Thinking of Taking up Gardening? Let These 20-Somethings Show You How!

As of writing, we’ve now reached more than three months into quarantine. And while lockdown restrictions have eased up just a bit, we’re still more or less confined to our houses. These past few months, I’ve seen a handful of friends taking up new hobbies and/or going back to their old ones. And honestly, it’s great seeing people pursuing their unfulfilled aspirations! From mastering special coffee concoctions (bye, Starbucks — kidding!), experimenting with fun recipes, creating feel-good art, to building home gyms, I guess we’re all doing what we can to make something out of this situation. 

Meanwhile, there are also those who are getting in touch with nature. That is, through gardening! After all, honing your green thumb can also do wonders for your mental health. Not only does it jazz up your space (hello, clean air), but it’s also a welcome distraction from the noise of the virtual and outside worlds. And no, it doesn’t matter if halaman ka as a person (you guys know what I mean) or not. 

Plus, who says plants are just for titas? These 20-somethings and their cool indoor plants and/or backyard gardens say otherwise! We chatted up these millennial plant enthusiasts (or as I’d like to call it: plant-lennials) about their favourite greens and tips on how to care for your own plant baby! 

Also read: 12 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

1. AJ Francisco

Image credit: AJ Francisco

A year ago, entrepreneur and culinary enthusiast AJ Francisco decided to start her own garden. The idea was to have ‘backyard-to-table’ ingredients in her home-cooked meals as often as possible. No wonder her plant collection includes basil, peppermint, parsley, lemon, papaya, and avocado

With these, AJ has been able to whip up yummy homemade dishes like pesto, Hainanese chicken, and even macaroni salad! She also recently got seedlings for eggplant, string beans, and squash. “I can’t wait for these to sprout, so I have more options for when I try out new recipes, “ she says. “I’ve also been propagating my basil, so I have more supply for making pesto!” 

Don’t be fooled, though — she’s quite the busy bee who wears a lot of hands. Apart from running multiple businesses (like her cookie store in BGC), AJ also works as a marketing consultant for several brands. And yet every morning, before going to work, she always makes sure to water plants first. For her, there’s no better way to start her day! 

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: AJ Francisco

“Water them daily and even greet them ‘good morning!’ I think it’s important for plants to have a real bond with their owners, and that includes conversing with them. It takes only three minutes of your time, so establishing this good habit shouldn’t be so hard!” 

2. Carlos Quiapo

Image credit: Carlos Quiapo

Three years ago, Carlos moved to Tokyo to pursue his engineering career. Upon moving to his apartment, he got himself a peace lily as a welcome gift of sorts. From there, his indoor garden grew on and on, and he currently has 17 separate pots! When asked about what he has in his collection, he admits they’re too many to mention. Aside from his very first one, he keeps a Monstera deliciosa (or Swiss cheese plant), Alocasia, areca palm tree, and Ficus fig tree (or fiddle-leaf fig). 

For him, gardening is more than just a hobby; it’s almost like taking care of a pet. He likes how it gives a sense of reward, especially when there are new buds sprouting, or when he has successfully propagated a plant. 

As for his fave? Well, Carlos prefers to say he doesn’t have one. “It’s like, you can’t say you have a favourite child, but you actually do!” he says. “But if I had to choose, it’s definitely the first one I had: the peace lily.” In fact, this one has grown twice its original size since he bought it years ago!

His advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Carlos Quiapo

“Love it less. I’ve seen friends buy new plants, but after a few weeks, they end up with a dead plant. It’s always the same story: they overwatered and drowned it. Plants don’t need that much attention, to be honest! Give them water only as needed. 

At the same time, you have to understand that different plants need different types of loving. Research on your plant and what it needs! Some plants need bright sunlight, others don’t. Some need a pole to guide their roots, while others need wider pots. It’s important that you cater to their respective needs.” 

3. Micah Robles

Image credit: Micah Robles

As a kid, Micah used to have a lot of pets, from dogs to birds and rabbits. But after they died of old age, she was pet-less for many years. By the time she decided to have cuddly critters again, she found out that she was allergic to them (*sigh*). And so eventually, plants became her new babies! For her, it’s also a beautiful way to reconnect with the earth.

Now, she has about 10 kinds of plants, including some crowd favourites: the fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus Audrey, snake plant, cobra fern (or bird’s nest fern), and Zamioculcas raven (or raven ZZ plant). As for her personal faves, Micah mentions that caudiciforms are her ideal type of plant! She has even completed the ‘holy trinity’ for this, which are the Stephania nova, Stephania erecta, and Phyllanthus mirabilis.

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Micah Robles

“Definitely don’t buy plants purely for decoration. They have needs, just like animals and humans do. Sure, they absolutely make your space more beautiful, but also take note of the light! A sunny window is your friend. 

While plants require less maintenance than a dog, for example, that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick. Be emotionally prepared to treat your poor plant when they get aphids, scales, or a viral infection. And finally, when in doubt, do not water. Overwatering is the number one plant killer! 

Sometimes, I sing to my plants because they seem to like it. They tend to produce more leaves and perk up! I also give them names. While they obviously can’t talk, they communicate in their own way.”

4. Yna Guballa

Image credit: Yna Guballa

As a law student with a hectic lifestyle, Yna took up gardening as a form of meditation that also helps brighten up her space. This especially true for her orchids, which she considers her ultimate fave! She mostly owns moth orchids and vanda orchids. She also has several snake plants, Zanzibar gems (or the ZZ plant), Monsteras, and anthuriums (or laceleaf).

“For sure, orchids are ‘temperamental’ plants that only thrive in specific conditions. But seeing them in full bloom — and enhancing the mood of any room you place them — makes it all worth it,” Yna shares. “In my experience, the flowers last in the living room for almost a month, as long as you give them proper care!” 

As from whom she inherited her love of plants? Yna says she got it from her lola, who would walk around her own garden everyday and commune with the plants. And just like her lola, Yna finds joy in taking care of plants. In fact, she loves how their presence helps her feel calm and centred!

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Yna Guballa

“If it’s been on your mind for quite some time now, just buy the plant already. People are often afraid of killing their plants, or not having the right conditions for the plant to grow. But honestly, you really just learn along the way! Also, get a plant that you actually like, not just because it’s considered ‘hard to kill.’ You’ll invest and put effort on it more because you actually want to see it thrive.”

5. Claud Altavas

Image credit: Claud Altavas

Having been a New Yorker for about three years now, Claud started her indoor garden out of childhood nostalgia. Growing up, she had always been attracted to lush greeneries. In fact, her dad used to plant trees in their backyard as a hobby. 

“Developing my own green thumb is my sort of tribute to him,” she says. “Also, I don’t get a lot of outdoor space in my apartment here. So it felt like the right time to start with indoor plants that’ll give life to my space.” 

Claud initially focused on propagating the plants she would buy from the farmers market and plant nurseries. Her current collection includes several pothos, philodendrons, calatheas, dracaena, and schlumbergeras. Among these, her favourite is the peacock plant (a type of calathea), with its vibrant and hypnotising aesthetic. Another would be her white Christmas caladiums, which grow quite fast with the right amount of light. Meanwhile, she likes how her dracaena reminds her of home, as it’s a subtropical plant that’s also commonly found here in the Philippines! 

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Claud Altavas

“Trial and error! I’ve had over 30 plants in my first summer as a plant parent and killed almost a third of them because of impatient repotting, a springtail infestation, and the winter season. Another major factor was not knowing what type of plants my apartment window light could take care of. It’s really important to consider how much light each plant needs. 

You have to invest in quality fertilisers and a well-drained soil/potting mix! And don’t just resort to buying — propagate! It’s a different feeling when you see your collection multiply through this method. Also, follow horticulturists on social media, so you get to know your plants more! My go-to accounts are @homesteadbrooklyn, @plantkween, @jamies_jungle, @planterina, and @studioplants.” 

6. Bea Basi

Image credit: Bea Basi

The year was 2016 when Bea bought her first batch of succulents. Yep, way before such indoor plants became a huge thing, especially among millennial yuppies! Fast forward to now: she has 22 succulents, four air plants (or tillandsia), and an orchid in her ever-growing collection. Although, like most newbies, she bought her first few plants just because she found them cute and very #aesthetic. 

“I ended up killing some, since I had no idea how to take care of them,” she admits. Eventually, she got the hang of it, after doing her research on proper plant care. Now, she can also propagate her succulents from their leaf cuttings — which she finds quite fun to observe daily! 

Bea’s favourites are the haworthia cooperi, haworthia truncata, lithops, and zebra cactus. On weekdays, she works as a research and communications professional for the Department of Science and Technology. But on evenings and during her free time, Bea is a proud plant mama. In fact, she even posts some tips and techniques on her Instagram page! Oh, speaking of…

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Bea Basi

“I usually tell my friends [who are considering] to just go for it, especially when they want to get succulents. These are quite easy to handle, since they don’t have to be ‘babied.’ You can travel for a few weeks and when you come back, they are still thriving.

I also encourage them more by sharing some tips. Through the years, many friends and acquaintances have messaged me about their plant woes. So, if you have friends who are hardcore plant enthusiasts, you should definitely reach out to them!”

7. Denise Marquez

Image credit: Denise Marquez

For Denise, you could say that gardening runs in her family. She got her green thumb from her dad, who has been in charge of their backyard garden for as long as she can remember! Eventually, she and her family decided to have a whole annex garden, where they grow veggies like eggplants, pechay, and kangkong. Oh, and they even have bees that pollinate their plants — pretty cool, right? 

“I like the thought of being able to grow our own food! It’s also very exciting to see our plants grow,” Denise shares. This was especially helpful for them during lockdown, as they didn’t have to go to the market that much. She also has other plants like blue ternate, curry tree, Singapore holly, and neem

Among these, the blue ternate (or butterfly pea) is her fave, what with the many fun ways you can use it! You can turn the flowers into tea, add them to salad or pasta, or use them as natural food colouring. Blue ternate is also a good antioxidant and helps with hair growth. In between work and gardening, Denise also likes to paint botanical-inspired art on flasks — which you can check on her Instagram page

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Denise Marquez

“Just start with one plant and get to know what it needs: like the type of soil, weather, how much water and sunlight. Pretty soon you’ll get in the hang of it! Pay close attention to the colour of its leaves, because it’ll tell if you’re overwatering, or if you aren’t watering enough. 

I follow a lot of house plant enthusiasts on Instagram, as well as Facebook groups for such. Both of these are great because you get to learn a lot from different people!”

8. Cheza Biliran

Image credit: Cheza Biliran

Self-care is one of the best things you can gain from gardening — just ask any 20-something plant parent! Such is true for Cheza, who initially started her plant collection to help improve with her mental health. “It makes for a more breathable space, since they bring in more oxygen and sunlight to my place, which is good,” she says. 

And while gardening doesn’t claim to be an end-all, cure-all for her mental illness, Cheza finds it to be of tremendous help. “I get to establish a routine, which then keeps me from falling into the trap of giving in to my depression,” she shares. She also likens gardening to art in motion, what with their colours, the ways they change and grow, and all the details that add up to their beauty. 

Currently, her indoor collection includes a fortune plant, money tree, Zanzibar gem, and golden pothos. She also keeps several outdoor ones like flowers, pepper, pechay, and alugbati (or Malabar spinach). And if she had to pick a particular favourite? That would be the golden pothos. “My plants are my reminder that life is good, no matter my circumstances,” she adds. 

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Cheza Biliran

“Take the time to really nurture them! Research on how you can best do this for each type of plant. After all, it’s important that they get enough TLC as needed! Also, I love that I have to nurture my plants in order for them to grow. This gives me the chance to pause, just look at them, and notice even the tiniest details that make them beautiful. Overall, they make for a better, healthier home environment.”

Also read: 10 Easiest Herbs to Grow Indoors — City Gardener Edition!

9. Mia Parma

Image credit: Mia Parma

With a background in sustainable agriculture and food systems, it’s no surprise that Mia has a wide variety of plants at home. “I have at least 50 kinds of herbs, ornamentals, and vegetables,” she says. “But if I had to narrow it down to my faves, it would be the basil, kangkong, Birds of Paradise, variegated monstera, and golden pothos.”

In fact, her love for growing and taking care of plants started as early as the age of 10. “Both my parents are into gardening and agriculture, so I was surrounded by plants growing up,” she shares. Indeed, it’s never too early to start! 

And when she’s not handling her home garden? Mia works as an operations manager for Mesa ni Misis: a wellness site that champions local fruits and vegetables through advocating plant-based recipes and providing support for Filipino farmers. Instead of the usual greens you see among Western diets, they place the spotlight on those that are easily accessible to any Pinoy. (Kale who? You guys, malunggay is where it’s at!)

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Mia Parma

“Commit to two or three kinds of plants at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed! After all, different plants have different needs that need to be anticipated. I recommend trying herbs and vegetables first, instead of the usual ornamentals and trendy indoor plants. 

We have an abundance of local plants that are underappreciated. It’s about time that our homegrown produce gets the attention it well deserves!” 

10. Mags Muñoz

Image credit: Mags Muñoz

For Mags, being quarantined at her home in Australia (just like the rest of the world) was how she became a full-on plant parent. While she started out with baby avocado plants almost a year ago, her collection grew quickly over the past few months. Now, she owns a pitcher plant, Homalomena maggy, String of Dolphins, and Alocasias (or elephant ears) — to name a few. She has a total of 44 plants, all of which she keeps in her room! 

As for how she got started, it was thanks to a friend’s social media posts. “She’s been posting a lot about her indoor plant jungle for ages, and I thought, ‘oh yeah, that’s not a bad idea!’ So I went ahead and ordered my first couple of plant babies, and the rest is history,” she shares. Mags also chronicles her plant journey on her Instagram page, along with other hobbies like baking and sewing new clothes! 

Image credit: Mags Muñoz

And what about her favourite indoor plants? Well, that’s a tough question for most, but if she had to limit herself, then it would be: the Zanzibar gems, Birds of Paradise, Dragon Tail, fiddle-leaf fig, String of Turtles, snake plant, and a couple of air plants. “I have way too much, yet also never enough,” she admits. “I can go on and on [about my favourites] but I’ll stop there because I might end up naming all of them!” 

Her advice for those who are considering taking up gardening as a hobby:

Image credit: Mags Muñoz

“Don’t do it — just kidding! But really, collecting indoor plants is highly addictive. I’m constantly making space in my room with more and more plants almost every weekend. My wallet cries sometimes, but if it truly helps with your mental health, then why not? 

Treat your plants like they’re your kids; remember, these things are alive. Research on what conditions they thrive in, how often you should water them, what’s causing this or that problem, whether or not they like lots of sunlight, and so on. Oh, and a pro tip: get a humidifier! For more tips, the online plant community is your friend. Knowing your plant’s needs is — in the words of DJ Khaled — major key to keeping them happy and alive!” 

Also read: On Social Distancing, Isolation, and Mental Health

So, if you’re looking for a sign to finally try gardening, well then, this it. Ready to get started on your plant journey? We’d love to hear all about it soon! Or better yet, if you too have already been doing this for quite some time, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

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