Sometimes Plants Die

One thing that has always kind of bothered me about plant blogs, particularly houseplant blogs,  is that people rarely mention their failures.  I feel like this sets people up to have absurdly high expectations.  If  all these bloggers can keep 400 houseplants alive why can’t I, right?  I know I’m guilty of it just as much as anyone else.  The truth is, I have killed a lot of plants.  I’m pretty sure ALL plant bloggers have killed a plant or two (dozen).

This WAS a lovely Brighamia insignis

I’m pretty sure plant people actually kill far more plants than “normal” people, but that is probably just due to the vast quantities of plants purchased on a whim without any knowledge of care (such as the poor Brighamia above).  If you buy a million new plants every year, more than a few are going to end up compost, it’s unavoidable.

I know it’s not the ideal outcome but it still makes me sad to hear people say “I don’t do houseplants, I can’t keep them alive”.  Just because you killed one or two plants one time doesn’t mean you can’t grow houseplants, it just means you probably didn’t get the right plant for you.  There are plenty of plants that are easy in one situation and impossible in others.  I’m sure my Brighamia would have been just fine if I didn’t stupidly put it in front of a drafty window (they’re native to Hawaii and detest anything to do with cold…what WAS I thinking putting it there?).  So PLEASE don’t give up on plants.  Once you find a few that will thrive for you they really can be a fun and rewarding hobby.  Yes, you will kill a few plants, you might already have killed a few plants, but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying.

Dracaena surculosa 'Juanita'

In other news, this plant has already been replaced by this lovely dracaena.  I’ve never actually grown D. surculosa before but I can’t imagine it’ll be too difficult. I normally wouldn’t be excited by D. surculosa but I liked how the spotting was concentrated mostly along the midrib instead of randomly all over the place so I figured I’d give it a shot.



14 thoughts on “Sometimes Plants Die

  1. Hm. Lately, if I’ve killed any plants, it was because I lost my patience and chucked them out. Even the ones that froze aren’t all dead. But, while I don’t actually kill them, yes, there are plenty I can’t keep looking good enough to bother keeping them.

  2. Ha. I do a lot of that too. I guess what you said is more of what I was trying to say…basically that we’re not perfect, that plant people just tend to be more willing to look at the dead plant as a reason to grow something new instead of just giving up on plants all together.

  3. I have to correct myself, my Cissus antarctica did die, and never even told me why. But I got cuttings from the last living branches, and they look OK so far. Not great, but alive and growing at least.

  4. I was just thinking about this subject! Last week I threw away a client’s split leaf philodendron that had been infected with mealy bugs for two years (nothing worked – I’ve never seen such angry pests!). I said thank you and I’m sorry to the plant, then tossed it in the dumpster. I was going to do a blog post about it, but it seemed so callous and terrible – I kept imagining how it would sound to someone who doesn’t work with plants. How would I explain that I felt bad, but not bad enough to keep the plant?

    And now I want to toss my own Miss Mimosa the Sensitive Plant in a dumpster, too. I’m going to rot in hell, aren’t I?

      • Oh man, when I worked at the greenhouse we used to relish the days when we pulled giant dumpsters up to the door and tossed thousands of flats of sub-standard annuals and tropicals. It’s just so therapeutic! People are usually horrified when I tell them that though (which I guess makes it all the more fun to talk about!).

    • You have so much more patience than I do. 2 years? I’d give it 2 months! I think that we should all have a dead plant day where we all post about our most absurd dead plant (or something of that nature) just like Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, just so we let it all be known that even good plant people kill a lot of plants. And I don’t think tossing Miss Mimosa into the dumpster would send you to hell…besides, how does one rot in hell anyways? It doesn’t seem particularly moist and rot-prone.

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  6. R.I.P Tis always sad to loose a good one. A nice post, you mentioned some good points. I too try to be honest with my failures in hope of saving someone else from the same fate. This winter has claimed more then a couple cool cacti… Ho Hum…

    • Fortunately this winter hasn’t claimed anything I truly treasure… I think? Wait that’s a lie I lost my Begonia partita and was too emotionally disraught to write about it. Actually now that I think about it I lost several really cool things. Great, now I’m depressed by them again.

  7. I’m a little late to the party, but I just found your blog and I’m glad to find some new plant reading material.

    Anyway, I was basically given a D. surculosa, and it has been a good plant. I neglect it mostly and it grows and grows. Yes, it isn’t the fastest growing plant out there but it’s reliable.

    This is a great post. I’ve been into plants seriously for only about 6 or 7 months and I have killed a few. Not a ton, but a few. It’s a sobering experience and teaches you that not every plant will tolerate what you’ve got.

    • Better late than never! D. surculosa IS a good plant, most plant people are just too “good” for it (which I don’t understand because it’s not really ugly and a well grown plant actually has a certain charm).

      As long as it doesn’t become a financial burden there is no harm in trying new plants (and losing some occasionally). It only becomes dangerous when you’re laid off for the winter and spend 4 months visiting greenhouse after greenhouse lusting after plants…not that I know from experience or anything…(in case you haven’t read more of my blog that is exactly what I did all winter).

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