On top of my bookshelf, along my windows, and tucked beside my television are my plants. Right now I have four of them. A string of pearls plant, a Bird’s Nest Fern, an aloe, and a bucket of various succulents which I affectionately call “the succ-buck.” I love them dearly and have gone to Home Depot at very inconvenient hours to buy supplies for a “wet pebble tray” and built such a tray in hopes the Bird’s Nest Fern would be inspired to continue living. Youtube still recommends wet pebble tray tutorials to me, that is how many I watched. I love my plants. I would do anything for my plants. I cannot, despite the wet pebble trays, keep them alive.
People joke about plants being a substitute for animals, which we all know are just training wheels for having a kid one day. Buying plants is a commitment. It’s obviously not a “raising a child” type commitment but depending on the type of plant you’re buying, it’s a “I’ll stick to a somewhat weekly schedule” type of a commitment.
I'm drawn to plants because I wanted something to calmly care for. I find the routine of watering, fertilizing, and repotting them to be very peaceful. Saturday mornings I put the succ-buck in the sink and water it while misting the ferns and positioning them around a humidifier. I also am enamored with green thumbed visionaries I follow on Instagram who have transformed their tiny city apartments into dense jungles, an oasis from the cement landscape outside. Summer Rayne Oakes, a name crafted solely to cause me pain, has over 500 plants in her Williamsburg apartment, each of which has been photographed with her lightly touching her fingers to them. I assume it's her way of letting me, specifically know, not one but all of her fingers are green. I dreamed of having that green glow of monstera-filtered light warm up my living room. But, as I said, the plants are filtering light, they're dying from it.
When I couldn’t keep these damn plants alive for longer than three months, despite the tetris game of light and humidity I was constantly playing, I felt I’d failed. I'd been putting so much love into caring for them and trying to understand their needs. As dramatic as it sounds, I really feel an emotional investment in wanting them to flourish. I fed them, they fed me, et cetera. I'd keep the carcasses of dried up and wilted plants because throwing them out felt like defeat
A friend came over the other week and noted the display of dead plants. The Bird's Nest Fern, gone. The string of pearls on its last breath. I told her I tried and for whatever reason my apartment was not a suitable environment for these guys. My effort unfortuntely couldn't photosynthesize into whatever these little guys needed.
"Oh, so what are you going to try next?" she asked. I was taken by surprise. "You just have to keep trying till you find the plant that works."
Didn't she see I murdered anything I touched? If children had gotten hurt under my care, I wouldn't continue babysitting. But then it occurred to me what should be fairly obvious—that plants aren't children. Or, rather, they're children you can kill over and over again *pauses for nervous laughter*. While you want to recreate a botanical garden in your bathroom, it doesn't really matter if you can't. So there's one less succulent in the world? L'horreur!
I'm going to get it right, eventually. Hopefully. So, kill your plants. Not on purpose of course, but if they die, let them. Perhaps think about why and maybe, you know, don't leave it out for your cat to pee in. But if your cat does pee in them, buy another one and put it where your cat can't get to. Have fun killing lots and lots of plants until one finally won't let you do that.
You wanted a plant to care for something. Take advantage of the one thing to care for that you can continually fail at? Maybe also take advantage of that Instagram mute button and avoid the green goddesses who've grown jungles out of the concrete. Know that they aren't posting their plant carcasses online. Also know that the beauty of plant carcasses is that they turn back into the soil that grows the next plant.