April 16, 2022

This morning’s NY Times feed featured the new “It” plant.  The article said succulents were the best plants to own because they are easy to care for.  The author went on to say even though she was a “clueless city dweller” she had been able to keep her nine plants alive multiple growing seasons.  Successfully cultivating an indoor garden of impressive plants accords bragging rights.  “It’s like your kids got accepted to an Ivy League college — they’re doing well,” one plant blogger wrote.  The proud “It”-plant cultivator knows the plant collection is really a testament to the gardener, or as the article said, the “plant parent”.

When I looked online, I found numerous websites dedicated to plant bloggers, including a page for the “Top 45 Plant Blogs and Websites.”  When I checked the blogs, they offered information, but the real purpose seemed to be selling training videos, or the sale of actual plants.  The blogs called succulents the popular choice for two reasons: they are beautiful to look at and nearly indestructible.  Succulents are easy to raise if you followed the “right” combination of the Big 5: light, soil, water, temperature/humidity, and fertilizer.  The light needs to be at least six hours of sunlight a day.  The soil is a fast-draining mixture specifically designed for cacti and succulents.  Watering should be to soak and allow the soil to dry.  Ideal daytime temps are 70F to 85F (21C to 29.5C) and between 50F to 55F (10C to 12.7C) at night, with 80 percent humidity.  During the growing season you fertilize as you do your other houseplants and stop entirely when dormant.

While this all seems easy to follow, I knew it was not the whole story.  Melissa has spent hours researching the right soil for the different plants, and the soil composition can change depending on the age and activity of the plant.  Some are summer growers while others prefer winter.  There are different temperature preferences when the plant is growing than when it is dormant.  The same is true for light, water, and fertilizer.  While you may be able to put a small succulent or cactus on the shelf and hope for the best, a true “It” garden needs constant monitoring.  There is no such thing as easy if you want your plants to do more than just survive.

THOUGHTS:  When I worked for the State of Utah, I bought a small cactus and placed it on the corner of my desk.  I wanted the plant to be easy to care for but wanted to add some color to my office.  The small barrel cactus seemed appropriate for Utah and for my gardening skills.  I took care of the cactus for the first months, and then it began to slip my mind.  One day I observed the plant had not changed for several months.  On closer inspection, I found the plant had died.  I had accomplished the near impossible.  I killed a cactus from lack of water.  Most things are easy once you know what you are doing, but there can be a huge learning curve before they become easy.  We need to take time to learn to treat others with respect.  We need to practice until it becomes easy.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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