I have a dark secret that I’m ashamed of: I purposefully tried to kill my house plants. (Wince.)
But before you judge me, just know that I have rescued them and it’s all thanks to my hair colorist.
It all started when I was packing up the house for the big move to the apartment.
Ok. Wait. It started much earlier than that.
It all started when I was a child (settles back onto the couch.)
My mother was fond of taking advantage of the free labor provided by my brother and me, so we spent a lot of time scooping poop, scrubbing toilets, ironing shirts and … taking care plants.
Since she was a flower arranger, my mother naturally had a pretty elaborate garden and upwards of 50 house plants all around the house. Some were large, stuffed into heavy pots. Others were teeny, tiny, stuffed into hard-to-reach cups and baskets.
Every week, my job was to retrieve every single one of them, haul them out into the front yard and give them a good soak. Then wait 20-30 minutes while they drained, then return each plant to its proper home.
I really hated it. These plants interrupted my efforts to watch Days of Our Lives. These plants gave me nothing in return. I didn’t like being stuck with the responsibility of living my mother’s dream of having a house full of plants.
Naturally, when I became an adult, I rebelled against plants. They were too time-consuming, too high-maintenance. While I loved the idea of plants, I just didn’t want to deal.
When we moved to our current house, I was worried.
“That’s a lot of yard,” I told Kevin, looking up at a tremendous amount of weeds.
“Yeah, isn’t it great?” he responded, clapping his hands. He couldn’t wait to dig into the earth, lovingly plant something and watch it grow.
Thankfully, he took on the responsibility of whipping the yard into shape.
And it has held pretty well ever since. Of course, I’ve hired a gardener to “deal” with it, you know, since I’m plant-averse.
Kevin also planted a vegetable garden, which he was so proud of. I only saw it as a prison sentence.
“Why aren’t we eating all of that sorrel in the garden?” he would ask.
“Uh, because I have no idea what to do with sorrel?” I responded. It wasn’t long before weeds took that over.
But I digress.
Inside the house, I had a sum total of three houseplants plants. One plant had managed to stick around since before I got married! That’s approaching 10 years! I had no idea plants could live that long. The other two we got soon after we were married. So that’s about eight years for those guys.
But I was horrible about watering them. Between the babies, the dog and the husband I had just too many things relying on me for pure survival.
I would always notice how dry the plants were at the end of a long day — the moment I sat down in an exhausted heap on the couch. “Help us!” they seemed to cry. “We need love, too!”
Of course, I felt horribly guilty. Wasn’t I always hearing about how one’s ability to care for a plant was a direct indicator of whether they were ready to love another?
Could plants feel pain? What did they think about as they billowed about in a summer breeze? Just how wise were they?
This particular article in the New Yorker peaked my curiosity about plant intelligence. And I certainly have been known to talk to plants and play classical music … and have even wondered if the broccoli I was eating was silently screaming in terror. Because you never know!
Not that any of this made me a better plant lover.
So, when we were moving to our little apartment I kept on looking at those plants with despise. Just die already!
As I threw things into the moving truck, I mulled the plants’ future. Should I haul them down to my car? No, I think not. I left them behind in our little house and drove away.
The final nail in the coffin was, quite literally, hammered in when Kevin (and Jack) sealed up the entrance to the living room, the only thing that remained of our home after demolition. Shrouded.
Finally, I thought, I’m rid of them!
Then, there was the Catholic guilt. I wondered how long it would take for them to die. On hot days, I imagined them panting and calling out for help. At night, I would wake in a cold sweat, certain that their spirits were haunting me. It was getting kind of ridiculous.
Through it all, I told no one. That is, until I got my hair done. I don’t know, maybe it was the appeal of telling your problems to a stranger. I just needed to get it off my chest. Maybe she would understand!
Instead, she lectured me. “What is wrong with you? Those plants need you. Why don’t you just go get them and water them for Pete’s sake?”
She was right. But I still resented her for it. I sullenly focused on my US Weekly for the remainder of the appointment. But the next day I approached the house with an electric drill.
Inside the living room, the air was dead. I found one of my plants … but no others! Had someone kidnapped them? Out of mercy, of course?
I searched some more until I saw a broken little leaf poking out from under a box. My baby! It was all squished.
I quickly rushed the plants to my nearby Sloat Garden Center and searched for the employee least likely to pass judgment on me. They were hard to find.
“Come this way,” I beckoned to one of them. He frowned a little when he saw my pathetic plants jammed in my car.
“I’m not a horrible person,” I assured him.
And then he went ahead and told me what I had to do to resuscitate my babies.
Apparently, houseplants do like a good, long soak followed by a long drain. I guess Mother was righ — again!
My first plant, the one that’s been with me during my single days, is a split-leaf philodendron. It’s supposed to look like this:
The garden dude pointed one out in the store. It retailed for $70!! Wha??
Annnnd, this is what MY plant looks like; this after I put in some stakes to support its limp body.
What I never knew is that these plants like to grow UP. I thought they liked to trail. I had mine perched on the tallest bookcase I could find and let it drag down in some really strange ways. Here’s the other side of that sickly large leaf.
All of its greenest just sucked away.
My other plant is a dracaena. This perky little devil is supposed to look like this:
Instead, mine looks like this:
About to keel over and die.
Here’s it’s sister plant, the one I couldn’t find in what remains of my house. I’m sure (I hope) it wisely ran off.
I have absolutely no business taking care of plants.
But still, I try.
Based on the advice of the Sloat dude, I added fresh soil to the pots. While these plants could benefit from being repotted, they are much to fragile to be trifled with right now, especially the philodendron.
I also gave them a little fertilizer.
With a little luck, love and attention, hopefully these babies will spring back into action. I hope so, because learning how to garden is on my post-remodel bucket list. I’ve just got to get all of this yard whipped into shape.
I’d better go now. I need to sing to my plants.