Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where Houseplants Go to Die

The leaves fall off, one by one, down onto the floor where they'll be swept up and tossed in the garbage like so many piles of dead leaves before them. I work to keep the plant alive. It's got one, pathetic little stalk left. I try to save it and hope one day I'll do just the right thing, the thing that will make all the difference. I'll wake up in the morning to sun streaming in the window, it's rays cascading on signs of new life springing forth from withered roots. I can almost hear the angels singing. 
A really sad Aloe Vera plant
I know it's not going to happen. It's time to let this plant go. I'll send it on to its grave, a bed of old leaves mixed with grass clippings, to rest for eternity in the woodsy area near our house.

I find myself questioning every moment with the plant in the last few months. What did I do wrong? Did I over water it? Under water it? Give it too much sun? Not enough sun? I suspect, in this case, it was too much water, but I may never know. There will be no post-mortem autopsy.

I believe in houseplants. I know what they can do for indoor air quality. I love how they look. But, I really, really struggle with them. Again and again, my houseplants die. 

My husband and I used to do houseplants successfully. We had several that lived for years and moved from apartment to apartment with us. I had a knack for African Violets. I once bragged that I kept a Christmas Poinsettia alive for three years! I only got rid of it because I was sick of it. How cocky I was! 

I've long blamed this house for our houseplant failures. Maybe it's the water. Or maybe it's that I don't have a good spot to keep plants. More likely it's that my attention has been diverted elsewhere since we started having kids.
This one looks okay, so far!
I'm going to do better. I think I need to get some easy care plants. I need a few spider plants, an African Violet and maybe a philodendron or two. We did those plants right in years past. I have 3 houseplants that are doing okay right now, down from 6 just two months ago. That's not a good track record. 

Yet, I think I can still turn this around. One of these mornings, I'll wake up to a room full of thriving houseplants and not a single one will be on death's door.   


  1. Even the plastic ones start looking bad once they arrive at my house. I feel for you.

  2. Marianne - I'm going to brag a bit here, but I've had the same plastic ivy for about 7 years! It's in need of a good dusting, but it's still hanging in there.

    Thanks, Pheonix.

  3. One Mistake a lot of people make is using tap water. Water from your faucet is full of chlorine and very harmful from plants. I fill a milk jug with water and let it sit uncapped for about a week so that the chlorine dissipates.

  4. I've considered that, Cincinnati. I have a container on my counter that I keep water in for the plants. That's a relatively new thing for me, so maybe it will make a difference. Thank you!

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