I’ve watched the YouTube videos, read every article that Google could give me, and bought a couple of books from Amazon. I narrowed down all my choices to which looked the prettiest and had the most potential to thrive in my home office. I was ready to buy my first houseplant. Armed with a photo and the common and latin names of my firstborn, I headed for the most popular and recommended nursery by all the local plantfluencers. It was a 2-hour drive, but no matter, anything for the one who will spawn my new obsession.
Yes, my precious, you shall be my trophy child.
Though I already knew what I wanted as my first plant, I still perused the indoor plants aisle to see which could potentially be my second and third. They were oh so beautiful, with leaves wide open facing the skylight. The holes that gave the Monstera its swiss cheese characteristic, the contrasting veins that covered the Alocasia, and the mesmerizing green variegations of the Calathea. I wanted them all! Up and down the aisles, I finally saw my Cinderella from a distance, Tradescantia Nanouk.
You pretty little purple and green thing! I chose you! I stalked you on the internet, I’ve read everything I could to learn how to care for you, I bought you a sapphire blue ceramic pot to complement your pink and purple tones, I even bought you a hygrometer to monitor your tropical comfort. I will take care of you and I will make you grow.
I dashed for the cash register with my newly chosen, excited to take it home. My husband, who tagged along out of boredom, decided to buy his own plant.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“A plant,” my husband said.
“What’s it called?”
“Not sure. But it looks nice.”
It looks nice? You merely do not choose a plant because it looks nice, you must choose it for the environment that it will be living in and the amount of care you are willing to give it! It looks nice…ha! Rookie.
My husband drove on the way home, I wanted to make sure that Nanoukie was handled with care on my lap for the long journey. Extreme care continued when we arrived, I put Nanoukie in her carefully selected pot and positioned her on the floating pine shelf just beside the window, out of the path of direct sunlight. The hygrometer accompanied her.
The next few weeks consisted of a strict routine of care and interaction with Nanoukie: provided a quick pep talk, you must be strong and grow; checked if the soil was dry, if it was, then water; checked hygrometer, if humidity was low, sprayed water on her leaves; checked for dead leaves, if any, removed them. Repeat. My husband’s method on the other hand was; you look like you’re dying, I think you need water.
After three weeks, Nanoukie sprouted little rolled green leaves, they were jutting from the soil and from her stalks. The purples were more vibrant, the white outlines were more pronounced, the greens were deeper, and she had a white fuzzy exterior that made her feel like velvet. She had also gotten longer and taller—I may be able to propagate you soon! Propogate, I sounded so official! I could only feel pride for Nanoukie, or maybe it was pride for myself. Note to self: I should start an Instagram account to document this journey.
Week five, Nanoukie’s bright leaves have gotten dull and started to go a little brown. Her tendrils limped farther down than the pot, and little white spiders were crawling all over her. I was a little worried. I went through a mental checklist of care; you got enough sunlight, you got enough humidity and you got enough water…so why do you look like this? Did I not give you enough love and attention? I made sure to always spray you and water you so you never went dry or thirsty. Oh wait. Did I give you too much water and moisture? Shit! Did I just drown you?
Remediation tactic: I will ignore you until your soil is completely dry and then I will water you.
I tried to ignore Nanoukie, but the thought of failure bothered me. I checked her soil daily and was disappointed to see that it was still moist—my pep talks turned to begging. After two weeks, Nanoukie started limping and browning more, dying in moist soil. My husband suggested to throw it out and get another plant, start over. Another plant? That’s like giving up on your sick child and just replacing them like they never existed—so cruel! I will bring Nanoukie back from the brink of death…I will be the plant whisperer.
Week eight, Nanoukie is far from saving, she has died. I held a burial on the kitchen counter, the organics bin wide open waiting to eat her up. I wanted to say a few last words, but felt like I wasn’t worthy of it, I failed her. At least, she lived a short life being loved, maybe too much of it, but a least she lived a life. My two corgis stared up at me with their heads tilted to the left as if saying, “What the furk, mahm? It’s just a plant!”
“Oh, don’t judge me! At least I tried!” I told them.
One of them gave me a low bark then walked to the back door and sat down, she wanted to go outside. I guess I better hurry up, my dog needs to take a shit. I took a deep breath, dumped Nanoukie into her final resting place, then shoved the bin back under the kitchen sink.
Three weeks passed and the disappointment of having accidentally killed my first plant had healed. I was ready to try again. I guess it’s kind of like dating, you have to get through the quantity to find the quality—you just have to keep buying plants until you find one that will live. This time around, I was going to buy two plants. If I smothered Nanoukie with too much love, maybe I needed to spread out that love a little more.
With the whole family in tow, husband and two corgis, we headed for the nursery. The corgis and the husband didn’t care much for the plants, they refused to take part in the selection process, so I decided to perform the search on my own. I blindly chose the two plants—no lists, no reading the info cards on the shelves, just took an olive and red darling and a lime green goblin that were on sale and headed for the cash register.
They remained nameless—I simply referred to them as Plant One and Plant Two. Being a tad bit superstitious, I refused to put either of them in the same pot that Nanoukie died in, so I bought them two new pots, mundane clay coloured pots. I plopped them into their new beds, set them on the shelf, sans hygrometer, and let them be. The next week, the soil felt very dry, it crumbled easily between my fingers. I gave them a bit of water, then again let them be until the following week.
I hate to admit it, but props to the hubby. Six months later, Plant One and Plant Two are cohabitating on the shelf peacefully and have been thriving. They have both grown new stalks, fleshed out an abundance of leaves, and are much taller than their pots will allow. They’re probably more like teenagers than babies now. I thought about getting more plants, but my love has thinned further in the last few months, I have another corgi to look after.