Clicking the website for Rutgers University (NJ) Department of Biology and  Pathology, we learn that Horticultural Therapy while “an ancient practice,” is a “relatively new profession.” As far back as the 19th century, a signer of the Declaration of Independence observed and documented the benefits of his patients working with plants.

Ways plants can contribute to parents’ and elders’ aging well

1. Feeling needed gains importance as people age. Plants need some care.
2. Watching something grow is life-affirming.
3. Plants provide the above and, unlike pets, some can remain healthy with very little care.
4. Plants are decorative–creating an attractive, pleasant living environment.

The easy-care flowering houseplants featured in the last post provide interest, beauty and affirmation of life: buds appear and flowers come forth (and one plant’s leaves open in the morning and close at night). Besides the decorative aspect, a sense of purpose and responsibility comes with taking care of plants. We need to be needed. Feeling needed is a valuable emotional asset as people grow older and older.

Indoor plants that grow in soil or water
–all like low or filtered light

Syngonyum in water+ begonia stemSome plants, such as Syngomium, want only water and low light to survive. As with all indoor plants, the person who provides the water is needed. The Syngonium is an erect houseplant with decorative leaves. It grows well in water if the roots remain submerged (click to enlarge image) and in soil if it isn’t allowed to dry out. (Ignore the wax begonia stem with a leaf and pink blossom in the horse-radish jar. It’s just there to add color.) The Syngonium has been in that jar for a year; the begonia for two days!

Sr. Advisor R likes Philodendron: old fashion, easy care, very popular in the last century. Hers are so attractive–some growing in water in pretty glass containers, others in pots placed inPhilodendren in soil white canisters on each side of her fireplace mantel. Her plants are 5+ years old. They flow downwards (as opposed to being erect). The idea is to keep them smallish. Don’t want them dragging on a table top or the floor.

A Philodendron recently rooted in water
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Golden Pothos is an unfussy trailing vine plant that grows in all indoor light conditions; needs watering about every two weeks or when the leaves start wilting slightly. Train its vines or just cut them off when they get too long.  Place the cut-off pieces in a container of water and grow plants in water…they’ll root.
Grown in water or in potting soil, a bit of fertilizer once a year if you wish–in Spring. And they’re air purifiers.
*       *      *

The Wandering Jew is another houseplant with attractive leaves, but it probably doesn’t want to be Caring for your Wandering Jew plant ... being anything but a green thumb, this is my go to hanging basket plant, beautiful, hardy, and forgiving.grown in water. Colors differ depending on variety. Often used as a hanging plant–it does “wander.”

Indeed its rapid growth is life-affirming.Because pinching off unwanted grown is easy, the plant can be confined to desired space, thus becoming an easy-care plant for old people. Not fussy about light or water, although more light brings more color to leaves. Doesn’t like dry soil, but shouldn’t die from a day of dryness. Likes to be watered, but doesn’t like soggy soil–so don’t try growing it in water.
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The Home Depot plant area greeted customers with a display of succulents the other day. The sign above advertised:  EASY CARE PLANTS  And indeed they are. However, where old people are concerned, remember:

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
The prickers on cacti, make them a poor choice for old people.

Most succulents: prickerless, grow slowly, need watering about once a month, have interesting shapes, only flower when they’re very happy with the location and care they get. For some older people this may be fine….but possibly boring. The Christmas cactus is an exception.

Christmas cactus likes sunlight or partial sunlight; must be in well-draining soil;  needs little water. When dry, it sort of shrivels and droops. Water probably twice a month. It blooms every year about the same time (winter) with pink, red, orange-ish blossoms.

While giving older people an easy-care plant isn’t Horticulture Therapy, precisely as it would be offered in a care center, some of the same benefits apply. Having responsibility for and caring for plants, holds promise for helping aging parents and the elderly age well.

“Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information, research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Related: Terrariums–Easy Care, Live Plants in Little Landscapes. Great Gifts, Easily Made

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