Houseplants heal during hard times

James Hovan is not having the best day while being sequestered inside during the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m having a hard time right now,” he says. “That’s what all the plants are for man, he adds, that’s what my 250 houseplants are for.” He has suffered from clinical depression, anxiety and PTSD, but has found solace with his plants.

The pandemic is the final blow of a tough decade for him, which included a bad divorce, a presidential election that didn’t go his way; his mother had a stroke and later passed away. “I had trouble processing all that and then came the Tree of Life shooting,” he says sadly. His doctor was Jerry Rabinovitz who was killed in the tragedy. “He got me through my divorce,” Hovan added about Rabinovitz.

It was a trip to Aldi’s, where he saw a snake plant for only three dollars, which began his plant collecting journey. “It called out to me,” he said with a chuckle about the tall plant. The potting up process was wonderful, he added, as he enjoyed getting his hands dirty. It was back to the store for a few more snake plants and then stumbled on to a ‘Janet Craig’ dracaena.

James Hovan has nearly 250 houseplants, they have helped him heal | Photos by James Hovan.

Those snake plants brought on a flashback from his youth in South Florida where sansevieria (snake plant), can grow outdoors in garden beds. His mother gardening with the plants along with bromeliads and rock gardens throughout the yard. “The picture of her holding up a snake plant and popping a tuber off and saying the word sansevieria, came into my head,” he reminisced. He has fond memories of playing in the yard around those plants as a child.

His Churchill home is surrounded by large windows, which make his indoor plants happy. “The more plants I brought in, I got healing from them, he says, being around plants is healing,” Hovan repeated. He calls it eco-therapy when spending time in his indoor and outdoor garden, something most gardeners can relate to.

His healthy obsession with sansevieria has grown since he started planting the varieties found at Aldi. “There’s just something about them,” he says of the plants. “I have 29 different kinds,” he adds proudly.

Sansevieria has been reclassified technically as dracaena, but will he actually call his beloved plants by their true name? “Hell no,” he says with a hearty laugh.” “And nobody in the our plant group would either.”

“They’ve always been in the monasteries, where the monks are, all the sacred, spiritual places have always had snake plants,” says Hovan. “They believe that if you have snake plants in your house, good things will happen and you will be happier.” He attributes that to the oxygen the produce and adds that snake plants are great air cleaners too.

Not only are the plants therapeutic, they clean the air and provide oxygen.

He finds his plants all over the area though the years, won’t buy online, as he wants to see the plants. He loves sansevieria cylidrica ‘Starfish,’ also ‘Samurai,’ but his list is long. In the past he’s gone to City Grows, Penn Hills Lawn and Garden, Chapon’s Greenhouse, Quality Gardens and other local garden centers to feed his plant lust.

Hovan is an artist and musician who uses Sharpies to create zebra stripe patterns on his white containers. He also created beautiful stacked stone sculpture in his outdoor garden.

“This pandemic has stopped me dead in the water, he says, this sucks.” “It’s a bad time to begin dating,” he adds with a laugh.

Sansevieris are seductive, it’s almost cult like and people are catching on. Don’t call it a cult, he says quickly, it’s an acquired taste.”


For more information about James Hoven, go to his YouTube and Facebook pages.

Hovan is a musician and artist and loves to decorate the pots for his plants.