Confessions of a Plant Killer

I’ll admit it. I have a few skeletons in my closet. Some are glossy green, others prickly, and a few even attempted to flower. I’m not proud of the agony I caused them. Especially after I dumped their remains in the yard alongside the others.

How many? I’ve stopped counting.

I’m not sure where I went wrong.

I gave them everything. Soil. Light. Fertilizer. I even played classical music for them.

Zero success.

I read a news story the other night. It claims plants scream when they are under stress.

Now I’m the one having nightmares.

A growing twinge of disappointment sprouts in my gut like a gnarly vine. Why can’t I keep indoor plants alive?

I do well with outdoor plants. Notwithstanding a late freeze or severe drought, my flower gardens are full of roses, tulips, daffodils, and butterfly bushes that thrive every spring and summer.

Maybe it’s the type of plant I’ve tried to nurture.

Over the years, my casualties included a bonsai tree, a cactus, an angel plant, and a fern. I can’t blame it on my childhood. It was idyllic—loving parents, a couple of pets, and vibrant, well-cared-for greenery climbing the walls.

My mom has a green thumb, so I thought like eye color, it would naturally pass to me.

I was wrong.

Maybe it skips a generation?

I’ve read about the benefits of indoor plant life: better air quality, higher productivity, reduced stress, and mood improvement. But I’ll never be able to enjoy those benefits with fake greenery.

I ponder my predicament.

Is it possible for someone with my history to reform their ways? Is it possible my life can be filled with glorious, oxygen-giving friends again? Or will I be stuck in this cycle of life and death?

This week I made some calls.

Keeping my voice to a whisper, I said, “I need a few names.”

Long pause.

“No, I won’t give mine.” (What if my reputation precedes me?) “I need easy-to-care-for indoor plants and something safe around pets.” Despite my inability to care for vegetation, I do a stellar job nurturing feathered and furry beasts.

After some back and forth, I got what I needed. Two names. Peperomia and Calathea. One sounds like a pizza topping and the other reminds me of a medieval princess.

Calathea wrung her hands as she paced the stone floor in the moonlight. Prince Alder, her betrothed, had given her two weeks to prepare. It wasn’t enough time. How could she be sure he was the one? Were they compatible? She liked mushrooms on her deep-dish pie, but he preferred peperomia.

I laugh. Writers. We can’t help it. Tracing the names I’d written with the tip of my finger; I did what any sane person would do—research.

Here’s what I found:

Peperomia can’t handle freezing temperatures and prefers warm and steamy climates. Some of their common names include baby rubber plant and radiator plant. Hardy names. That might be a good thing. I keep reading.

Peperomia is a forgiving plant. An excellent quality. I pause. How forgiving?

Continuing my research, I discovered Peperomia is low maintenance and can handle drought and shade. I’ve never denied a plant water so I don’t think drought is the issue.

I haven’t exactly pinpointed my issue, but Peperomia sounds promising.



On to the next variety of indoor foliage.

Calathea requires a healthy dose of humidity. If I don’t want a humidifier running all day, I can sit it on a water tray or make sure it’s in the kitchen or bathroom. A few of their common names include prayer plants, zebra plants, and cathedral plants.

A prayer plant might be a good option. I’ll need all the prayer I can get to keep it alive—and so will the plant.

While I read on, I notice Calathea has gorgeous patterns and stripes and prefers medium to indirect light. I’m leaning toward Calathea.

A question pops into my mind. Do plants need friends? Friendships help me flourish. Having friends around encourages me, keeps me from being isolated, and helps me grow. In the past, I’ve only had one indoor plant. Maybe they perished from loneliness?

Back to the research.

While grouping plants are aesthetically pleasing, it isn’t necessary to have companion plants. Unlike trees outdoors, in groups, they have a better chance against the elements. However, if indoor plants prefer moisture, they may help each other form a greenhouse effect when grouper.

That’s a lot to consider. To clear my mind, I go outdoors and enjoy a walk. A sense of hopefulness breathes over me along with the light breeze. Birds chirp, buds open on trees and tulips say hello with a colorful wave. 

One tree, in particular, catches my eye. Years ago, something happened, and it bent over, almost touching the ground. It was a redbud, one of my favorites, and I didn’t want to lose it. Instead of cutting it down, I let it go. I’m glad I did. Each year it blooms, framing the wooded area with a natural arch of purple-pink. It’s beautiful. 

It’s a picture of how nature tries again. After a forest fire trees replenish, and after drought vegetation pushes through and reaches for the sky.

What about me? Should I try again? Do I attempt once more to join the ranks of green thumbs or give up the idea?

While frustration looms, I’m not a quitter. This is a to-be-continued story.

I think it’s time to take a trip to the nursery.

And because plants bunched together sometimes offer support, I’ll bring a green thumb along and maybe they’ll let me in.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: