Until recently, I had never owned an indoor plant. I was never in one place long enough to commit myself to a cactus even.
My new home came complete with 30 houseplants. At first, this was exciting to me. I always enjoyed stepping into my friends’ homes filled with foliage. There’s nothing like bringing a little of the green outdoors indoors, especially during the cold and gray winter months in Montana.
Even when my new house was empty and I was just moving in my belongings, greenery already graced every kitchen and living room window, adding an abundance of life to a hollow space and immediately making my new house feel like a home. Many of these plants have lived in this tiny abode for over 10 years. I thought it was best to let them remain in the exact spot where they are happy - in the sills and on the shelves where they’ve been thriving for so long.
I saw these mature plants as roommates; afterall, they were here first. I’d do the watering and feeding and cleaning up and they’d just sit there, provide oxygen, purify the air, look pretty. Plants are supposed to have a calming effect and, in the beginning of our relationship, I felt this was true.
But after a few weeks, some of my plants began to wither, turn yellow, shed their leaves. I panicked and doused each of my potted pals with a tall glass of water. I had no idea when they’d last had a drink.
Over the next few days, my indoor desert and tropical paradise began to turn on me. Thankfully, I hadn’t killed my many aloe and cacti yet, but most of the hanging succulents, ivy, and spider plants appeared to be heading south - fast. My indoor botanical garden looked more like a botanical morgue.
The more my plants flagged, the more I fussed over them. Now, I no longer felt like I was sharing my home with 30 easy-going roommates, but more like I’d become a caretaker for a zoo of highly-sensitive, endangered creatures - pandas and tigers and elephants, oh my. Suddenly, I realized that I know as much about raising a rhinoceros as I do maintaining a Rhipsalis.
“Geeze, what’s up with your plants?” a friend asked one day. She immediately pressed her fingers into the soil of a drooping spider plant and worked her way from one pot to the next. “You over-watered this one. This one is really dry. Are you misting these?”
So much for the soothing effect of house plants.
I followed my friend through the house as she watered and preened and loved my greenery, taking mental notes of what each one needed and didn’t need.
“Just give them some space. Don’t love them to death,” she said. “Keep in mind the previous owner was only here every few weeks.”
Yes, I see. I am crowding them. My potted roommates are accustomed to having the run of the house.
Maybe they don’t like my dogs.
Maybe they prefer classical over jazz. I do try to practice my scales on the mandolin every day; that must be grating on their nerves.
I know I should talk to them more often. From now on, I’ll be more considerate.
Thankfully, so far only a handful of my plants have succumbed to my black thumb.
I was considering getting a goldfish. I think I’ll wait and see how my Peperomia pans out first.