Are aging parents and elders we care about bored?
Feeling unneeded? Lacking purpose?
At holiday time or any time easy-care plants are excellent and inexpensive gifts for combatting boredom, and/or feeling useless and unneeded. Caring for plants enhances lives. No kidding! If in doubt, see the 809,000 results of googling college horticulture therapy major. Or read, from Oregon State U’s catalog:
Horticultural therapy is recognized as a practical and effective treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs…now taught and practiced….in… mental health, physical rehabilitation..long-term care and hospice.
Here’s the update and the lowdown that may inspire giving easy-care, living plants–in some form–to aging parents and elders who live at home or in care facilities.
While most of us wouldn’t hire a horticultural therapist for our parents, gifting a plant provides some of the benefits. There’s a responsibility factor, the feeling of being needed, and satisfaction from watching a plant grow, produce new leaves, and possibly flower.
Example: Sr. Advisor R’s responsibility to her plants ran deep. She figured out how to continue to care for her plants as she aged. She used her walker. It carried the plants on its tray to her kitchen sink or carried a pitcher of water, in its recessed hole, to water the plants until the day she died at 101.
R was aware of every new leaf and kept each plant looking perfect. She also had philodendrons happily growing in containers of water or potted in soil. They were like her babies.
Easy-care plant options for elders
1. The snake plant adds decor–you can’t miss it. It survives neglect–just needs watering now and then…when soil dries out. My brother was given one, by friends who know him well, as a house-warming gift. It filled an empty corner. He loves it. It’s the only plant he has–waters it “once a month–maybe.” OK–it’s a succulent…and a tough plant to kill.
2. I planted a dish garden of succulents* in Arizona–kept outside on a patio with an overhang so it doesn’t get drenched when it rains. Because the bottom has no drainage holes (not a good idea for novices), it’s checked and given a bit of water every 2-3 weeks…when the succulent “leaves” show signs of shriveling.
All my other succulents are in pots and dish gardens–inside and outdoors–and have drainage holes. All they need is light and, when the soil is completely dry, a good watering that drains out. Succulents take the same care/abuse as the snake plant.
Watching dish gardens of succulents or leafy plants grow–and change, adds interest to life, especially when they flower. This rock garden was exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
3. Terrariums: The open-terrarium below in the footed glass container was on the counter by the sinks in the ladies’ room at a restaurant near the Philadelphia Flower Show. Horticulture seems contagious in Philadelphia–whether in the Convention Center or in surrounding venues. Being careful not to overwater is paramount as there’s no drainage.
Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are truly easy care. Plants grow in any nonporous container as long as it’s covered so as to be airtight. (Closed terrarium plants thrive in humidity and NO direct sun.)
This flowering prismatacarpa begonia in a brandy snifter, is from a cutting taken 5 months ago. A round piece of glass scotch-taped on top (cut at a store that replaces window panes) prevents drying out. Plastic wrap works also, but doesn’t look as nice.
Click here for details and pictures of the following:
4. Christmas Cactus
5. Golden Pothos
8. Wandering Jew
Click here for details and pictures of:
As Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah approach and we think gifts for older people, especially those living alone, aren’t “living plants” an appealing choice?
Note: Prismatacarpa begonia: a flowering favorite and described as a “small plant [that] proves mighty in its propensity for being nearly always in bloom” requires humidity. It grows in sphagnum moss–the soft kind (not the scratchy,”prickery” kind) in closed terrariums and seldom gets dry–but when it does (leaves begin to wilt), add a teaspoon of water.
Related: Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents
Information for making or purchasing dish gardens and/or terrariums below:
Live Plants in Little Landscapes –Terrariums
Aging Parents: Little-care, Live Plants, Gifts–Flowering or Not
*Dish garden succulents–inexpensive, from Home Depot
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.