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007 License to Kill

The first plant I killed on this journey was a Bromeliad.

I didn’t do a lick of research before I brought one home from Lowe’s. (Note: I lay no blame on Lowe's, nor do I disagree with buying plants from big box stores.)

Lesson #1- perform minimal research, even if it’s a quick Google search while you’re standing in the nursery with the plant in hand..If you can’t identify the plant before you acquire it, I am not saying not to acquire just makes it easier for me to know what I’m getting myself into.)

I had no idea that the Bromeliad I bought was sold while in bloom, and after it blooms, the mother plant dies. Most of the time, she throws off a few babies first, and you are supposed to harvest those for new plants. So, I watched, befuddled as she slowly and painfully (for me, anyway) died, despite my best efforts and my after-the-fact research. When I discovered her babies, I kept the mother plant misted, but the babies never grew. After two months, I cut all the fronds off the mother plant, not sure why. I was hoping that would kickstart the growth of the babies. After another month of looking at my failure, I put her in the compost bin and vowed never to buy another Bromeliad.

I’m not saying prior research would’ve saved her or the babies, but it would have saved ME from the guilt and stress of first thinking I killed something that’s meant to die anyway, but the daily reminder for 90 days that I was failing at keeping her offspring alive.

My next victim was an African Violet. I got way too cocky way to quickly and bought an AF from the clearance rack- she had recently bloomed, and was only the plant, so I thought, ooooh, I will get to witness the whole process and *surely* I can get her to rebloom.

So, I bring her home, repot her in a 6 inch terra cotta pot. (That’s mistake #1 AND #2 right off the rip)

I water her- getting water on her leaves. (Mistake #3)

I let her get super dry between waterings, and then one day, I woke up to this: (PICTURE)

After consulting my Houseplant Hobbyist Group on Facebook, (ask to join, I learn something new every day.) I learned African Violets do NOT like to get their leaves or flowers wet, they like to be kept rootbound in a 4 inch PLASTIC pot--terra cotta soaks up the moisture rapidly, and they like water more frequently than I thought. Oh! And if the water is too cold (picture your toddler’s whiny voice) the AF will FREAK OUT and leaves will curl up in protest.

My plant cronies assured me she wasn’t yet dead, and I could bring her back..but I wasn’t up for it. I had 2 other AFs that hadn’t suffered as much, and I was still getting enjoyment from them. I gave Dying Doris a few extra courtesy days in the house, until I got real with myself and put her in the compost bin with the Bromeliad. She was too far gone, and I looked at it as a mercy kill.

I share these deaths (and they aren’t the only ones) not in a cavalier manner, though it may seem that way. I share them in this fashion because I want you to know, and to be comfortable with the fact that it will happen to you, too. You’ll kill something, it’s inevitable. You can do your best to research in advance and think you’re doing all the right things, and somewhere, some jerk plant will throw you a curveball and just drop dead despite your best efforts.

The death of a plant may not phase you, or you may feel like a total failure, or somewhere in between. I took the first few pretty hard, and I’m certain there will be some that will affect me in different ways than others.

I’m coming to grips with the fact that succulents may not be my thing.

At the end of last summer, I bought 10 for $10 at Kroger..I did a little reading about the type of soil they prefer, but that was it. I (got cocky AGAIN---see a theme here, my success in most endeavors is rooted in humility and willingness to learn) believed that there was nothing to keeping succulents- barely water them and throw them by a window.

So I split my 10 succulents up into three pots, and had them overflowing the edge of the pot on the top, because that’s what I’d read. Truth be told- I can’t tell you if they’re doing well or not. I think a few of them look healthy, but the others, eh? Not exactly. But they’re not dead, yet. I just can’t figure out how to get them flourishing.

I try not to get caught up in the “I can’t keep xyz plant alive, and those are the easy ones!” Each plant is different, and yes, there are guidelines to follow that can lead to general success. However, we’re also dealing with nature, which is unpredictable. So, if you suck at succulents, that’s ok. If you kill every peace lily you bring into your home, or your pothos cross the threshold of your door and immediately shrivel and die, don’t panic. And don’t beat yourself up.

I’ve found this hobby so much more rewarding if I focus on the plants which flourish under my care, rather than chasing ones I simply don’t have a knack for keeping alive. I’ve likened it to me not looking good in pink, or bangs- it just ain’t for me.

Find plants you are good at keeping. I promise you, they’re out there.

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