Taking the time to care for plants or visiting your local park helps to relieve some stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Angela Moles, plant ecology professor at University of New South Wales (UNSW).

“My garden at home attracts the local wildlife, so when rainbow lorikeets come to visit for the nectar from the native flowers, our kids love going outside to watch them — just one of the many benefits of having a good garden,” she says. “I also spruced up a shared patch of grass in my community with lots of plants — my neighbors stopped to talk to me, shared gardening tips and said, ‘Wow, well done, that looks so much better.’”

Philippa Specker, a PhD and Master of Psychology candidate at UNSW says taking the time to care for plants can be used as a self-soothing or distraction technique to help people cope with negative emotions like fear, sadness and anger.

The South Korean government is even paying attention to how plants improve mental health. According to NBC News, South Korean officials distributed 2,000 “pet plant kits” to people living in self-quarantine to help them battle depression and other mental health conditions brought on, or exacerbated, by the pandemic. The government handed out Sanhosu (coralwood in English), which is associated with bravery, Lee Yong Kwon, director of the forest education and healing division at the Korea Forest Service, told NBC. Lee says a plant can “ease the loneliness often felt by people in isolation by providing companionship and bonding ...”

Furry friends

Photo s by Kelli Rodda

I ordered more houseplants during quarantine and added more shrubs and perennials to my landscape during the lockdown. I’ve always agreed that gardening is therapeutic. But it was the unconditional love of my dogs and the aloof love of my cat (Roxie, Radar and Felix are pictured below) that helped my mental state the most these last few months. (Sorry, honey. You’re a wonderful husband, but pets are just better at keeping depression at bay.)

The American Heart Association (AHA) says pets can help mental health because they lower work-related stress. Working from home allowed us to spend working hours with our pets. Pets can also help increase productivity and help manage anxiety.

Whether it’s a haworthia, an azalea, a Labrador or a tabby, plants and pets help quell feelings of isolation. Keep that message flowing to consumers, even after the pandemic subsides.

My hope is that you had something or someone to help you cope this year.

krodda@gie.net