For Your Consideration: Buying Another Houseplant That You Know Will Die

for your consideration

Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.


No, this is a good idea. Buy another houseplant. You’re already out, running errands. There are plants and here you are, near them. This pothos would look so cozy in the matte white clay planter, the one with the cable knit design. It’s 15% off today. You’ve been meaning to try macrame again, and the string of pearls thriving next to the spider plant over there is the perfect size for a beginner-level macrame plant holder. Imagine yourself propagating the string of pearls for a friend. You can give it to her in the boob planter you bought on Etsy. Buy another houseplant. Buy three.

Hope
This is hope that you feel, a hope that you’ve changed, somehow. That you’ve learned from past mistakes and have gained knowledge, like a Sims character reading book after book after book, her diamond filling with the facts and know-how that will take her to Level 2: Gardener. You are a being capable of learning, and of hoping. This isn’t belief so much as it is faith, and hope of course. Get another bag of soil.

Joy, If Fleeting
Put the plant into its container when you arrive home. You chose the container especially for this plant. It is a perfect fit. The ratio of tall to squat created by the plant inside the container is literally perfect. They — the plant and the container, together — coordinate beautifully with your home. A marriage of trendy and timeless. The sunlight hitting the leaves, the glimpse you catch of the two of them, plant and container, while you’re walking toward the kitchen, the way you imagine you must look with your watering can in the afternoon. This is joy.

Responsibility
Something tangible ties you to this mortal plane, and it is this houseplant. It needs you, needs water and pruning, needs vigilance. You will water and prune this plant. You’ll be vigilant about preventing pests from infesting and pets from chewing and small children from pulling or pushing and large boxes from toppling. You will open these drapes, here, so the sunlight can find its way to your object of responsibility.

Passage of Time
What day of what week is it now? You know. You know because it has been this many days since you last watered your houseplant, and this many days lie ahead of you until you will water it again. It has been this many weeks (entire weeks!) since you brought your houseplant home, which is this many weeks more or less than the last plant lived after its arrival. You are a shepherd of time in this space. You keep it and see it.

Cleaner Air
Breathe deep. The air is cleaner than it was before, thanks to your newest houseplant. Your air is cleaner. If you stepped outside your door and walked a distance and opened someone else’s door, would their air be this clean? Well that depends, doesn’t it, on how many houseplants they have. It’s likely your air is cleaner than theirs, though. Look at your houseplants.

Economy
It’s the economy, stupid. You know that. You know that when you receive money and then spend that money, you are bolstering the economy. You’re doing your part to keep businesses running, workers working. Each houseplant in your home, each houseplant hoping to be revived by the sunlight, each houseplant hoping to be saved by the shadows, each houseplant draining its water into a sink, each houseplant whose soil goes untended, represents a time when you have contributed to the economy. Be proud of your contributions.

Letting Go
Think about the day of the week, the week of the month, of the year. How long did this one last? This houseplant’s life was shorter than that houseplant’s, and longer than this one’s. It was just last week when you pruned it, you’ll note later, and maybe it was the pruning that sealed its fate. Was it too much access to sunlight? Could the culprit be in the type of soil you used. Does soil go bad. Did you go bad? No. No, you did not. You keep the lesson, vague as it may be at this moment, and you let go of the guilt. You let go of this houseplant.

Acceptance of Limits Even As You Push Them
What are you capable of in this life? What are your limitations, both imagined and enforced? What can you do? You know what you can do. You can contribute to an economy. You can mark the passage of time. You can breathe. You can imagine your life as a scene in a Nora Ephron film. You can find hope where others wouldn’t. You cannot, however, keep a houseplant alive. And you know. You know this.

Begin again.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 880 articles for us.

35 Comments

  1. All of the struggling (read: dead) houseplants and outdoor hanging baskets really gave us a head start on the Halloween decorating though, so we are ahead of the neighborhood curve. The takeaway here is that a noble effort, even if it ends in failure, may lead to unexpected success in other arenas

  2. I have the opposite problem. My plants thrive, I keep getting more despite not really having enough space for them and definitely not needing them. If my goal is to transform my home in a jungle, with about 25 plants – small and big – in my livingroom I’m on the right path.

    • “Sure, get another plantlet. You don’t have that one yet – and look how cute it is! Nurture it, plant it, see how it grows.
      It’s been six months now, and the plantlet is an adult plant. It’s been a year, and it’s been making baby plantlets, which you give away to as many friends as you can, but after a while everyone already has your pilea, spiderplant, coleus and begonia.
      You now have a dozen plants in the kitchen, about forty in your bedroom, more in the bathroom, and your housemates have drawn the limit at the fourth avocado tree. The banana plant has grown bigger than the door.
      Still, though. You’re at this plant exchange, you’ve brought your babies to trade in, and look – you don’t have this one yet. Come on. Adopt it. it’s so small.”

      • You finish your PhD and you have to move out of the city. You’re moving out of the country. You’re too broke to pay for removal company but your parents drive down with a big SUV and you have your small car and between the two you manage to fit all of your belongings in them until the cars are full of the stuff you’ve accumulated.

        Well.. Almost all of it. There is no space for your plants, grown-up plantlets from friends’ houses. You remember each plant as it ties you to a friend. You let go of them, as you let go of the friends’ you won’t be seeing again.

        Yo go to a new country and have to find out who you are in this strange town.

        You buy a plant.

  3. I have a very limited type of houseplant that I can keep alive but those that don’t die do really well.

    I have a Christmas cactus that’s 25 years old and ginormous. It’s truly beautiful.

    The downside is that people see my verdant sunroom, think I am a gifted plant person and then give me more complicated or delicate plants that die.

    • Oh yes, I suck at orchids. I know what I’m supposed to do but it just doesn’t seem to work… But I do have a hoya (waxflower) that used to be my grandma’s, it’s enormous and might be 20 years old – I usually get it to flower quite a lot.

    • Ferns can be tough, you can try succulents, they are usually pretty easy to deal with. Don’t leave the soil soking wet, water them if the leaves are soft, prune once ore twice a year, give them plant food every 3 months.

      Have fun!

  4. Me as a teenager: Gets ivy as a houseplant as it’s supposed to be undemanding while still blossoming (as I write this: Should ask my mom if there was an underlying message). Anyway, nothing blossomed at all as there was no water to get from me until one day when I came home from school and the dying ivy from the morning had transformed into a lush ivy that spread all over the windowsill. Me, in awe: “Mom, look, a miracle in my room. The ivy came back to life.” She: “Honey, I bought you a new one.” (Should ask about this lesson, too.)

  5. why is it that succulents are supposed to be easy to take care of but they always die for me? i, now, have a philodendron that’s thriving, but every succulent i’ve ever owned – dead.

    • Succulents do everything slowly, even dying.

      They truly need very little water, and for that water to go through the soil very rapidly, not pooling up around the roots. Ideally, succulents should be watered from the bottom, so that they only reach for whatever they need.
      They also need a lot of light, and will etiolate and die if placed as decoration in a dark area.

      But the hardest part? No two will have the exact same needs – and all of them will express them soooo terribly slowly.

      I once read that plant retailers estimate that a plant should last the buyer about two to three months. That’s “hard” for a neglected philodendron, “easy” with succulents, but mostly ridiculous because healthy plants live for years.

  6. No lie, I got interested in IRL gardening because I was obsessed with gardening in the Sims. I didn’t plant any veggies this year, but I have a few houseplants still thriving– a spider plant, an aloe plant, and a cyclamen that loves light and keeps shooting up leaves. ?

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