Don't miss Frankie's upcoming workshop, The New Witch's Guide to Altars, Ancestry, and Magical Relationship-Building on October 20th from 6pm to 8pm PST on Zoom!
Witches and witchcraft have utilized herbs and plants throughout history. Folk practitioners, wise women, and herbalists all recognize the power of plants. From easily-accessible herbs such as rosemary and clary sage to plants of the poison path like belladonna and henbane, the magical and medicinal uses of herbs have been around for centuries. While new books like Plant Witchery by Juliet Diaz begin to touch on the magic of plants, I find that discussions around connecting with and maintaining relationships with your houseplants is rarely discussed.
Houseplants can mean any number of plants from any number of places — the Spider Plant, native to South Africa, has strong associations with community, family, and growth. The variety of Pothos plants, native to Southeastern Asia, have associations with fast growing success and prosperity. Many houseplants are poisonous, and are often looked over for more historically documented plants like chamomile, but within each houseplant there is a capability for creating a magical relationship with a new ally.
Many spirit workers mention that the plant work they do often feels like living with roommates — when you work with house plants, you really are working with these roommates! Working with house plants has both similarities and differences to working with well-known herbs and plants, and here are my best tips for cultivating and maintaining allyship with your indoor houseplants.
1. Find the plant that’s right for you.
Within the plant witch community, there are often conversations around the “vibes” of plants and our different perceptions of the energies they represent and give off. Certain plants get along great with certain practitioners while other plants don’t at all! Like all spirits, learning the “vibe” of a houseplant is a great way to begin connecting and creating ally-ship. Finding the plant that’s right for you can look like matching the environment you have in your home to the environment the plant is most likely to find beneficial, as well as going to the plant store and intuitively picking a plant! One of my favorite plants, the California Ivy, was chosen intuitively, and continues to thrive within the environment available to me. Finding a plant that’s right for you can take time, lots of dead plants, and effort — sometimes you’ll take home a plant that won’t thrive no matter what you try, and while this may be a byproduct of your environment being incorrect for the plant, you can also view it within the framework of spiritual allyship. I know now of several plants that I don’t get along well with or can’t keep alive within my environment, and while I can still appreciate these plants for what they are and admire them, it’s difficult for me to cultivate a relationship with them when they can’t survive in my space.
2. Learn about your plant FROM your plant.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when starting to create relationships with my houseplants was relying heavily on the internet’s information about what certain plants I liked. I was surprised when I didn’t follow the blog posts and instead spent time moving the plant around my space and watching it carefully for particular signs of distress or happiness. Learning about plants requires trial and error, and I have found that cultivating relationships with your plants requires more of this than many think. Several plants of mine that supposedly thrive in a “low light” environment do exceedingly better when they receive some good indirect sunlight, while other plants that are supposedly bright indirect plants seem happiest far away from a window. Learning what your plants like takes time — growth doesn’t happen overnight!
3. Caring for your houseplants is veneration.
One of the most important parts of cultivating and maintaining a relationship with a plant ally is veneration. Veneration for spirits is different depending on the spirit you are working with — honoring your plant allies could include an offering of water, a prayer, or even a candle. When I care for my houseplants, I am venerating them. Houseplants, as spirits, come from all number of places, and all of them have incredibly different needs. Some prefer to be consistently moist while others love to dry out between waterings. Cleaning leaves, checking soil, and checking for new growth can all be considered caring for your plants.
4. Cultivating a relationship takes patience.
The biggest part of creating allyship with houseplants is PATIENCE. Some houseplants are notoriously slow growers, while others are notoriously fast. It takes a long time (even with a fast grower!) to really see how a plant is doing on a particular windowsill, so I implore you to be patient. Don’t move plants that are seemingly thriving to a different place where they may struggle and vice versa. The spirits of your house plants will let you know in due time what they prefer, and spending time learning each sign and symbol of happy plant spirits versus sad plant spirits is incredibly beneficial. For example, I know one of my plants is unhappy when mold grows on the top layer of soil. I will move them accordingly to somewhere they may be happier! You may experience a yellowing leaf or a different sign to tell you when a plant is unhappy, and this could be for any number of reason — under watering, overwatering, too much or too little sunlight. It takes time to learn how each specific houseplant behaves, and oftentimes I won’t do any workings with a houseplant until I wholeheartedly feel as though I understand their energy and needs.
Each of these tips are based solely on my personal experience with houseplants as spiritual allies. Every practitioner will have a different opinion and perspective, and each is valid and based on their experiences with houseplants. Whether you are a practitioner who has owned plants before or you’re just getting started, there is space for you in the plant witch community.
About Frankie Castanea
Frankie Castanea (they/them) is an eclectic Italian American folk witch of six years and is known by the internet as Chaotic Witch Aunt. They have several platforms that they use to educate and entertain within the realm of their witchcraft experiences, as well as consistently centering the importance of decentering and desettling the witchcraft practice through uplifting voices that matter. Frankie runs a podcast, Books and Broomsticks, and is a published author (Spells for Change, 2022). They have spent the past two years reconnecting with their heritage, the land, and their ancestors. Find them on Instagram and TikTok.Show more