Decluttering a plant collection is tough but totally possible — here’s how to do it

The Central Valley is so spellbinding this time of year. Just outside my window, pinkish white flowers envelope treetops and lightly carpet the concrete roads like tufts of snow. Actually, I recently learned that people in my area refer to the almond blossoms as the Valley’s snow. Isn’t that so beautiful to think about? 

To enjoy nature’s abundant beauty these days, I simply go outside for a brisk walk or run around my local park. It wasn’t always this way. I had a pretty bad indoor plant hoarding problem a few years ago. But intentionality, coupled with unbearable summer heat that completely decimates foliage, eventually nipped my rampant plant spending in the bud. 

So, if you’re contemplating a plant declutter, how can you go about it? Here’s a comprehensive guide to decluttering an indoor plant collection. 

Why I decluttered my plant collection

My much pared-down plant collection (there are still a few off camera, haha).

I wanted to stop treating my indoor gardening hobby like a disposable fad. It wasn’t sustainable to keep bringing plants into my home, even if I found some sense of community among fellow foliage enthusiasts. Though I never quite reached the “living with 500 plants in a tiny apartment” level of plant obsession, my under 50 collection still felt pretty unhinged.

Decluttering plants to save money

Money was definitely a major reason for why I wanted to slow down my plant collecting. I started treating many new plants (cough, calatheas and alocasias, cough) like long-lasting flower bouquets, using them to add beauty to my space for as long as they’d stay alive. While I never had much of a palate for rare and expensive plants, the gradual accumulation of $6 and $10 plants did add up over the years. Plus, soil, fertilizer, and planting tools aren’t cheap!

Decluttering plants to save time

Time was another factor. Between caring for the dogs, picking up new hobbies, and working, it became strenuous to do more than the bare minimum for my plants. Other than watering them, I also had to repot, stake, prune, fertilize, and arrange them. Plant chores can easily take up a whole day. 

Decluttering plants to prioritize quality over quantity

Quality, of course, was the most important reason for me. Instead of having 100 stunted and perhaps even actively dying plants, I wanted to have under 20 healthy plants with exciting growth! Having a smaller collection has allowed me to be a more involved and mindful plant owner. 

How to downsize a plant collection

My plant collection just last year.

So, how did I approach my plant decluttering process? Here was how I slowly downsized my plant collection:

  • Listing plants for sale at local plant swaps and on Instagram 
  • Integrating plants into the outdoor landscape (namely succulents and cacti)
  • Cutting down roots and pruning leaves to fit big plants into smaller planters
  • Rehoming plants to my fellow plant lovers
  • Grouping plants together
  • Tossing unwanted plants into the compost bin if all else fails

Which plants I decluttered

Jade plant
This jade plant was one of the many succulents that I gave to my mom. It’s doing a lot better outside!

Years of plant collecting have made me more aware of which plants I genuinely enjoy and which plants can soldier the mercurial weather that I experience in northern California. 

The plants that I’m actively enthusiastic about include my pothos, ivy, fiddle leaf fig, and philodendron. 

The plants that I decluttered:

  • Succulents
  • Alocasias
  • Tradescantias
  • Prayer plants
  • And more!

Tips to avoid hoarding plants

Umbrella tree
The umbrella tree is truly one of my favorite plants, and I still have one in my collection.

Be honest with yourself about which plants can tolerate your environment

I love looking at the intricate and sometimes colorful patterns on prayer plants. But I was in absolute denial about their inability to tolerate my hot, dry home. I was also stubborn about bringing succulents and cacti into my home — these sun-loving plants really do best outside, or by a south-facing window, not the northeast window in my bedroom.

No impulse shopping during moments of emotional highs and lows

Yes, it’s taken me years to admit it, but I do partake in retail therapy. While I will continue to accumulate small inanimate tchotchkes, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of impulse buys that won’t stay in my home in the long run.

Avoid watching plant content

Just as with fashion or beauty content, I find that plant content can make me feel like I’m actively missing out on something. I’ve mostly quit watching plant content on YouTube because it makes me want to run to my local Home Depot to bring home new plants.

Engage in other hobbies

Although I will always have a soft spot for indoor gardening in my heart, I’ve definitely picked up on other fun activities as of late, including reading and crafting. There’s an immediacy to plants – once you have a plant, you have it! But what I previously failed to realize is that I need to care for a plant and integrate it into my space. Giving my attention to other activities keeps me from going out to a plant shop and buying more plants for the sake of having more plants. 

Being mindful of your space

My biggest motivation for keeping my plant collection small is space. I am a lover of stuff, a maximalist raccoon hoarder in my heart of hearts. But I do like a tidy space and being able to find my belongings. Having half of my space canopied by foliage is nice in theory, but it also takes a lot of vacuuming and stacking and wiping to keep everything tidy and pest free. 

It’s been years since my room was a true indoor jungle, and I’m definitely glad to have freed up some much-needed time and space. I can confidently say that I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for plants without feeling compelled to own every beautiful plant that I see. 

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