Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dear Internet (a request) [Updated: the internets reply!]

Dear Internet,

Do you take requests? Because I would very much like you to make a photo-based website called: "What the hell is wrong with my houseplant?" Because seriously: I go to the nursery and say, "Show me your indoor plants that cannot be killed." Then I take it home and give it fresh potting soil, water (once a week), sunlight, misting the ones that seem to call for it, even plant food. And still, in a matter of weeks, my plants look like this:

No, that's not flash glare.  The middle of the leaf is corpse-white.

Or this:

Note the curled, dry leaf edges, as if I'd been holding this plant near an open flame.
The rest of the leaves mostly aren't doing this, but they are rolling themselves up like 
little hedgehogs, which worries me.

I like living things! I'm a yoga-practicing vegetarian daughter to a woman who had a house full of thriving plants and a vegetable garden! I even went out and bought a water meter... but the damn thing insists, two hours after I've watered a plant, that they are bone dry, so I have little faith in it.

Seriously, internet.  Please send me a website (or, failing that, one of those reality show makeovers where a host and a film crew comes in, makes snide comments, makes me cry, then shows me how to make everything better and I cry again at the end but this time happy tears) and I promise to be extra-good for the rest of the year.

Yours truly,

Notoriously Phytocidal Dame.


Dear NPhD,

Thank you for your inquiry. Yes, we do do requests, but as we are currently swamped with requests for pictures of cute baby animals, and politicians or celebrities doing horrific things, it may be a while before we get to your request. In the interim, we have forwarded your request to the publishing industry, which points out that people never appreciate it any more, and this is why it's going out of business, and even supposed "scholars" just want a quick fix... well, you see why we don't contact them much. But after they got finished kvetching, they mentioned (with a deep sigh and an eye-roll) that this book has existed for three years now.  It seems to be more about outdoor plants than indoor ones, but you should look at it. And you might tell them thank-you for making the book... though I'd recommend you send them a note, rather than call. 

Best wishes,

The internet.


Anonymous said...

My thumbs are very green. Many of my (large and healthy) plants require water at least twice a week, especially if they are in full sunlight.

Also, be sure to pay attention to the directions that come with the plants -- if they say "low light" or "full light" they probably mean it.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Dear Anon,

I do follow the instructions to the letter. The plants get sick. So I try doing something different, and the plants find new and more creative ways to get sick.

I've tried extra watering more than once a week (more than once every *two* weeks for my sansevaria), but that has resulted in the plants becoming waterlogged and slimy.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

(For the record, I pick "Moderate light" plants. I think that's what's wrong with picture #1 -- I left it in direct sunlight for too long after its most recent repotting, and it seems to have burned out its little photoreceptors.)

clio's disciple said...

"too much light" was going to be my guess for #1. #2 might not be anything wrong--leaves do periodically die on most plants, in my experience. If a lot more of them start looking like that, I'd be more worried.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Clio. #1 got overdosed because it was looking like #2 in places, so I thought it needed more light. As for #2, it did have a lot of leaves like that, actually. Also, the rest of them are all curled up like little hedgehogs.

clio's disciple said...

Hmm. A little more water? Is that a prayer plant? The one I had thrived for a while, but did tend to drop leaves in bunches.

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 here . . .

Hmmm . . . if your thumb is not green, don't start by buying plants that you need to repot. Buy plants that are already in pots, to avoid subjecting them to the stress of transplanting. Buy decent-sized ones, too, not little stringy ones that might need a lot of TLC to get on their feet (their roots?) and grow.

When you water them, be sure to give them a good soaking drink and then let them drain fully. Plants hate sitting around in their own water. Don't overfeed them, either. Frankly, I almost never add any kind of plant food or fertilizer to my plants.

As far as "unkillable" plants, I'd recommend arrowheads (Nephthytis). I've also had very good luck with jade plants, which are nice succulents that don't require much water and grow slowly. I'm not wild about pothos (you have to prune them or they get all viney) but they are really hard to kill and will tolerate all kinds of conditions.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Anon. I'm starting to think that you may be my new Plant Whisperer. I had totally forgotten to take into account that plants temporarily freak out when you repot them. It's possible that the pots are too deep for the plants. It's possible that the built-in drains are not sufficient, and that I need to go back to raised-pot-and-saucer.

What's really distressing is that I brought that palmate one (the one that's turning white) back from the dead six months ago. It's sad.

Sisyphus said...

The dirt on that bottom plant looks too dry. Did it get enough water? If yes, what *kind* of dirt did you pot it in? You might need the moister dirt.

The top one can be killed off by giving it too much water, I know --- my mom has those. (I never know anything about plant names, btw, but she has both of those kinds) I might suggest fertilizer with that one...? Possibly too much water washing the fertilizer off the soil? I don't usually see them turning white like that, so, I don't really know.

I've had luck with those spider plants and china doll and succulents like the jade plants mentioned below ---- but then I got cats and they eat and knock over plants too much. Ooh, I had good luck growing parsley indoors, which is nice cause then you have herbs for cooking!

Comrade Physioprof said...

Get a fucken cactus. Those motherfuckers are nearly impossible to kill.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Sisyphus, I'd just watered that plant the day before taking that picture. There is a high mulch content in the potting soil, though. I bought the kind designed for houseplants.

Comrade, I have killed cactus. Also ivy. In the same month.

Beth S. said...

Those plants look pretty darn good to me! Maybe I feel satisfied with my houseplants simply because my standards are lower.

Funny about Money said...

Plant #1: Overwatered?

Plant #2: Do you have hard water? Or are you just watering a little bit each time, just enough to dampen the soil? Dry scorched-looking leaf edges can indicate too much salts.

I suspect #1 is a goner.

For #2: try placing it in a sink. Plug the drain tightly, and fill the sink with cool water up to the pot's soil line. Hold onto it until enough water soaks into the pot so the plant won't tip over. Let it sit for 30 or 30 minutes. Then drain the sink; let the water drain out until you can carry the plant back to its home without having to mop the floor.

You may have to do this two or three times. The idea is to rinse the salts out of the soil.

Thenceforth, water the plant with distilled water only. Or rainwater, if you get any.