Mindfulness is the practice of training the mind to focus on being aware of one’s surroundings to quieten the rest of the chatter in the brain. It can be as simple as concentrating on breathing, but can also involve bringing attention to an object or repetitive activity.
As plants and gardening are already well known to bring a sense of peace and calm, combining the two is a logical choice, effortless to do when using house plants, leading to a happy mind.
The aim is to have something to entirely focus the attention and senses on, for five to 10 minutes a day. It is better to use a single plant, rather than a collection, as in this way concentration can be more readily focussed. It could be a high-maintenance orchid, or a similar tropical plant, which needs time spent on it; for example, misting and cleaning the leaves every day. Alternatively, it could be a plant that has elements that are particularly stimulating to the senses, such as fragrant flowers or tactile leaves, or one that is merely captivating to look at.
How to be Mindful
If carrying out maintenance, concentrate entirely on the sensations; for example, the action of squeezing the misting bottle handle, perhaps the feel of water falling on your hand and the look of the water as it falls through the light and onto the plant. If sitting in contemplation of a plant, focus all your attention on it and really look, smell or feel the plant, appreciating every nuance.
It is perfectly natural for your attention to wander during these exercises, but bringing it back to the task at hand is all part of training the mind to focus.
What to Plant for Mindfulness
Tactile plants, such as an air plant (Tillandsia argentea), Delta maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum), Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) and African violet (Saintpaulia).
Fragrant plants, such as lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), citrus trees (Citrus), jasmine (Jasminum), lilies (Lilium) and Pelargonium.
Visually interesting and detailed plants, such as auriculas (Primula auricula), Cape primrose (Streptocarpus), cacti, bromeliads (Nidularium, Neoregelia), Solenostemon and Fittonia.
Delta Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum raddianum)
This is one of the most delicate ferns, with black stems bearing tiny leaflets that tremble in the slightest breeze. A slightly scented-leaved version is also available. Water regularly and feed with a diluted fertiliser in spring and summer. Prune only to remove dead fronds.
Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
The bird’s nest fern is a very tolerant plant, making it an ideal beginner’s house plant. The large flat, glossy leaves are mid-green and have an attractive black midrib and crinkled edges. Pot using a mix of 75/25 multipurpose compost and grit, and water as required. Clean the leaves regularly to keep them clean and shiny. Prune only to cut out dead leaves to the base; brown edges can also be trimmed.
Citrus Trees (Citrus)
Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits and more, all citrus trees can be grown in a large pot indoors, though they will appreciate being outside in the summer, if possible. Meyer’s lemon and Nagami kumquat are good compact trees. Water freely in summer, sparingly in winter. Feed in summer. Misting can help pollination. Prune only to pinch out shoots (to encourage bushy growth) and to remove dead and side-shoots borne on and at the base of the stem.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum walisii)
The peace lily forms clumps of dark-green ovate leaves and white flowers (spathes). All parts of the plant are extremely toxic. Water regularly in summer, sparingly in winter. Feed monthly in summer. Prune only to remove dead leaves and flowers. It will benefit from an occasional misting.
Sometimes mistakenly referred to as “geraniums”, these fall into two groups, both suitable as house plants. One is grown primarily for flowers (commonly red or white, though their bi-colour leaves are also attractive), the other for their scented leaves (bright and crinkled leaves, scented with anything from rose, lemon and apples to cloves and cinnamon). On the latter, the leaves and summer flowers (pink or white tones) are smaller but can be used in the kitchen. Water and feed regularly in summer, sparingly in winter. Cut back to a short, open framework each spring.
Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus)
This plant has a primrose-like flower borne on delicate stems above long, slightly furry, dark-green leaves. Varieties available can include pastel-pink, blue or purple flowers (see the specialist nurseries listed on this site for the best choice). Best watered from a saucer to avoid rotting leaves, but do not allow to stand wet. Water regularly in summer, sparingly in winter. Feed monthly in summer. Prune only to remove dead leaves and trim flower spikes back to the base.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
A typical house plant or gift at Christmas time (hence the name), when generally it is in flower (varieties of red, pink and white). Despite the name, it hails from the rainforest and needs a partially shaded, humid position.
Perennial plants, often treated as annuals, though can be over-wintered. Their serrated leaves come in a wide range of beautiful colours and patterns; it is possible to buy seed mixes that give a good spread of colours within one packet. Protect from direct sun on hot summer days, and mist frequently to maintain high humidity. Pinch out growing shoots of young plants to encourage bushy growth. Seed can be sown in spring, or over-wintered plants can be cut back to a short framework in spring.
Mosaic Plant (Fittonia verschaffelti)
This is a creeping, ground-cover plant noted for the coloured veins (usually white or pale pink) on its leaves. It is a good candidate for terrariums. Water regularly in summer, sparingly in winter. Feed in the summer. Prune only to remove dead stems.
Share Your Story
Do you have a particular house plant to help create mindfulness? Which plant do you think inspires calm and peaceful thoughts? Who would have known that cleaning a plant’s leaves can benefit your own well-being?