HELP: All My House Plants Are Dying And I'm Taking It Personally

Between the mold, and the wilting, and the cats' insistence that they are all dinner -- the poor guys never stood a chance.

My plants are all in various stages of near-death.

Am I actually going to strut onto the Internet right now and bitch about how all my houseplants are dying?

Yes. Yes that is exactly what I am going to do. It was either that or talk about how I’ve been working exclusively from my standing desk because I’ve got a butt-problem*.


I’ve never owned plants before, because until recently I hated the out-of-doors and anything that existed therein. (The notable exception here is "all animals" with the exception of hyenas, because I don’t like their attitudes.) My parents live in the country and every time I visit there a bug incident sends me in a panic to sleep on a sofa. Yes, spiders are very beautiful helpful creatures, but creeping up my neck at 3 a.m. they do not belong.

My previous existence as a non-plant owner doesn’t sprout from an irrational concern that I am too irresponsible to keep anything alive. Exhibit all of my cats and the fact that I am allowed to babysit. It’s strictly because I associate plant life with being outside. And, as I’ve mentioned, there are bugs out there, guys.

Over the past few years however, I’ve been craving my vitamin D time more and more. Additionally, adventure. I’ve made trips to the mountains and to the desert, and if you were a fly on my wall (you would be dead, because my cats have no time for your shenanigans and blood lust the likes of which your kind have yet to experience in all its bloody splendor) you might have heard me trying to cajole my baby sister into going on a camping trip for our joint birthday trip. She was aghast, “NO BEDS? NO TOILETS?” I sighed, “But we can make pancakes on hot coffee cans, boo!” In my humble estimation, pancakes trump everything. Except for silver dollar pancakes which need to check themselves.**

So I guess I like being outside now. It’s only logical that between this new hobby and my passion for clothing made entirely of linen*** that I’d find myself wearing a floppy hat and gardening. Thankfully because I live in the thick of urban sprawl, it’s not like I spend hours puttering around and then lounging, drinking lemonade, and talking about how dry my hands are. This only happens when I visit my parents.

As it stands, in my home currently, I’ve got three plants. A nerve plant (secretly my favorite), an asparagus fern (which is neither edible asparagus nor truly a fern) and an air plant. Of the three, the fern is the one I want to bitch-slap on a near-daily basis. Initially, it was my most beloved because of its soft, pretty green color, its texture and its mysterious air. Then I found out my cats would die if they ate it and spent most of my day moving the plant from location to another in a fruitless bid to keep the feline population in my apartment from taking their own lives.

They looked at me, blinking vacantly as I howled from atop a ladder, straining to reach the top shelf of my bookcase with the plant in question. “Do you really have it so bad? I give you food! I pet your faces! You don’t know how good you’ve got it!” If they understood they gave no indication. Instead, they mewled to indicate their hunger. Or their obsessive need to see if there is life beyond the one we know. They are cats, so who is to say, really?

I was, however too late. Not for my cats! No, lord, my cats are fine! Sorry. That was scary for all of us, I bet. Anyway. I was too late...for the fern. I’ve followed the instructions and Googled, and fed it, and watered it, and worried I was over-watering it, or under-watering it. Still, the thing grew yellow in places and lost its fluffy needles. It’s not totally dead yet, but it’s not looking good. I sing to it, figuring that has gotta be better than just leaving it to die. “Don’t need nooothin’, but a gooooood time!” I trill. Another branch turns yellow and falls away.

My air plant is like a beautiful alien out of The Fifth Element.

If it were ever shot in the stomach, I would plunder its bowels for mystical stones, for sure. I marvel at it, dazed with wonder. It is spiky and green and, much like its owner, needs weekly baths. It showers when I do. Though sadly, we do not do this together. Or at any rate, we didn’t until its pronged spikes began gently curling. Much research has me convinced that this is because the air where I am is too dry. So the air plant has moved into the shower with me. I want to buy it a tiny shower cap. But instead, I settle for chattering at it in a low key way while I deep condition and listen to my favorite podcasts.

My nerve plant is one part my favorite child and three parts John Travolta as The Boy In The Plastic Bubble. Once the pride of my collection, this sucker was growing at a rapid rate. Feed me, Becca, it seemed to say.

Its stalks were hearty, its pink veins were charming and it kept making tiny new leaves that grew into big leaves and I was all “SO THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE GOD.”

Then it began to wilt! Comically so!

Figuring that old bastard dry air was to blame I put together a makeshift terrarium using a friend’s mod-style glass cloche dome. I kind of wish I had filmed it because the little sucker was all “AHHHHHHH!” and in a matter of mere moments, it had revived to its former glory. That made me feel like a doctor who succeeds even when they don’t really know what they are doing. So early-era George from Grey’s Anatomy, I guess. Now unfortunately I can’t take the dome off the fucker or it goes to wilt-town USA, Population: It immediately. This would be fine if the plant weren’t growing so rapidly. It will very soon outgrow its dome, nay, all domes, and I am once more at a loss.

My plants are not dead, but they are not thriving. Since I work from home, when the dishes have been washed and all of the food eaten and the cats sufficiently anthropomorphized, I am left with one of two alternatives: do some work, or fret about my plants. Guess which one I pick? I make no apologies. It’s fun to have something living and green and changeable in my house. Something living, I should add, that doesn’t wake me up at 6 every morning desperate for its a.m. allotment of meat paste. If growing up and older means more old person hobbies on this sort, then somebody call SkyMall ‘cause this lady is going to need a portable gardening stool, stat!

You know, because of the butt problem.

Do you keep houseplants? Are you learned where plants are concerned? Share your insights with me and HELP ME SAVE MY PLANTS. I will take pics and update you all regularly. Or if it is your preference that I never do so, that is also an option. I will name them after the plant doctor whose advice brings the most success. Get at me, commenters!

* I’ve ordered creams, metamucil, and cushion, so everybody calm down

**Silver dollar pancakes, you best rectify.

***LIES. Chico’s, you and your questionable pants get thee from my sight!