Calling All Plant Parents: 6 Resolutions to Make Right Now

Repeat after me: I will not take it personally when my plants don’t thrive.

January 19, 2021
Photo by Hilton Carter

I don’t know about you, but this year, I found had no desire to make my “traditional” New Year’s resolutions—you know the ones I’m talking about: things like eating differently, exercising more, and so on. Instead, I decided it would be more beneficial for my well-being to simply lean into things that make me truly happy, and one of my biggest sources of joy in 2020 was my ever-growing plant collection.

Houseplants and gardening have taken off in a big way in the past few years, and personally, I’ve amassed a small indoor jungle of greenery that always manages to put a smile on my face. To keep growing my hobby, I’ve set a few plant-related goals for the coming year, and I hope by putting them out in the world, I’ll be able to hold myself accountable for sticking with them.

Stop Buying Every Plant I See

I’ll admit I went a little plant crazy last year. I couldn’t even go into Home Depot without at least picking up a little cactus or succulent, and my collection of plants doubled over the course of the year. I regret nothing (except maybe thinking I could keep a Majesty Palm alive—my apartment is simply too dry), but this year, I’ve decided to take a “quality over quantity” approach to houseplants.

With so many new plants to take care of, I’ll admit that they haven’t always gotten the TLC they deserve. Don’t get me wrong—they’re not withering away and dying, but occasionally I’ll be a few days late to water them or forget to prune off dead leaves. This year, though, I’m committed to taking better care of my green babies, helping them to live their best lives. This means on-time waterings, regular fertilizing, repotting any that are root-bound, and just giving them everything they need to thrive. Plus, I think it will be a good exercise in being content with what I have, instead of always looking forward to something new and “more exciting.”

Start an Herb Garden

I feel a tinge of remorse any time I have to buy fresh herbs for a recipe. Why? First of all, I only ever use up half of those huge bundles of parsley you buy in the grocery store, letting so much go to waste. Plus, fresh herbs are pretty pricey when you consider how inexpensive they are to grow.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“That's good advice for any plant- experienced plant people never start cuttings (or seeds) in water, it makes for weak root systems that don't adapt readily when planted. I usually use vermiculite, which is sterile and drains well, rather than soil when starting plants in pots. But I also start a lot of plants in place, by heeling in cuttings where I want them to grow- here usually in the fall, but I think in New England spring would be more appropriate. This works well for most of the shrubby culinary herbs, and a lot of other woody plants.”
— Smaug

Seriously, all you have to do is buy a few packs of seeds and pop them in some soil, and you can grow a huge bounty of basil, parsley, mint, and more. The plants will last for months if taken care of properly, and most herbs are fairly low-maintenance, too. Really, what am I waiting for? This year, I want to finally start an herb garden where I grow all my favorites. Fresh pesto, here I come!

Grow an Avocado Plant

To date, one of my favorite houseplants is the lemon tree I grew from a seed—it’s actually the plant that really got me interested in gardening. One day, I was juicing a lemon, and I wondered if I could germinate the seeds that fell out. I googled it, and it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Fast forward six years, and my lemon tree is about four feet tall and as happy as can be. (TBD whether it will ever grow any fruit, though.)

It was incredibly satisfying to grow a plant from seed, and I’ve been angling to do it again. This time, I think an avocado plant would be a fun choice. Every time I take the pit out of an avocado, I usually save it for a few days in a baggie, swearing I’m going to attempt to grow it, but this year, I’m determined to actually do it. So if you have any tips for growing an avocado plant, send them my way!

Take It Outside

At the end of January, I’m closing on my first home (eee!), and since I’ve been living in apartments for the last decade, it will be my first opportunity to partake in true outdoor gardening. (One time I grew a tomato plant on my apartment’s patio, but I don’t think that counts.)

I’m quite excited about the prospect of designing flower beds and maybe even planting a vegetable garden, but I’m nervous, too. I’m well-versed in the intricacies of houseplant care, but outdoor gardening is a whole other ball game. After all, you have to work around the weather and there are all new challenges, such as pests and weeds. There’s so much to learn, which can seem overwhelming, but that’s also part of what makes it fun.

My current game plan is to keep things simple for the first year and follow expert gardening tips to maintain what’s already there. If I can keep my flowerbeds from dying out all together and maybe grow some fresh tomatoes, I’ll consider it a win.

Write About Plants More!

One of the things I love about being a writer is that I get to share my passions with the world (or at least the internet), and this year, I want to write about gardening and houseplants more—starting with this article! It makes me happy to see more people have found a love of plants in the past year, and I hope to spread the joy of gardening even further by sharing my own journey and insights.

Don’t Take It Personally

Am I the only one who takes it as a personal slight when plants don’t thrive? Like I mentioned above, Majesty Palms just don’t do well in my apartment, and the one I had last year kept turning brown around the edges, despite my best efforts to keep it humid. I ended up throwing it away because it had one half-dead leaf remaining and was a total eyesore.

And that was far from my only plant failure. I was soo excited when my beautiful Monstera deliciosa put out a new leaf with lots of leaf fenestration (the technical term for those lovely inner holes), and I watched for days as it slowly unfurled. But then it started to turn brown, and by the time it was fully open, half the leaf was dead. I was unbelievably disappointed, and of course, I blamed myself for somehow causing the issue.

It’s hard not to take it personally when something bad happens to a plant you love, but this year, I’m going to try. Sure, the problems could have been a result of something I did, but it also could be due to factors completely out of my control. Failure is part of growing plants, so I’m going to do my best to lean into the good and laugh off my blunders.

How did 2020 change the way you approach gardening at home? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kimberly Young
    Kimberly Young
  • Carla Louise
    Carla Louise
  • JJortega
  • insan_art
  • Smaug
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


Kimberly Y. January 21, 2021
I started an avocado seed in MARCH 2020 and just planted it in soil this week!! Almost a whole year. My advice - be patient. I think Covacado is happy I was. :)
Carla L. January 21, 2021
During this last,challenging year, I also started to buy indoor plants. Most likely we have all been home so much more and the need for greenery is strong,so we try to bring it inside. I have no green thumb or f I needs at all. Any plant that I have ever bought or been given,has died before it's time. So, with that in mind I have chosen Succulents, which are almost indestructible! I actually started with a cutt I ng fro a friend's garden and now I have one large pot with a veritable garden of Succulents and three smaller pots with thriving cuttings! Having been encouraged by my success, I am now growing parsley in a pot. So far so good!
Smaug January 22, 2021
Well, succulents is a huge group of plants, going across many families. Many of them are quite difficult to grow, being particularly prone to difficult dormancy requirements. However, the succulents sold as assorted succulents in garden centers and houseplant stores are selected mostly for being easy to grow and reproduce (as are most houseplants). Most come from the crassulacea, with some cacti thrown in and a few others. These plants will mostly survive without a dormant season, though most will probably not flower very well without it. The major problem with them is a susceptibility to rot, which can be brought on by overwatering or poor drainage, unhealed wounds at or below soil level, and freezing, which can explode already liquid swollen cells and kill roots. Problems can also be caused by too dry conditions, which particularly promote root mealies, ghastly sucking insects that attack the root system.
Parsley is a biennial, and will typically go into its flowering cycle (and death) in spring. Most of the shrubby herbs- thymes, rosemary, oregano, sage etc. (most of them are members of the labiatae) are short lived perennials and can be kept (if not exactly thrilled with it) in pots indoors for several years. Most of them, though slightly more challenging than the easier succulents, are quite easy to grow from cuttings. The soft herbs- parsley, basil, chervil, cilantro etc. (mostly umbelliferae, though basil is an annual labiate) are annuals or biennials generally best grown from seed. Tarragon is an herbaceous perennial, which grows new top growth every season from a perennial root- it can be reproduced by divisions or root cuttings.
JJortega January 21, 2021
Start the avocado in soil, not water. It'll take longer to sprout but the plant will be healthier and happier. Depending on your local water, it may be better to water with filtered water.
Smaug January 21, 2021
That's good advice for any plant- experienced plant people never start cuttings (or seeds) in water, it makes for weak root systems that don't adapt readily when planted. I usually use vermiculite, which is sterile and drains well, rather than soil when starting plants in pots. But I also start a lot of plants in place, by heeling in cuttings where I want them to grow- here usually in the fall, but I think in New England spring would be more appropriate. This works well for most of the shrubby culinary herbs, and a lot of other woody plants.
insan_art January 19, 2021
Don't bother with avocado trees. They're fun to sprout, but I've never been able to keep one alive for more than 3 or 4 years, and I have quite the green thumb.
Lemon trees are one of my faves. Had one for nearly 10 years but some sort of fungus in the soil killed it off. Good luck with your gardening ventures at your new home.
Smaug January 19, 2021
I kept one going for about 10 years with no particular trouble, finally planted it out. It was a rental, and I came back some years later to find a fairly mature tree covered with small avocados (I swiped a couple- they weren't very good). Trees (and shrubs such as roses) in pots generally need to be root pruned on a regular basis, preferably right before bud break in the spring. This is one of the hidden downsides of gardening; it can be a lot of work if you have many plants, and it happens at a cold, damp time of the year when mucking about with wet soil, buckets of water etc. is not a lot of fun.
insan_art January 19, 2021
I'm in northern PA, I think if I were in a warmer climate I'd have better success with them. They're very finicky over the winter!
Camryn R. January 20, 2021
Hmm, I'm also in New England, so I imagine I would have similar issues in the winter. Thanks for the tips!
Smaug January 21, 2021
You probably will have trouble overwintering a lot of plants indoors- homes in cold areas tend to be extremely dry in winter, which is rough on many plants and can encourage certain pests, especially spider mites and root mealies. Also, temperatures indoors will be high for plants that really want to be dormant. Trees for the most part (though that's something of a granfaloon) need plenty of fresh air to thrive.
insan_art January 21, 2021
I keep my house at 60 degrees in the winter...I like it cold. However, it *does* get very dry and I find myself trying to keep up with watering!
As a seasoned grower, I've learned that there are certain plants I just can't keep in winter with the conditions available to me.
Speaking of mites, I had a gorgeous flat parsley plant that I tried to bring indoors in the fall, only to discover it had mites. So it IMMEDIATELY went back out on the porch. It is such a hardy plant, after our last snow melted off of it, it is still green and growing! Currently soaking up today's 40 degrees and sun. Plants are awesome.
NancyFromKona January 30, 2021
West Hawaii Master Gardener here. Hawaii grows many dozens of different avocados. There are several problems with growing an avocado from seed: under optimal conditions in the ground, in the sun, in warmth, the time to fruit is about 10 years; because of cross fertilization, the fruit may not taste as good as the parent. Avocados can fertilize themselves but to produce higher yields, commercial growers will plant other varieties nearby. The seed you are sprouting from a commercial grower may or may not be tasty. To ensure great tasting fruit, commercially grown avocado trees are grafted and for the home grower we recommend grafted trees. Most varieties form trees that are very large and they therefore need to be carefully sited.
Smaug January 19, 2021
It's fun to grow fruit trees from seed, but the chances of them producing good fruit are pretty low; practically all fruit trees are cultivars, reproduced by cuttings or grafts, that were selected for fruit quality. Of course there's the chance that your tree will produce something wonderful- the cultivars themselves started as seedlings, but the percentages are very low.
Best of luck with the outdoor gardening; indoor gardening is fun, but fruit and vegetable growing indoors is not going to produce much of use, and windowsill herbs will not produce much and won't have very good flavor. You may be astounded by the universal desire of all creatures great and small to eat your plants; just hope you don't get neighbors who think it's a fine idea to attract deer and that gophers are a myth.
Camryn R. January 20, 2021
Thank you! I have no doubt the deer and bunnies will give me a run for my money.