

Pothos plant. photo by Rebecca Lynch

Parlor palms are another option that seem pretty low-key in my experience.

The plant on the top shelf in the painted blue pot is a parlor palm. photo by Rebecca Lynch

Or, if you’re looking for an easy tree-style plant, find a tall dieffenbachia. They have beautiful large, multicolored green leaves and grow surprisingly fast. 

Dieffenbachia. photo by Rebecca Lynch

Also, it’s totally doable to have multiple kinds of plants in your home, even if you’re a beginner. The trick is just to get plants that can all be on the same schedule for watering.

Most of my plants like to be watered about once a week, but are okay with going 2.5 weeks here and there when life gets especially crazy. My two plants that want to be watered twice a week are not doing anywhere near as well as the rest of the pack!

photo by Rebecca Lynch

One tip for when you do notice your plants aren’t doing so well, whether it is because you’re a beginner or having an extra crazy time of life: make sure to pull out or trim any brown and dying leaves or branches right away.

I had a plant up on a shelf that slowly died over the course of 2 years because I would often forget it way up there when I was watering. But you would have never guessed it was dying, because I always pulled off the dried leaves and branches whenever I did remember to water it, so the branches it had left were always green and lovely.

EM: What plant-growing feat are you most proud of? 

Rebecca: There was a ficus tree in our foreclosed house when we bought it, and I’m pretty sure that tree had not been watered for a year since the house had been empty for at least that long. I only had that one aloe plant at the time so I wasn’t very tuned in to plants and I hardly noticed the tree. It only had a handful of leaves left, and I assumed it was past hope. 

“From the day we bought our house. Most of the leaves you see on the tree are actually dead.” photo by Rebecca Lynch

I’m still not sure why I didn’t just throw it out with all the other junk we cleaned out of the house in the first few weeks. It lingered on in my kitchen and rarely got watered with all the chaos of moving and unpacking and fixing that was going down. 

About three months after moving was when I had that revelation that plants were the uniting theme in all the different interiors that I found beautiful. Right after I checked on my aloe and moved it to a prominent window, I remember running to that tree, and feeling bummed for being a contributing factor in its life of neglect.

I decided to start watering and fertilizing the plant every week to see if I could save it, and today it is thriving and you would never guess that it lived through a whole year of complete abandonment. 

photo by Rebecca Lynch

I also feel pretty proud of the time I trimmed my dieffenbachia plant and figured out how to get 7 new shoots from the one stalk. Propagation is amazing!

EM: What are some of your plant-growing aspirations— any particular types on your horizon? 

Rebecca: Oh man, doesn’t everyone long for a fiddle leaf fig? I also think monstera plants are beautiful. Other than that, I’d love to just get some more variety in the kinds of plants I have. I am sure there are loads of super low-maintenance plants out there just waiting to be found and enjoyed! I do have some variety already, but a whole lot of the plants I have are through propagation so there’s quite a number of matching plants.

photo by Rebecca Lynch

EM: How do you make time for your plants with 4 little ones around? What is your best tip for moms trying to care for many living things?

I usually try to include my kids with the weekly watering, and they love it! They each have an old yogurt container that we only fill ¼ to ½ full to reduce the likelihood of spills, and then we march around the house together making sure all the plants get some water.

This works best if your plants have drain holes at the bottom of their pots— if the kids get overzealous with the water then the excess can drain out instead of drowning the plants. Also, including the kids is helpful because they often remind me about watering because they love it so much.

When I do water the plants after the kids are in bed, it’s usually a peaceful way of unwinding, and I focus on how watering them is a small investment for the upcoming week of getting to enjoy all these plants. 

I also try to give myself tons of grace when I’m pregnant or postpartum. I assume the plants are going to suffer a bit and I try to never let that make me feel sad! It is super fun to have lots of plants around, but I know keeping my kids healthy and well is way more important than the plants. I try to always remember that letting the plants die sometimes is just a symptom of the incredibly important and exhausting job of raising these wonderful kids!

If the idea of having houseplants appeals to you, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try! To me, raising kids and keeping plants (whether you have an outdoor garden or a menagerie of pots indoors) are beautifully analogous endeavors.

As I water, fertilize and trim my plants, all I’m really doing is setting them up for success as they soak up the sun and do the work of growing themselves. 

It reminds me that the work I do raising my kids is remarkably similar. I do the best I can to nurture and support them and try to build an environment in our home that will set them up for success in their lives, but they are their own people who grow and blossom independently from me.

Their growth on every level is slow, steady, and at their own pace, and just like there is no trick besides perseverance to getting my orchids to blossom, there’s no trick besides steady love to guide these kiddos through the work they need to do to get to adulthood.

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