Can plants make awesome pets?


Simply add water and watch your friendship grow!

Aw. Cute little plants for pets. / Jingyu Zhang

Aw. Cute little plants for pets. / Jingyu Zhang

In our culture, we like to name things: cars, pets, stuffed animals, plants. Wait, plants? Do you name your plants? A&C Editor Destiny Kaus has two dear (named) plants that she cares for in preparation for owning a cat of her own. So we got to thinking, is Kaus crazy, or is this a normal thing to do?

“I think people have a tendency to anthropomorphize things,” said Katherine Arbuthnott, Professor and Assistant Dean in the Department of Psychology at the University of Regina. She explains that we live in a culture in which we view the world from an individualistic perspective, rather than from a collectivist view. But, seeing plants and pets in this personalized way is not a bad thing; in fact, it has quite a positive effect.

“Having relationships with animals and having plants around is very good for us heath-wise,” says Arbuthnott. “The research on plants in an environment shows better cognitive function, higher productivity, lower stress, [and] more self-reported satisfaction or well-being in an environment.”

Research shows that contact with pets decreases blood pressure and heart rate, so if your plant is like a pet, it can only be good for you. If, like me, you’re a “brown thumb,” as Arbuthnott calls us poor souls who can’t keep plants alive, naming a plant may help us think of it like a pet, and thus keep it alive.

However, if you’re in need of relaxation and your brown thumb is incurable, visit the Regina Floral Conservatory and take in the warm air and beautiful flora. The Conservatory is a fantastic winter sanctuary where you can sit with flowers and read an afternoon away.

“The biggest perk is coming here when it is 40-below or 50-below,” says volunteer Dawn Trask. “You walk in, and you smell spring.”

At the Floral Conservatory, over 60 volunteers keep the plants healthy. A different group comes in every day so that the public can enjoy the beautiful and warm environment any day of the week.

“The dedication to your plants, or your named plants at home, is the same here only to a bigger extent. It’s muted in some ways, but it’s not in others. We don’t own these as we do at home, but we have a real vested interest,” explains Trask.

The group doesn’t normally name their plants like Kaus does, but Miranda, I discovered, is one exception. A plant that originates from the time of the dinosaurs, Miranda is rare to find and has very particular grooming needs. Her pods must be watered with rainwater only, and if her pods are not opened, volunteers have to spritz her with water to keep her alive. She sounds like a lot of work to me (a hopeless brown thumb); however, volunteers at the Floral Conservatory have grown attached to and quite fond of her.

The first Miranda plant was especially dear to volunteer Janet Drummond who brought her all the way from Toronto. Drummond brought a lot of plants home with her on that trip, filling the overhead bins with plants and keeping the more delicate ones at her feet.

These volunteers are very much dedicated to their plants.

“It’s nurturing, which is the similarity [to having a pet], I think, and the fact that they need you and they give back pleasure,” says Trask.

If we are going to treat our plants as near and dear pets, however, we must recognize the risk that they could die.

“Sometime in your life you are going to lose something,” warns Arbuthnott. “You have to be prepared to have some ups and downs, like any relationship. Relationships always come with some risks, but some benefits too.”

So if you are going to enter into a pet-relationship with your plants, be aware of the work that it will take, and be prepared for the possibility of losing that special plant.

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