You Killed a Plant. Now What?
I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that they can’t keep plants alive. Like it’s some genetic trait (maybe it is, I don’t know). You probably know such a person. Hell, you might even be one of them. Plants just don’t like you and you’re forever marked as the Grim Reaper of plant life.
If this is you, it's time to relax and go a little easier on yourself!
It’s going to be okay and while I think you’re giving yourself waaaay too much credit here, I get why failing to keep plants alive can bum you out so I am going to cover three tips to help you get over the fear of killing plants...again.
First, I want to make it clear that this is NOT about how not to kill plants. I am not an expert in that arena and while it isn’t pleasant to come home to the shriveled up remains of a sad attempt to propagate plant life, it happens. Even the most devout and skilled plant care experts have experienced this. How do you think they became experts?
Now that we’ve covered that, what this IS about is how not to let killing a plant keep you from trying again. No matter how crappy it feels.
Number One: Start with just one.
I bet your journey began with the best of intentions. A budding plant parent, you found yourself standing in a shop trying to figure out how many of these beautiful plants will make their way into your home.
Monsteras. Fiddle leaf figs. Succulents. Creeping plants. Hanging plants. Plants that pray. Plants with stripes. Plants you didn’t know existed until 5 seconds ago but have to have!
Fast forward to the present and you walk by that same shop with a metaphorical scarlet letter and your confidence shot. You killed every single one of those plants so why bother trying again?
Maybe ask yourself, did I take on too much?
If you’re like me, then you probably did. But there are a gazillion varieties of plants with a gazillion different needs and it can be extremely overwhelming to learn about all of them all at once!
Pick one plant and become an expert on it. Become comfortable with how much light it needs and when it needs to be watered. Read up on its behaviors, how large it grows and the typical problems you might encounter with this plant.
Make this YOUR plant and soon, caring for it will become second nature. You won’t even need to think about it anymore.
Once you’ve reached this point, you’re ready to start the process all over again with plant #2. The more you do this, you’ll find that the learning process gets easier, especially with plants that share similar needs.
Number Two: Don’t take it personally.
Plants can be finicky, even the ones that are supposed to be notoriously easy to take care of. They don’t exactly use words to tell us what they dislike about their environment or care regimen. (That’s where tip #1 comes in handy.)
When you think about it, the only reason we have to give them so much care is because we are trying to grow them where they weren’t meant to grow. In fact, most popular houseplants are native to tropical climates that we have to put a lot of effort to recreate in our dry, air-conditioned homes.
Last year, I killed two plants before realizing that they didn’t like sitting underneath the ceiling vents in my office. I thought I had done plenty of research but somehow I had missed this.
I have to admit that I was pretty bummed out since one of these plants was my first little fiddle leaf fig. At the first sight of brown tips, I upped its water schedule and even tried some fertilizer. Despite the fleeting signs of new growth, I watched as each leaf proceeded to dry up and cut itself loose. The air vents hadn’t occurred to me until I was sitting at my desk annoyed at the draft of air on the back of my neck.
I dumped the dried remains, cleaned out the empty pots, and I got new plants. Guess where I didn’t put them.
When we are equipped with the knowledge of what went wrong, it’s best to just learn from it and move forward.
But what if we don’t know exactly what killed the plant and it seems like it just...died.
Like I said, plants can be finicky and it’s okay to not have everything down pat. Especially, when you are just starting out. This brings us to my third and final tip.
Number three: Ask questions!
There is an entire community out there full of plant lovers who have been exactly where you are. If you have questions, join a Facebook group, go to your local gardening center, or simply Google it!
Whether you want to know what the brown spot on a leaf is or what you can grow in a poorly-lit room, I guarantee the knowledge is out there. You just have to ask for it.
Alright, I know I’ve said a lot here but if you are someone who has felt a little defeated or intimidated because you have killed a plant or two, here are my main takeaways.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with how to care for a bunch of different plants. Start with one. If it lives, great! But understand that killing a plant can be part of the learning process. There are so many factors that affect your plant’s health so if there is something you aren’t sure about, ask.
I hope these tips serve as some form of encouragement. I have certainly killed my fair share of plants both indoors and out, and I get how it can be discouraging. But there are so many benefits to having plant life in your home. And my only message to you is to always try again.
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