I must confess that I am a reformed plant serial killer! Ten years ago, I started thinking about overcoming my plant disability but it wasn’t the right time. I was still a mom of young children and working to establish a new career in education. After finishing graduate school for the second time last year, I decided that I would give it a go and really focus on educating myself on how to care for plants. By this time, I had probably killed a host of plants that were sporadically purchased or given to me as gifts. I know for a fact that I killed 2 last year that were given as gifts after the passing of my grandmother. After watching the pink and white colors of my Azalea fade into brown and droop over, finally grew tired of my indifference regarding one of nature’s most beautiful gifts to us. Besides, my grandmother was a gifted gardener and would be disappointed of by my inability to care for plants after watching her tender approach for years. So, in June of 2020, a month after “Big Mama’s” passing, I meticulously begin planning my rehabilitation plan. It has become a grieving process for me as I often think of my grandmother as I care for my plants.
As a beginner, the three biggest lessons I have learned are:
- Education is the key to successful plant growth and management. I was naïve about the care and attention needed to nurture a healthy plant. This time around, I decided to educate myself. When I began looking for resources for beginning plant parent, I was excited about all the new information available. Not only were there great books for beginners, but many plant novices are sharing a wealth of knowledge on Instagram and YouTube. Here are a few of my favorites:
@Houseplantjournal by Darryl Cheng
@plantpositivity Plant Positivity
@blakpeople.wplants Black Community
“The New Plant Parent” by Darryl Cheng
“How to Not Kill Your Houseplant: Survival Tips for the Horticulturally Challenged” by Veronica Peerless
- Be particular about the plant purchase. In the past, I picked up plant that were pretty and never considered the care required to maintain the plant. I’ve learned to be meticulous when shopping for plants to ensure that I take home a plant that is free from the disease, pests, or any other issues that may prevent successful growth. It is also important as a beginner to pick plants that match my skillset, such as starting with “easy to care for” plant over those that may need more tedious care.
- Water can heal or kill. Learning how to water plants was definitely a skillset that was in need of development. This was probably one of the main culprits that led to the demise of my previous plants. I would feel the top for dryness and drown the poor things with water. It important to understand the plant’s water needs to determine how much and often water should be given. There are also techniques to watering like aerating with additional material for better drainage.
- Light can heal or kill. Prime location in the home for the appropriate light requirements will ensure that plants remain healthy and receive maximum nutrients form growth. Before purchasing plants, consideration should be given to the location needed for the particular species, including measuring the light for the location. Of course, this process could be completed after the purchase but I like to know where I could place it before shopping.
- Droopy leaves, spots, and odd colors can be warning signals or a part of the natural growing process. My previous thoughts were “you did it again, killed another plant…oh well, let’s toss it out.” Now I have learned that there are techniques that can be incorporated to revive the plant. In December, I had an overwater issue with my ZZ plant and was able to save it by replenishing the soil and removing the stems with rotted roots and bulbs.
The most important lesson is to learn how to care for plants. I have completely turned my “brown thumb” into a developing “green thumb” in nine months. I am now the proud owner of four indoor plants and co-owner of three that were purchased by my teenage daughter who joined me on my journey. Although we had to overcome a few challenges with our plants, they are still healthy and alive. I am so happy to continue the peaceful journey of plant parenthood as a remembrance of my beloved “Big Mama”.