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The home grown effect has helped Albertans cope with COVID-19

'There is a wonderful purpose behind being a plant parent'

The pandemic has inspired many changes in the lives of Albertans, including a shift to a greener effect at home.

"House plants are more popular than they have been for years," said Tam Andersen, horticulturalist/owner of Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm.

"People are looking to give themselves some mental relaxation. They want to bring the outside indoors."

Sheena Haffner, marketing manager for Blue Grass Nursery, Sod and Garden Centres, agreed and said enthusiasm for indoor plants took off in 2020.

"Tropical indoor plants have been gaining in popularity in the last few years, but (last year) the trend exploded," said Haffner, pointing out it has also spawned social media plant groups.

She said it's easy to understand the increased interest.

"I describe gardening as the healthy hobby. There is a wonderful purpose behind being a plant parent," she said.

Andersen said their Bon Accord-based nursery was extremely busy last spring as the lockdown kept people at home.

"People have more time than they ever had before. They came here looking for everything from house plants to herbs to tomatoes."

She said people are also growing herbs on the kitchen counters and by the windows while the most popular indoor plants are succulents, including "every colour, shape and size."

"They want to have a good backdrop for their Zoom meeting,” said Andersen, “Big, bold tropical plants are must-haves."

She said people are also growing herbs on kitchen counters and by windows, with the most popular indoor type being succulents, adding "every colour, shape and size."

Andersen said large windows on the south side of a home help in the darkest days of winter for large plants like figs, lemon or Persian lime trees.

To accommodate those plants, she said, "We are seeing a resurgence of Arizona rooms, porches and sunrooms.”

Any of the philodendron plants are also recommended in the winter, said Andersen.

“They are used to growing on the floor in low light. Very adaptable"

Regardless of the plant, each one of them plays an invaluable role inside any home, said Haffner.

"Whatever you are growing, this hobby forces you to check, water, prune, fertilize and care for the plant. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing that first little green sprout popping out of the soil that you have tended." she said.

The number of plants has been increasing every winter at Chelsea Smith’s Sherwood Park home over the years. She now has about 80 in total in almost every room in her house, ranging from succulents to palm trees.

"I love to garden in the summer and in the winter it is so nice to bring the greenery inside and keep it fresh."

For those aiming to grow cold-tolerant vegetables during the winter months, backyard greenhouses have seen a huge surge in interest. Beaumont-based My Own Greenhouse vice-president Cynthia Strawson said they sold 14 greenhouses in 2019 and 80 last year.

Plants like Swiss chard, kale and Pac Choi will tolerate frigid temperatures as long as the daytime high comes back above zero, said Strawson, pointing out that a floating row cover and a small heater can be used.

Snowbirds unable to travel south this winter have taken up a form of indoor gardening available through a big box store.

Craig Martin of Strathcona County bought a nine-pod AeroGarden at Costco to grow herbs.

"I like to make homemade pasta sauce so rather than buy herbs I can grow thyme, two types of parsley and basil," he said.

“It's the size of a crock pot and the herbs start to sprout in three to four days. It's perfect."

Gary Poignant is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Great West Newspapers. This story was funded by the Google News Initiative.