Each morning, my abundant houseplants glower at me as they begin another day with many of their basic needs unmet. When I return from work, they weep for attention. And when I shuffle to the kitchen for a midnight glass of water, I hear their jealous whispers above the rush of the faucet. It is a fact — not a fit of paranoia — that my plants regret the day I chose them from the jungled masses in the grocery store, the gardening center, the house of a friend who was moving. Even if I couldn’t sense their barely contained emotions, I could figure it out because every time I water them they sprout fresh leaves to take advantage of the temporary moisture, and their existing foliage takes on a jubilant shine. “Hurrah!” they seem to shout, “The girl finally paid attention to us!” I won’t even talk about the chaos that ensued the time they heard I’d bought a little box of fertilizer. Imagine, if you will, a conga line consisting of a rubber tree, two schefflara, a ficus, and three African violets. I’m still finding torn leaves and spilled soil from that little party.
Don’t get me wrong — plants rarely die on me. I have a near-action-hero knack for rescuing them at the last second with a dripping jug of water, a repotting spree, and a little music. The fact that my thumb isn’t black is unfortunate, however, because the successes that come from sporadic focus on my indoor greenery encourage me to buy new plants or start occasional ones from seed, even when time and energy are an issue, as they are now with my self-imposed book deadline.
All this brings me to my shameful confession: I threw out a dead plant a few days ago, and I may need to seek therapy for my belated attachment issues. You see, it seems I care most about a plant when it’s dying — or, worse, after the fact. When watering a hither-to-ignored drooping plant doesn’t cause perkage, and it continues to wither into dust, I feel a remorse so great I have trouble eating, but when a plant dies my heart aches. I know I could never manage a murder, because I can’t even kill a spider plant without a near breakdown.
Despite the painfulness of the subject, I’m focusing on the tragedy in order to dissuade myself from creating or purchasing any new plants to replace the old — after all, nothing perks a place up like a little foliage, even if said foliage doesn’t have the energy to flower. Maybe I should just get another cat instead; I’ve managed to keep three of the furballs alive so far, which is more than I can say for my dearly departed pots of ivy.