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Friday, June 12, 2009

Either Houseplants Are Like A Relationship, Or My Deck Is Like A Marriage Counselor...Maybe

Let me see if I can work through something here with all of you. Bear with me.

I've got these three houseplants: a Christmas cactus, a spiky Sago palm, and a newly acquired "lucky bamboo." Of the three, the cactus is the oldest; it's probably around seven or eight years old. Now let me be perfectly frank here, my track record with houseplants is consistent.

Consistently poor, that is. Oh, I mean well. Early in my life I tried to cultivate the Green Thumb and bought fertilizer, a plant mister...all that crap. People gave me plants with the assurance "Oh, trust me. No one can kill this plant!"

And I killed them all. Spider plants, asparagus ferns, African violets, you name it. Dead, deader, deadest.

But I digress. Back to my three plants.

All three of these plants, the cactus, the palm, the bamboo...well, you guessed it. All three were at Death's Door. The palm was a crown of brown fronds, the cactus was withered and red, and the lucky bamboo? Yellow-leafed and not so fortunate-looking. "Just junk 'em," said Rick.

"I'm going to repot the cactus," I said, "and give it one last try. See how it does outside for another summer. The palm, I'm just going to cut off all the dead fronds and sit it outside in the sun. If it sends up new shoots, then okay. If not, then it's over. The bamboo, same deal. I'll cut off the dead stuff and sit it on the patio table. If it dies, it dies. That's it. They're all on their own. I kind of hope they all give up because I don't want to have to bring them in over the winter and go through all this again. I don't have the space for them from October through May."

"Then just junk 'em and say the hell with it!" repeated Rick, the old softie. "I don't get it."

"Boy, oh boy," I said. "You'd better hope I never have to make a decision about putting you in a Home."

Fast Forward. Today I went out on the deck for a little sun and visited my thriving Sago palm which has four new uncurling fronds. A few steps away is my succulent Christmas cactus, greening up at the center and chubby with life. On the patio table is the Luckiest little Bamboo plant, already grown about a half inch. I made sure not to say a word to any of them, nor to let them see me look at them. My plan of Completely Ignoring Them seems to be working wonderfully.

Which makes me wonder.

Is this the Key To A Successful Relationship?

19 comments:

  1. Nancy6:27 PM

    I'm delighted that your plants are doing so well, Nance.

    You are doing exactly the right thing. Do not speak to them or look at them. That said, I will now tell you about watering them.

    Every morning when you pick up your Plain Dealer,turn to the Weather Section. When they say it is raining in Phoenix give the little ingrates a cup of water.

    I kept a cactus alive for 20 years using this method. I overwatered every other plant I ever had and sent them to their Heavenly reward but that cactus lived.

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  2. Oh congratulations!! I too have killed many unkillables. I now only have plants that thrive with very little attention, be that water or light. Just continue to do what you're doing and they are sure to live, at least until the cold weather hits and it will be time to out them inside :)

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  3. I suspect you're on to something. I have a brown thumb. I do seem to be able to keep spider plants alive, but only by throwing them at the fence in our back yard and letting them fend for themselves out there. If we lived somewhere with snow or where the ground froze, they'd be doomed.

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  4. Aw, Nance, too funny. You killed a SPIDER PLANT? My mother in law goes out of state six months a year and just leaves hers hanging in a dark room with NO CARE and it thrives. So there's your theory.

    On the other hand, I have had a small Christmas cactus whose calendar feature is off (it blooms at Thanksgiving and sometimes randomly in April) for at least 12 years and I detect almost no discernible growth. The problem? I think I lavished it with too much love! I ignore the African violets and they are thrilled and bloom away. Same with a number of cacti given to my son by science teachers, and a rambling aloe which is in a room where nobody goes. It proliferates all on its lonesome. Baby aloe everywhere. The other cacti all might even be artificial or stuffed or something. Perhaps I just haven't noticed . . .

    My mother killed a creeping charlie. In California. That requires serious, deliberate effort. But she always laughed that she was born a black thumb.

    The verification word is "hesismo." A variant of "machismo"?

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  5. Oh, I'm agreeing with you on the relationship thing. Except hubby is not allowing himself to be ignored the last few days and he's been driving me friggin' crazy. Today is our anniversary and a good part of me still wants to kill him. Okay, figuratively, not literally ... but that still doesn't make for the best anniversary mode. Sigh.

    But, your plants didn't experience recovery from completely being ignored. You sat them outside in the sunlight and fresh air. That can do a lot for anyone. So maybe there's a lesson there ... maybe hubby and I need a day out on the motorcycle on which we mostly do not talk, but will be appreciating the fresh air and soaking up the Vitamin D. ;-) I'll let you know how it goes with the bike ride if it happens.

    Back to the plants, I always used to salvage my plants by cutting them back and covering them with clear plastic, creating a greenhouse environment. Now in our sun-deprived home in the woods, I have exactly two indoor plants, an African violet (that I largely ignore per Anali's advice--works great!!!) and a huge, old aloe (that is in the guest room and is also very much ignored). They are both thriving. :-)

    Shirley

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  6. My African violets refuse to bloom as much as I'd like. They will however grow leaf upon leaf upon leaf. One of them has decided that it would like to grow out the side of the pot, thank you very much, and does not appreciate my coaxing it back to the center. I also ruined one of them by getting water on the leaves and letting it sit in the sun--the leaves have lovely brown spots all over. Perhaps I need to try ignoring them!

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  7. My friend Adrienne is a plant killer. There's one she has, though, that is kinda funny. If she waters it, it starts dying. If she puts it near light, it starts dying. If she does anything that would normally be considered positive, it starts dying. She went on vacation for two weeks, leaving it all alone, and it looked better than ever.

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  8. Old hospital saying...
    "Get out of the way and let Nature do her job."

    Please don't share this with Pres. Obama--there are some caveats to this:>)

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  9. Good for you! Just do whatever works, and don't give it a second thought (and, yes, I think that also works for relationships).

    Me? Even ignoring plants seems to kill 'em. Artificial plants die on me.

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  10. My grandfather could take a plant that was basically "circling the drain of life" and bring it back. Like Lazrus...only with leaves and roots. I've heard singing helps, but I can't picture him doing such a thing.

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  11. apathy lounge--Actually, music has been found to have no real effect one way or another upon plants, if I've read correctly. The Plain Dealer just had a little blurb about it. LOL.

    Ortizzle--Remember back when silk and dried arrangements were all over the place during the Country Cottage rage? Dust-catchers, those!

    dbso--then why do dr's always make us give our kids something to bring down fevers? always wondered about that one...!

    mikey--that's what i wonder about. whenever i try to take care of these damn plants, they take a crap. if i just sit them outdoors and totally ignore them, they take off. i once saw the perfect plant for adrienne at a craft show: it was a crocheted cactus glued into a terracotta pot. (or as rick calls them, a "crap show.")

    jenomena--my aunt june used to swear that the reason her african violets did so well was because she kept them in her bedroom, where uncle jul farted all night in his sleep. everytime she moved them, they would do poorly. perhaps you could try that...!

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  12. Shirley--I sure hope you don't have a lot of drycleaning bags anywhere near your husband...LOL!
    Let me know how the Vitamin D + Wind In Your Hair marriage therapy works out.

    sputnik--I, too, have killed a few creeping charlies and something also called a "crown of thorns" and a "gizzard plant", along with an aloe. my herbicide knows no bounds.

    j.@jellyjules--literally threw them at the fence? i've heard of banging potbound houseplants on the counter and that helping, but your method is a new one.

    nina--there is no such thing as an "unkillable" when you and i are around. we are Serial Plant Killers. We can form a gang--the SPK. Our colors can be brown and green.

    Nancy--that sounds way too worky for these plants, hee hee. too much like "care" for them.

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  13. Nance--Reporting back in to let you know that while there were dry cleaning bags nearby, none got used on hubby. The Vitamin D/"helmet hair" approach worked well--with short hair none of mine gets windblown. LOL We are happy and content now ... always a good thing on one's anniversary! :-)

    Shirley

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  14. No Nance, not literally. I seem to have been attacked by a fit of hyperbole. But if I take a spider plant that's dying in the house, and plant it out in the yard by the fence, it seems to thrive. Though perhaps too well, because they shoot off all kinds of little baby spider plants. In 20 years there may be no other plants in the yard, if I continue ignoring this way.

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  15. LOL! I just noticed the rabbit with the bananas!

    Glad the plants are doing better. I was rather ambitious and just bought some seeds. I'm going to try and grow lavender and basil inside. I hope it works!

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  16. And the woman who has been married for 27 years and has houseplants that are OLDER than that says, "No comment."

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  17. V--Well, I've been married for 28 this July, but the plant thing...!

    Anali--Good luck with the lavender. Basil grows like a weed from seed (even for me; it's when I get it to plant stage that I have issues!), so you'll do fine.

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  18. I'm pretty sure there's a metaphor to be found here, but I'm on summer cruise control, and try as I might, the symbolism escapes me at this moment. I'll get back to you on that. But you did remind me...I've got to get clippings from my 38-year-old asparagus fern, so the girls will have another houseplant to take to college in the fall!

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  19. Melissa B.--Oh, that was SO not nice, throwing your Gift For Plant Longevity in my face! I'll be over at YOUR blog pretty soon to smack you around. LOL LOL LOL.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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