How your plants’ needs can tell you about your own.
As it turns out, plants and relationships have a lot in common. They both need room to breathe— a tricky endeavor when stuck inside with the same person all day. They thrive when cared for thoughtfully i.e. cultivating strong roots and loving them as they need to be loved. And they both do well with the right amount of sun, water (seriously, reminder to take showers even if you're wearing PJs all day) and a kind word every now and then. In return, they reciprocate: Those verdant friends of yours are currently eliminating harmful toxins from your indoor air and improving your concentration and productivity by 15 percent, while your significant other, though you might not feel it at the moment, is also good for your health.
To find out what else love and lithops have in common, we interviewed Kay Kim, co-founder of Rooted, a plant company in New York. He had a lot to say:
How have plants affected your life and your interpersonal relationships?
Well, for starters, I'm now a co-founder of a modern-day plant company and people refer to us (Ryan & I) as plantboys. I've met countless talented, genuine, and hilarious characters simply due to my love for plants and nature.
Have you noticed certain plants that affect your mood?
Tropical plants definitely give me the quickest buzz, similar to a shot of espresso. They remind me of home back in Maui. I instantly feel warm and a boost in my mood. The effect tends to multiply with more plants.
We often give plants to our significant others, which ones would you recommend (aside from bouquets of flowers)?
That all depends on your significant other. Do they travel a lot? Probably a ZZ or succulent. Are they really into plants? Give them a rare plant like a variegated monstera ($$$). Are they sometimes a prick and can take a joke? How about a cactus?
Any recommendations for plants in the bedroom?
Spicing things up! Well, you never know when you'll need some rubber so the Ficus elastica, commonly known as the Rubber Tree, is an easy choice. If you want some jungle vibes to supplement and/or unleash your primal sides then perhaps more of the broad-leafed plants such as monsteras, birds of paradise, and elephant ears (so long as you have the right light for them).
There's an idea that relationships are like plants/gardens...do you agree? If so, any thoughts on that?
Definitely. I'd say the two high-level parallels are giving space and learning about each other's needs (sexual or not). Both plants and relationships need space and room to breathe. You never want to be overbearing or suffocating. For a plant, specifically, you need to let them do their own thing. They've survived a bajillion years without us humans intervening—they know what they need and know what to do.
Both plants and relationships need space and room to breathe. You never want to be overbearing or suffocating.
It's when we go overboard and water them every other day that they develop root rot. Or when we give them too much fertilizer that we end up burning them to a crisp.
The second part is about knowing their wants and needs. Does the soil dry up quicker in the kitchen versus the bedroom? How often do they need to be watered? (We always tell our customers to check to see if the soil is moist or dry before watering to be safe.) Do they like to be on top or the bottom (shelf vs floor)? What's their favorite position (on the window sill or in the bathroom)?
What are some common mistakes plant owners make?
Suffocate and love their plants too hard—specifically overwatering. It's always better to underwater than to overwater so that your plants don't get root rot.
Are there any plants that have aphrodisiac properties? If so, do you use them?
There are plenty of plants with aphrodisiac properties, however, my favorite one is Epimedium, a genus of flowering species that originates from China known to help men with ED. Not because I've ever used it and can attest to its potency and effectiveness, but simply because it's more commonly known name is Horny Goat Weed.
How did you come up with the idea for Rooted?
My roommates (my cofounder Ryan being one of them) and I wanted to turn our new apartment into a jungle to make it feel more like home (Maui + California)—we wanted more nature. We started scouring the internet for any type of service that could deliver a wide assortment of houseplants, but to no avail. We ended up resorting to Home Depot. The price point was there, but the convenience, quality, care content, tools, assortment, and customer service was not. So we started a company that had all of those things with the mission of reconnecting people to nature.
I've heard of people talking to their plants...does that help them grow?
I've also seen similar studies where they test the growth rate of a plant that's constantly talked to versus one that's not. I think it's bologna. The proper test to conduct would be one where a plant is constantly praised with words of affirmation: "You are gorgeous, I've never seen a green so vibrant! Keep it up, plant!" whereas the other is verbally demolished: "You call that a leaf? Are you even trying? You'd be better off trying to be a squirrel." The short answer, I don't know yet.
While we're in this period of social distancing/isolation/quarantine, any advice for being home 24/7 with plants?
Yes, get more of them. Seriously, it helps. They've been scientifically proven to purify our air, improve our overall mood, boost creativity, and reduce stress/anxiety levels. Not to mention that they also make our spaces feel so much better and beauti-full-er. They're the perfect remedy for us not being able to go outdoors as much. And yes, the effects tend to multiply with more plants. Now that Spring is here, it's the perfect time to give your plants some extra TLC—wipe some of their leaves down, prune some leaves, and/or repot them. If you don't have any plants yet, we've created a Social Distancing Mystery Box of four easy-to-care for plants shipped directly to your house. We also wrote up a little post on things to do for your plants in this period of social distancing here.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Plants can be hard at times. We know, we've been there. We've been in your shoes before—it's why we started Rooted and why we offer some of the services that we do. If you ever have any questions regarding plant care, which plants to start with, or anything else plant-related, you can text our SMS Plant Doctor Hotline at 646-430-8699 for free. We've also just started a Rooted Plant Community slack channel where you can connect with a global community of plant lovers, botanists, horticulturalists, and industry experts alike to share plant nudes, ask questions, and share cuttings with. Anyone can join, just sign up here.