Want Your Plant to Live Longer and Fully Thrive? Give It a Name

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Photo: Getty Images / Westend61
Given that many of us have spent the bulk of 2020 isolated at home, it might feel a bit peculiar to start naming things around the house that can't respond or at least meow back at you when you call them; however, there are *actually* compelling benefits to assigning monikers to at least one category of non-verbal cohabitants: your houseplants. According to plant shop The Sill's marketing director Erin Marino, naming plants helps you take better care of them.

"Giving your plant a name solidifies that it’s here to stay, that you are in it for the long haul," says Marino. "You’ll give your new plant a spot it will thrive in, water it whenever it needs it, and repot it when it grows bigger."

This makes sense when you consider that giving your plant a name helps to anthropomorphize it, which may cause you to think of it as "thirsty"—a state you can empathize with—rather than in need of watering, etc. (Marino notes, however, that naming a plant won't prevent you from accidentally killing it. "We’ve all killed a plant, or a few, during our plant parenthood journey," she says. "There’s no shame there—plants take (fun) practice just like anything else.")

Plus, research shows we do tend to name things when we're lonely, which means doing so must help us to feel less so. In a pandemic year, when limiting social activity has protective physical health benefits, naming plants may make even more sense than before—plant-lady stereotypes be damned.

Marino says it can also serve as a fun creative exercise. "I’ve heard traditional names like Bob and Jane, but I’ve also heard puns or unique takes on celebrity names and the like, as well as the plant’s common name itself, like Stago for a staghorn fern," she says. "To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few that have stuck with me over the years: Keanu Leaves, Tree Diddy, and Morgan Treeman."

She notes that sometimes, she'll name a plant based on the memory of how it was acquired. "I have a string of hearts that I picked up while on the west coast from a nursery in the Bay Area, so I always think 'Berkeley' when I look at it," she says. In this way, your plants can serve as a (transient) record of your life, a function that is particularly poignant now that we are all nostalgic for the time before the pandemic.

You can be extra with this exercise, too. "Have fun with naming your plant. Maybe DIY a little name tag or flag. It’s those little things that can bring you joy when you’re feeling down," Marino says. "I also recommend taking a quick photo on your cell phone of your plant during its first week home—I love to look back months later and see how much mine have grown!" (As an added bonus, these photos can be employed to stop friends from sharing *too many* photos of their children.) 

If you're feeling silly about any or all of this, remember that naming—and even talking to—your plants is totally normal, according to science. It's an expression of intelligence and, more importantly, love. Plus, it's a great way to showoff your skills as a punster.

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