We’ve done it, everyone. We’ve made it past Blue Monday, said by travel company Sky Travel to be the saddest day of the year. The holidays are over, the nights are extremely long, the weather is garbage and it will remain garbage for the foreseeable future. Sure, the concept of Blue Monday is a marketing ploy, but the winter blues are real.
We less poetically call it seasonal affective disorder now, but 10-20% of people are impacted by at least a mild form of winter depression, according to American Family Physician. Fortunately, there are many forms of help available. SAD light therapy, a good counselor that you trust, exercise and meditation have all been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms.
In addition to those treatments, many people find it helpful to incorporate more of the things they love into their days, whether that’s time with their pets, yoga, walking in nature or journaling. Being the garden lovers that we are, we suggest leaning into your love of plants.
Here’s how you can create an indoor garden oasis that will lift your spirits and help get you through winter.
Choose Your Plants
If you’re new to the plant world and don’t have any plants in your home, it’s time to make that plunge. Choose plants that are hard to kill for your indoor garden. You will not feel better if your plants die, so avoid varieties that are difficult to maintain or that might hate the living conditions in your home.
A nursery or florist’s shop should be able to match the climate conditions in your home with varieties that will hold up well. Our suggestion is to start with spider plants, snake plants, pothos, Chinese evergreen and succulents. All very hard to kill.
If you have a few houseplants already, consider adding some new varieties to your plant population. Flowering plants are especially good mood lifters, not just because they’re beautiful and colourful, but because their blooms will give you something to look forward to. Try peace lilies, anthuriums, African violets, kalanchoe or, for something showier, amaryllis.
And if you’re an experienced plant owner who can grow anything, pick out a few plants that are interesting to you, or that you just happen to like for no good reason. If you simply do not have room for any more plants (and you know who you are), select the ones that make you happiest and let’s proceed to the next section.
Select Your Site
Choose a spot in your home where you can make some green space for yourself to go to when you’re feeling down. There might be a spot in your home that’s especially comfy, or where you feel more at peace. That place will be a good candidate for your indoor garden. Ideally, this will be a spot that provides for your plants’ needs (bright, indirect light and consistent temperatures with no cold drafts) and also for your own needs (peace and quiet, with minimal disruptions).
Fortunately, when winter gets you down, your needs and your plants’ needs will align. You’ll both want a spot by a sunny window where you’re not in danger of getting toppled over by partners, kids or pets. If there’s a conflict between the location you want to use and the location that makes your plants happy, prioritize your plants’ health and either adapt your location or pick different plants that will thrive in the space you want. Dying plants will not make for a rejuvenating garden.
Your indoor garden doesn’t have to be big. If you have a room you can devote to your plants, that’s fantastic, but you can also carve out some space in a corner or just underneath a window somewhere. The point is just to devote an adequate space for your plants and also adequate space for you so you can comfortably hang out in the indoor garden you’re about to create.
The room itself also doesn’t matter—the space that best fits your requirements might be the bathroom or the stairwell, but that’s fine. You can make it work for you.
Create an Oasis
When creating your indoor garden, the goal is to replicate, as closely as you can, the positive feelings you have when you’re immersed in a garden outdoors in the spring or summer. Once you have your site selected, start turning it into a space that gives you the feelings you need most, whether that’s relaxation, tranquility, invigoration, cheerfulness or just the general feeling of pushing the reset button on your day.
Arrange your houseplants to create levels. Make use of shelves, wall-mounted pots and hanging baskets to create the illusion that you’re surrounded by nature, even if you’re working with a single wall. Group plants together for aesthetic effects and to give the effect of density.
Work in other elements that evoke the garden. If you love the smell of fresh soil, keep an open bag of potting soil close by. If you’re near a door that’s opened frequently, hang a windchime. Find a small electric fountain to add soothing water sounds. Play a recording of local bird sounds while you’re in this space.
This is also a great opportunity to add some extra positivity to your day. Place signs with your favourite quotes or inspirational sayings in between your pots. Even handwritten signs can remind you of sunnier times.
Use colour to create the emotional effects you need, either through your choice of flowers and pots or through fun décor items you sprinkle throughout your garden space. Think cooler tones for serenity and calmness and warmer tones for brightness and energy.
Find a Place for Yourself
Most importantly, carve out a place for yourself to relax and enjoy your new indoor garden. Place a chair or lounger so you can read, knit, meditate or do an enjoyable activity with your indoor garden filling up your field of vision. Or just sit and watch your plants thrive. Nothing is more relaxing than that.