Tuesday, January 5, 2010

All my pot plants die!!

The mint, three months after re-potting. My friend hasn't seen it yet!

A friend expressed her concern to me today that she can never get a plant to survive and that whenever she got a pot plant it soon died. Because indoor plants are more dependent on us for water and food they can be notoriously famous for coming home with us from the supermarket or where ever we grabbed them and then going out in the bin within a month. But plants are far more resilient than we give them credit for. I came home from university one year to find that my mum (without meaning to) had forgotten to water my plants in my room for the ten weeks I'd been away for semester and they were all on the point of no return. Two things were in their favour for survival - I'd left them healthy and my room was cool and not bright at the time. So I just started watering them and talking to them again and they were fine by the time I left. This time though I took them out and put them where Mum would see them regularly. That had been my mistake the first time. They were up on top of a shelf in my room where they went un-noticed.
So, if you have a plant that is near death make sure it is in a place that suits it, but which is also frequented by you. This means you get to enjoy it as it is where you are, and it also benefits as you get to see it and remember to water it. If it has any dead or diseased leaves, remove them. New Zealand Maori believe that brown and diseased leaves take from the plants resources without giving back. The plant spends too much energy trying to 'fix' the ill parts of the plant and can't give enough energy to the well part and thereby gets sicker. Never fear about pruning back severely if necessary. Maori also have a lovely way of explaining what should always be left behind for the plant to regenerate. They call it the parents and child. The 'child' is the newest shoot and the 'parents' are the two closest surrounding leaves which can feed the shoot as it grows. For branched plants ensure there are nodules that can leaf out and create new branches (I will try to get a photo to show this).
If you can't water it as often as you would like for whatever reason, then re-pot your plant and put silicon balls in the soil where the roots will go. Soak your plant for up to half an hour or so for the silicon balls to absorb the water and then if you can't water it for four or five days at a time, it will survive better. Remember to give it extra when you do for the silicon to absorb extra water too. This is also useful for thirsty temperate zone plants that we like to attempt to grow here. A friend asked me to look after her plants for her while she is away for four months and I almost killed off her mint plant in the first week!! In fact to look at it, you'd thinnk it was a goner; all the leaves were dead and had fallen off. I re-potted it with the silicon, gave it extra attention until little green shoots came out and now I can water it as often as the rest. I also have it out of full sun until late afternoon.
Just as a warning, don't just put extra water in the saucers as here in Malaysia it just breeds mosquitoes. A major woe of pot plants.
The main thing to remember is that even though the plant may look dead, it can regenerate. Don't give up on them. Use them to soak up your rice cleaning water or when you rinse or soak anything without soap and don't want to waste the water. Keep them somewhere in view and enjoy them.

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