I saw something on the Facebook the other day on a page I follow. It’s a gardening/flower appreciation sort of page and there was a post about how important it is to prune plants because otherwise the parts which are struggling to stay alive will prevent the healthier parts from flourishing. It’s something that I, of course, have heard before, but for whatever reason it’s been kicking around my head ever since. Why is it such a struggle to eliminate that which no longer holds future promise? Particularly when it comes at the peril of something that demonstrates positive growth?
My relationship with plants is complicated and long. There was a time when I felt incapable of providing enough attention and support to my boys and my plants. In those days I had one plant, a vine-y sort of thing that had become mine when I was about 20 and had been my responsibility for about a dozen years at that point. It was, and continues to be, low maintenance. This plant was joined by a rubber tree, adopted when a friend moved out of town, when my oldest was in kindergarten almost two decades ago. It is a massive plant now and when I relocate it to its summer home on the back deck, I have to tip it at an angle to maneuver it out the sliding glass door. During the months it resides outside, it grows in a remarkably prolific way gaining a new shiny leaf almost every single day. It’s beautiful.
Those two plants were it for me for a long time. Gradually, though, in the last 7 or 8 years I’ve collected quite a few additional ones including a Boston fern that went full circle dead to almost lush to dead, a passion flower that has yet to bloom for me, citronella and lavender plants which I never expected to overwinter and now have done so for two years, a mature jade and an aloe, and an asparagus fern that is finally doing well. My dining room, with its soft yellow walls and dozen plants, brings me joy even on the gloomiest of days. It just feels warm and alive.
Plants aren’t necessarily as challenging to care for as children, but they do require some attention. It feels like I water, rotate and move them around pretty frequently, as I attempt to encourage them to grow. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with trimming them and cutting “off the dead and dying stuff,” as suggested on that Facebook page I referenced above, because I know intellectually that the plant will “put all its energy into keeping that dying leaf alive,” neglecting healthier parts in the process. And, who the hell wants that?
In all honesty, though, I do falter when it comes to completely giving up. That Boston fern I lovingly nurtured for years, responded to my absence at the holidays last year by dying, despite how much I wanted it to live. I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so it’s currently in a purgatory state in my kitchen. It’s either going to come back to life or be replaced in its pot by the baby Boston fern I was given a few weeks ago. Whatever it does, it’s beyond my control. I’m going to just direct my attentions to the plants which are more committed to being alive and do my best to help them grow strong.
What’s your relationship with houseplants? How are they growing?