It appears the cycle is beginning again. It was about eleven years ago when I first posted about the sudden neglect of a few houseplants, here – Black Thumb. The particular incidences of “planticide” that occurred with some of the older, most beloved plants seemed to be deliberate; a non-violent murder of certain potted greenery brought on by apathy, perhaps a sadness, an emotional disconnect. That was a long time ago though. I’ve been successfully keeping houseplants alive for years. Until now. Something is happening.
There has been a sudden uptake of dying indoor plants, although it has not been deliberate this time. Most of this is occurring with plants that were started from seed or acquired in a younger state, although one old favorite has, sadly, bitten the dust. It is as if suddenly l am doing something wrong regarding their care, even though nothing has changed in practice. Either that, or there is a weird, contagious, suicidal rush going on with the greenery, as if they are all planning on bailing en masse.
The most disappointing loss is one of the cacti, given to me by a former co-worker well over a decade ago. The funny history about it was that it displayed beautiful yellow flowers that never seemed to die, which garnered much attention around the office. Many weeks went by before I discovered that the reason the flowers were so pristine and remained in full bloom was because they were paper flowers glued onto the live cactus!
Although it never actually made a real flower, over the years the cactus continued to thrive and expand. It has been absolutely lovely and has required no attention at all beyond an occasional watering. It’s pretty hard to kill a cactus….. except suddenly, inexplicably, it started to flop over, droop, turn brown and die. It had been so beautiful and healthy! Did I over-water it? Not water it enough? I tried repotting it and that had no positive effect. If anything, it has hastened its demise. Is there something toxic going on that caused this? Or was it just the natural lifespan for this cactus?
The next few plants to get weird have been the Christmas cactuses (or cacti, your choice). Not just one of them, but all three of them at the same time. It began with finding multiple droppings of whole segments of cactus on the floor each day. Shocking little cactus arms just lying there. This can be caused by too much heat or light. But their environment has not differed. Next, the segments began to turn brown. Are they being overwatered? Or not watered enough? Overwatering can cause stem browning and rot. But their care has not varied. Why suddenly now? Oddly, while this has been occurring, amidst this strange blight, two of them decided to bloom. So there are these sickly looking cacti bearing flowers.
I was gifted a tiny jasmine plant. Despite following directions from the giver to keep it moist, it is not doing very well.
I have started a number of interesting seedlings over the last number of months. Some paw-paws. A lychee plant. A young curry plant. At first they were doing fine, but one by one they are falling to the same fate. The lychee was doing so great, it had been exciting seeing it grow. It needs plenty of water and sunlight, and it has been and still is getting those things. Yet now it is not looking well. The color of the leaves is lightening, the leaf tips are turning brown. It is not happy if it dries out. It is not happy if it gets water. I have no idea what to do.
I’m not even sure anymore if these are the paw-paws. There were two pots, one has totally died and these are on their way out.
And then there is the dying mystery plant that I started. I can’t even recall what it was…..
I have brought the fig tree indoors. It drops its leaves every year and remains a twiggy, unsightly thing until It begins to leaf out again in spring and can go back outside. We have gone through a few years of this together already, so it is a relief to know I am not killing that one. By the end of this week all the leaves will probably drop off and It will just be a big pot with gnarly, bare branches taking up space in the hallway all winter.
In regards to the “newbies” in the house, at present at least the curry plant continues to do fine. It needs regular watering and that watering doesn’t seem to be affecting it in a negative way. After showing you my pathetic display of dead and dying plants, this little one is still doing okay….for now….
So what is going on? Is there some plant poltergeist secretly dumping water in the pots at night? Some evil gas permeating the air? I think need a plant doctor. I am considering not watering anybody and letting everyone dry out and wither away. Perhaps repotting a few of them to see what is going on with the roots (although that did not help the cactus). Or actually, maybe I will end up throwing them all out, ALL of my plants – committing mass planticide. Maybe I don’t want any more houseplants. I feel that mood coming on…..