PlantXChange Bridges Mental Health and Plants



PlantXChange began with a mission to improve our collective mental health during the pandemic, and the aim was to bring our community together through a common interest: houseplants!

Gardening can serve as a form of therapy — it provides a sense of routine and purpose. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the current organizers and co-founders of PlantXChange rediscovered a love for nature — a love that originated long ago when they were teenagers. From that love, and from the therapeutics of plants, PlantXChange (PX) was born. 

New York City has an extensive history of mental illness and poverty, which the pandemic exacerbated. The city witnessed a dramatic spike in suicides, overdoses, and hospitalizations as people lost their support systems. PX members have personally dealt with severe mental illness and substance abuse. They started growing plants from seed, which helped them become interested in life again. A passion grew from there that steered them away from the instant gratification of drug use. 

Many plant parents say caring for plants has brought more compassion for them and others. Connecting with people over a shared interest also helps dissipate feelings of isolation or alienation. People grow by learning from each other, and from nature. While there are larger institutions at play, PlantXchange aims to make an impact locally, at home. 

PX organizers love the therapeutic benefits of gardening and want it to be accessible and sustainable. Our goal with PX is to create a collaborative network of innovative and resourceful individuals interested in learning more about plants and giving each other access to affordable resources while building solid relationships. Since we’ve been in operation, we’ve been able to distribute over a thousand plants to NYC communities. We’ve collaborated with organizations such as Brooklyn Movement and the Marsha P. Johnson State Park. PlantXChange members will engage with residents and spread knowledge about the importance of our relationship with nature. We have an ongoing partnership with ImFinnaTalk, an organization also dedicated to providing safe spaces for queer and racially marginalized artists.  

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While these events are not necessarily plant related, we find it a great experience to help new plant parents. Many people are scared to start getting into gardening, but every gardener has killed a good amount of plants. We always say it's trial and error — you learn from your mistakes and try again. 

Norma’s Corner Shoppe in Ridgewood serves as a PX drop off, where plant parents can drop off donations for us to utilize or distribute to new plant parents. Some gardeners regularly grow new seedlings for us so that we can provide monthly ‘distros' (plant distributions). PlantXChange has taught lessons in plant care for all ages, relating plants to various cultures, practices, and histories. Did you know the fern is a pre-historic plant that used to be the size of trees? 

While tabling, we have materials and plants available for anyone to take home. After two years of operations, we appreciate the value found in our work and hope to continue growing.

PX functions with the history of marginalization in mind. The majority of organizers themselves are immigrants, first gen, transgender, and queer. We have met throughout the city and formed a safe space with opportunities for expression, growth, and love. We pride ourselves on building equity and spreading knowledge one plant at a time. 

Want to get involved? 

  • Check out our events and let us know what you think! 
  • Volunteer time, supplies, or funds. We have a LinkTree with all of our forms.
  • Our next event will be near the end of February, follow us @plantxchange to find out the deets. 
  • Norma’s Corner Shoppe is our drop-off location! We take gardening materials and plant donations. Show them some love at 5902 Catalpa Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385, near the Forest Ave M station.

Have a specific plant question? PlantXChange will be working with Bluedot Living Brooklyn to bring you the answers you need. Stay tuned for a breakdown of native plants and ecoregions! Send any plant questions to [email protected]

Field Notes is a section in Bluedot Living Brooklyn dedicated to amplifying organizations doing important work in Brooklyn and beyond. Field Notes are authored by the organizations and edited for clarity by Bluedot. If you would like to submit a Field Note, email [email protected]

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