Growing green fingers
My blossoming relationship with plants
Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a reformed plant murderer.
Back in the day, if it was green, I treated it mean. No exceptions.
Except I didn’t mean to be mean.
I tried to keep the little green guys alive, but no matter what I did, nothing flourished.
Leaves would wilt. Flower buds would fall off before they even got a chance to bloom. And “impossible to kill” houseplants would somehow die before I’d even named them.
“Are you even watering them, Sarah?!” My naturally green-fingered mum would bemoan. “Wait, no – don’t bin that orchid!”
That orchid was gorgeous.
And by ‘was’, I mean proper past tense. It was gorgeous a few months ago. But when I tossed it into the bin, I thought for sure it was dead.
Shrugging, I retrieved the stick-like stem and rehomed it into Mum’s care.
Somehow, she was able to get it to flower again. And reflower. Again and again. And it’s massive now. A friendly orchid triffid with root legs everywhere.
Oh well, it’s just me, I thought to myself. Maybe plant care isn’t genetic. And maybe I was simply destined to be a lifelong plant murderer.
So I gave up on my dream of being a green-fingered goddess.
Then wedding photography happened.
And amidst the cute couples, swoon-worthy scenery, and drool-inducing delicacies, there were the flowers. Dreamy florals strung around arches, adorning fireplaces, and providing joy on tables.
I couldn’t get enough of them.
Before long, I remembered how much I love flowers and started binging on fresh flowers at home (especially peonies, particularly peonies), smiling a big smile every time I looked at them.
… Until the water needed changing and I’d left it way too long. #stanky
Then, one Christmas, I fell in love with a biiiiig, beautiful orchid in M&S.
“Sarah, there’s no point.” My guilty-plant-murdering-self whispered.
But I couldn’t resist.
I drove it home with a combination of happiness, hope – and trepidation about its future in my care.
But, shockingly, it survived! And not only has it survived… it’s been constantly producing new flower stems for several years. (I know – I’m just as surprised).
And after a good year with it, I gained a little confidence that I wasn’t going to automatically kill anything green that I touched. So I started buying more and more plants, and slowly built up some plant mama skills.
I have a plant in every room.
And it’s as though my plants are growing with me. (Yep, I’ve been doing lots of self-awareness and learning lately).
By the start of this year, I’d collected:
- A peace lily – that’s still to reflower, but has outgrown its pot – yay!
- The biiiig orchid – which had grown its very own baby orchid
- An aloe vera in the bathroom that’s grown so big that I have to be careful not to poke myself in the eye when I go in there
- A money plant that went from dropping its leaves as soon I got it home, (I planted it in an affirmation ‘I will survive’ pot as a precaution) to growing strong and sprouting lots of new leaves
- A Christmas wreath that lasted until April (and I only ditched it then because a little fly took a fancy to it and made it home for the rest of its billion brethren).
Then lockdown came.
And I couldn’t put it off any longer. It was finally time for the orchid baby to leave its mum, and for the overgrown aloe vera and peace lily to find new pot homes.
So I put on my brave pants, took a deep breath, and nervously transplanted them into more spacious homes.
I’m proud to report that mum plants and baby plants are all doing well. In fact, the biiiig orchid is now growing two more babies and five flower stems – yeah baby.
Now, since lockdown, it’s become a beloved weekly ritual to water, feed, dust and prune my leafy kids. I pop them all into the bath together from time to time for a lovely long soak. (I’ve restrained myself from singing to them though – that’d kill them for sure.)
I have to be very strict with myself not to buy more (it’s hard – send help), but I’m enjoying loving and caring for the little green ones I have.
… Even though they’re not so little anymore!
Seeing them all flourish, flower, and blossom makes me smile.
I’m no longer a plant murderer … I’m a plant mama.
2023 plant journey update
Want to know what’s happened since I started my plant parent journey?
Well, when I re-read the line, “A plant in every room”, I nearly fell off my chair laughing. I’m still giggling a little, because I now have 28 plants.
Yep, I counted them. By next week, I’ll probably have to add one or two more to the list. But as it stands right now, I have 28 little green babies alive and thriving. I’ll never cease to be joyfully amazed by this, tbh.
My weekly watering and misting ritual is now an epic 60-minute mission to complete. And leaf cleaning? That job is strictly limited to my quiet-season because there. Are. Soooo. Many. Leaves.
Here’s what’s happening with the original crew
- The peace lily outgrew her pot. Again. So I divided her and there are now four peace lilies – which have all flowered – more than once. The one by the TV has soaked up TV energy and is currently sporting two flower stems that make it look like Evil Edna from Willo the Wisp.
- The biiiig orchid has sprouted three more babies. They all survived separation – yay! It’s quite the extended family.
- The aloe. Ahem. It grew and grew and grew. Then it became so big and top-heavy that I had to report it. The repot was a fail. RIP.
- Jade the money plant. Well, if money grew on trees, I’d be a millionaire. I’ve repotted her and she just keeps on growing.
Now for some of the newbies
- I replaced the late aloe with Kate the fishbone cactus. Kate threw out lots of new shoots and roots. I took some cuttings and guess what? I now have five mini Kates growing strong.
- Wallace the mini monstera. This guy came to me with three spindly leaves around 10cm high. Now he’s a not-so mini 5ft. YEAH. He’s almost as tall as me! I have to keep cutting him back because I can’t find a moss pole big enough to support him.
- Rapunzel (aka the golden pothos) is slowly taking over my office. She used to trail down my bookcase, but she eventually outgrew that spot and cutting her long locks made me so sad. So, I trained her up walls, around frames, along ledges, and across the ceiling. They can grow up to 20 metres in the wild. Gulp. If you don’t hear from me for a while, look for me in the tangled Rapunzel forest.
- Anna the pineapple. This one is the most fun member of the family! They only ‘pineapple’ once but new plants can grow at the base. Guess what I have two of at the base of mine? PINEAPPLE PLANTS. I actually couldn’t be happier.
- Peggy the string of hearts. This little lady has leaves shaped like tiny little hearts. Can you think of a better match for a wedding photographer? She was a tangled mess when I brought her home. But after a good tidy, she’s now trailing beautifully. I’ve decided I’ll keep her tresses tamed, unlike unruly Rapunzel.
- Rhi the rabbit’s foot fern. Ngl, I was totally attracted by the coconut shell pot. Yep. I’m a plant retailer’s dream. But this baby wasn’t a happy bunny when she joined. Learning how to care for her is a project. And while she may be stable, she isn’t multiplying like rabbits.
And my major learnings?
- Consider how big a plant can grow before you buy it. Looking at you, Wallace.
- With plants … come bugs. These pesky little blighters fly around my face and flap for attention when I’m trying to concentrate. I’ve also possibly swallowed a few. So, naturally, I asked big G for a friendly solution – and was told “If you haven’t got bugs on your plants, you’re not part of the eco-system.” And there. Just like that, I’m proud of my bugs.