Monday, July 26, 2010

I have been a killer for as long as I can remember.

I am in the process of killing three houseplants. One was a gift from a friend, a cutting from a houseplant of his that I liked very much. Another was a sacred trust, a colleague's gift from her best friend in grad school that she asked me to care for it while she was away this summer. The third is zombie plant, something that should have already died a thousand deaths from under-watering since I bought it my first year in grad school, but somehow always clawed its way back from the brink, until now.

I told my friend's husband that I was capable of killing cactus; had, in fact killed a cactus. And also an ivy. He was incredulous, and grew even more so when I explained that these two botanical deaths had taken place within a month of each other.

These are not, I should note, delicate tropical plants. They are simple houseplants. They need water and sunlight. Occasionally they should be repotted, probably. They are not fiddly creatures, yet they die under my care. And today, as I contemplated another mortally ill houseplant, I wondered why. Plants, after all, do not hate anyone personally. They do not hold grudges. And they do not require a particular personality trait to be happy. Their needs are simple: healthy soil, sunlight, and water. Requirements may vary slightly from one plant to the next, but I'll bet there are books. And I'll bet it's not rocket science.

On the other hand, today I was thinking that plants -- even the most forgiving ones -- do require something that I appear to have trouble with: attention. I may be seeing signs and portents where none exist, but: I think my sickly houseplants may be telling me something. And I have this funny idea that if I can bring them back to life, I will learn something in the process.


Anonymous said...

I, too, have a long, sordid history of plant murder. The latest reform effort is still hanging on but I agree with you that attention is probably necessary. Funny, I have no trouble paying attention to cooking--I mean meal planning, shopping, prep, mise en freakin' place, the whole bit--but stuff that grows in dirt, no. Attention, and maybe hope, which I have in the kitchen but not the garden. Go know.

clio's disciple said...

Plants can sometimes be fiddly about things like drafts and ambient moisture--those might be things to keep an eye on. Then again, one of my plants abruptly stopped blooming for no apparent reason, so maybe I shouldn't be giving advice.

Sapience said...

Like you, I have killed cacti. Multiple ones. And they were my roommate's, under my care for a measly month while she was gone. (ouch).

So far, the only plants I haven't killed are my bamboo plants, which have survived almost a whole year--a record for me!

Belle said...

Given where you live, a stint outside might be just what they need!

Anonymous said...

Another phytocidal maniac, here. I've killed 'em all; ivies, begonias, air plant, ti logs, pine, rubber trees, cacti. Mint. My giving or withholding attention hasn't appeared to make any difference.

I'm particularly narked about the mint. I deliberately picked plants with a little instruction spike stuck into the pot, followed the care-and-feeding instructions meticulously...notwithstanding which, the day came when I was sitting in contemplation of the last four, feeble, nearly-leafless stalks, listening to the radio telling me that "mint is invasive; you have to crop it back often and vigorously". *sigh*


Anonymous said...

Kudos to cicely who killed mint!

I too am a killer of houseplants. Part of it is actually aggressive, since plants are things always given to me by someone else who imagines that's what I need. And in the event that someone waters it, they get it all over the wood and f^&k it up. So, I hate indoor plants.

Anything that can't cry and remind me to feed it and water it and pay attention to it doesn't deserve to live in my house. I say let the plants die and get a cat or a dog. They give you more back than just silent O2. (But there is the expense and the hassle of the $hit you have to deal with.)

Historiann said...

Sorry--that last comment was actually by me. I screwed up.

FrauTech said...

Cacti are actually not as hardy as you think. They need a lot of direct sunshine and people make the mistake of leaving them inside or putting them next to a window, which often isn't good enough. They also still do need water, but can suffer from TOO much water. I had an office cactus that died both from not enough direct sunlight as well as getting too much extra water from well meaning coworkers.

squadratomagico said...

I'm with Historiann: get a cat or dog. They really do reward the attention. And even if you travel frequently (I do, too), you can always find someone to sit for them. It's nice to be greeted by a living thing!

I can grow most houseplants, though I certainly have killed a few in my day also. But I also don't really like having lots of them indoors, anyway. Just a few blooming things.

Get a kitten... mrew.