Column - True confessions of a plant abuserSo much for the theory that if a little is good, more is better. In 2002 I received a beautiful green plant from a friend, congratulating me on an honor I had received. It was a hardy plant that could flourish in an office environment without direct sunlight. Best of all, it was easy to care for.
By: Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press
So much for the theory that if a little is good, more is better.
In 2002 I received a beautiful green plant from a friend, congratulating me on an honor I had received. It was a hardy plant that could flourish in an office environment without direct sunlight. Best of all, it was easy to care for. It basically told you what it needed – if you over watered it, the leaves yellowed. If you forgot to water it, it wilted. A little water and the next day it was again doing well. Perfect – beautiful, yet low maintenance.
That plant thrived in my windowless office. It seemed to love the fluorescent lighting, and soon its vines trailed around my work space.
I’ve heard that coffee grounds are good for plants, so I started dumping whatever was left in the bottom of my coffee cup into the plant. It wasn’t actually grounds, but close enough I figured. The plant grew like crazy, with vines trailing everywhere.
2007 was the year that I, and my plant, began drinking lattes on a regular basis. Eventually I noticed that my plant didn’t perk up as quickly after waterings, and that yellow leaves were more frequent and longer lasting.
After five years together, we’d bonded. I’d never had a plant stick with me for that long and it bothered me to see it ailing. Finally I decided what it needed was new soil, so I made a mental note to repot it.
Unfortunately, I never got around to it and my poor plant got sicker. In fact, it was on its deathbed. I knew I had to act quickly in order to save its life. When lifting it down from its shelf, I was astonished by how heavy it was. I expected it to be light due to its poor, overburdened soil, but this plant was heavy. There was also something else wrong – it stunk.
I stuck my finger into its soil and was more than a little surprised when my finger sank down into a dank, mucky substance.
This was serious. There was no doubt in my mind that if I was going to save my plant, I needed the help of a professional. The staff at a local florist was quick to drop everything when I came through the doors with my ailing plant. They didn’t seem too concerned, assuring me that a repotting was probably all it needed to get on the road to recovery. But then one stuck a finger in the soil. With a shocked look, she dumped the plant out of its container. Her shock changed to horror when she saw the muck – and when the smell reached her.
She took the plant to a back worktable to better assess its condition. After muttering several things I couldn’t make out, and asking me questions I was too embarrassed to answer, such as, “What have you been dumping in here?” she informed me that she didn’t know if she could save it, but she could get me a new one.
With a lump in my throat, I explained this plant had sentimental value, and I wanted her to try to save it. She told me to leave it for a couple weeks and she’d see what she could do. I can only imagine what they said about me – the plant abuser – after I left. I fed my poor, innocent, beautiful, healthy plant lattes. If she did survive, I didn’t deserve to get her back. In fact, I doubted the “plant doctors” would even allow me to take her back.
I returned two weeks later, hoping to see her restored to her former glory. I asked about her at the front counter and was directed to a warm, sunny spot in the solarium where she sat, looking pitiful among the leafy, healthy plants. The “doctors” informed me she wasn’t ready to leave yet, so again I left without her. I made two more visits to her hospital room before I was finally allowed to take her back “home.” And that was with no guarantees she would survive.
Back at work, I returned her to her shelf. The plant that once had several feet of trailing vines was now only a few spindly, sickly, short vines. I vowed to nurse her back to health.
Now, nearly a year later, I’m pleased to report she has made an astounding recovery. While she still isn’t what she once was, she’s on the way. She has new growth and her leaves are a healthy green.
For the most part, we’ve both given up lattes, opting instead for the health benefits of water. I still give in to coffee once in awhile, but haven’t shared any with her since her near-death experience. But thinking back, she did thrive on regular coffee. So maybe just a little here and there…