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bringing home the plant

For years, I used to think I killed plants. I thought there were green thumbs and then there were black thumbs, or something like that. The few attempts in my life to take care of just one tiny house plant always ended in dead plants. So since I saw myself this way, every time I bought a plant I expected it to die eventually–which probably wasn’t good for me or the plants.

For a season, I attempted to have fica plants in my house. I didn’t know what ficas were, except they were inexpensive and leafy and a big enough plant to make things look instantly green inside the house. I must have bought about 4 over a period of a few years. As soon as I brought them home, they would proceed to lose all their leaves and look like a pathetic dead Christmas tree. I would try watering a lot, changing windows, moving it around. I didn’t know what I was doing but usually after about 2/3 of leaves being gone I would give up and let it die.

I was told by a gardening friend to start with something like an orchid. “They’re hard to kill,” he said. My first one-bloom orchid is now living with a friend and has grown to a beautiful multi-flowering lady. But I killed the next 3 orchids I bought, or so I thought. Finally, what I’ve discovered this year is that most plants tend to do this–they tend to shift in character from the gorgeous thing sitting on the table in the nursery to something a little more finicky. They’ve grown up in this warm cozy environment, getting pampered by perfect temperatures, humidity, grown from seeds in the most sterile, greenhouse-controlled environment, fed regular meals of (sometimes chemical) green-inducing vitamins. And then you bring them home into your regular ‘ole place with normal everyday humidity and just watering. And of course, they react.

It doesn’t mean they’re dying! This came as such a great revelation to me this week, when I watched my careful efforts nurse a seemingly ailing bougainvillea back to life. I brought this lovely plant home from a nursery two months ago and slowly it lost all its blooms and the leaves turned yellow. I had read that bougainvillas like to be slightly dry and lots of sun so I had given them that, but still they kept losing, and losing. So finally I went out and bought some organic fertilizer for flowering bushes, watered a little of that in, gave it a good bath, trimmed the branches back a bit… and two weeks later–voila–something started to come back to life. This is what ‘acclimation’ means.

(the bouga picture at top is not mine, but it won’t be long till I get her looking like this…!)