Juanita's Plants

Kat Hernandez Turns Plant Care Into Self Care

She'll also tell you the best Spotify mix for your aloe plant.

“Plant care is self care.”

That’s the motto of Juanita’s Plants, the Brooklyn-based small business that wants you to make ferns and cacti part of your wellness routine. Why? Because caring for plants has serious mental and physical health benefits, including proven stress reduction, a boost in creative thinking, and even help with anxiety and depression. (The research is so strong, Doctors in England have even started prescribing potted plants to their patients.)

Plants can also benefit your social media game—especially succulents like aloe vera, which were found to boost engagement on Instagram. Seriously, it’s a thing.

We met up with Kat Hernandez, the entrepreneur behind Juanita’s Plants, who named the brand after her grandmother and has seen firsthand how “indoor jungles” can make a home more welcoming, calm, and vibrant. Here’s how she fell in love with gardening, what she’s learned first hand about the links between plants and wellness, and what to do if you’re scared of keeping your snake fern alive. (Step one: Don’t panic. Step two: Read this interview.)

Did you grow up surrounded by plants? What’s your garden origin story?

I learned to care for plants, particularly houseplants, through my mom. [Our] home was covered in plants—things would just be vining everywhere. She always had a green thumb. I picked it up from her, and it flourished from there.

What can we learn from plants?

Just like us, plants go through a lot. They have bad days, they have good days. Some of them are a little more high-maintenance! They shed leaves and parts of themselves they want to let go of, just like how we shed chapters in our lives. And they have rebirth. They grow new leaves, and they grow into something new and beautiful just like us. Watching plants, you can learn to be patient with yourself. It takes time for plants to sprout new leaves… You also take time to grow and to become the person you will be. So just be patient with yourself.

How have houseplants impacted your mental health?

In a huge way! Caring for something and watching it grow gives you that little spark of dopamine [because] you’re doing something right. Other parts of your life could be falling apart, but something’s growing in your home, and it’s growing because of you. That’s a good feeling… Plants also add a ritual to your day-to-day life, because you need to take a moment every day to water them and make sure they’re OK. It makes things a little more special, and grounds you.

We know plants can help improve our own wellbeing. But taking care of plants isn’t always easy! What’s your biggest tip?

Do not be intimidated by taking care of plants, even if you’ve killed one in the past. I promise you, there is a plant that you can take care of and is easy for you… Also, I would say that when you get a new plant, do a bunch of research to figure out what you need to do to care for that plant. At the same time, just go with your intuition, you know?

Can you give an example?

Pay attention to your plant and take notice of any changes you see. If there’s a yellow leaf or if you see the soil change color, or if the leaves are sad and droopy – those are the little signs that something’s wrong, and your plant needs attention. Maybe it needs more water; maybe it needs a new location. Play around a little bit and see what your plant responds to. That’s how you develop a “green thumb.”

Do you name your houseplants? (Um… we do.)

I call them “my babies,” because it does feel like that! I do recommend naming your plants if you want, because when you name something, you grow an attachment to it, and I think that’s important.

How about talking to your plants?

It is good to talk to your plant! I do it, especially when they’re not doing too well. I’m like, “Hey, what’s going on with you guys? What’s happening here? What do you need from me?” It’s not a full-blown conversation, but we chat.

Playing music can be good for plants, right? What do your plants like to listen to?

SZA or Frank Ocean; sometimes I’m blasting Drake for them. They’re kind of just bopping with me!