September 15, 2014

Reforming My Plant-Killing Ways

A few months ago, I bought a basil plant for my apartment. I was so excited about having fresh basil all the time, since I love to put tons of basil on everything! However, the combo of Denver’s super dry climate and how often I traveled (and therefore, how infrequently I watered) meant that my poor plant did not fare so well.

Dying Basil
Believe it or not, this was actually the best it ever looked when I came home from a trip. Poor thirsty plant.

I tried to compensate for being gone for 4-10 day stretches by watering it a ton just before I left, so that it would hopefully have all the water it needed for the time that I was gone. (Or at least only be bone dry for a day or two rather than the entire time.) However, when the leaves started turning spotty a few weeks after I started doing this, some Google research taught me that what I had actually accomplished was overwatering my poor plant to the point of developing root rot – and that it would never recover.

I refused to believe that my basil plant was basically dead and gone, so I kept hoping it would get better. Unfortunately, this week I delivered its final death blow by putting it out on my patio “for extra sun” and then failing to bring it back in when we had our first snowfall on Thursday night. Bye bye, basil plant!

But I am not giving up. In fact, inspired by this Greatist article on 9 Air-Cleaning Plants that Are Impossible To Kill, I am actually going bigger. I picked up a nice healthy dracaena at Lowes this weekend, which is supposed to remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air. That’s a good thing when I’m in my apartment more than ever now that I’m frequently working from home! (More on that to come.) I have been listening to a ton of Ben Greenfield Fitness podcasts and he is all about trying to make your home as pollutant-free as possible. While I am not yet ready to put an earthing mat under my bed or install master shutoff switches to turn off all the electricity and wifi when I’m sleeping, I figure this is one small step to at least make the air in my apartment a bit cleaner. And it’s easy! That is, if I don’t kill the plant before it heals me.

To make this plant last longer than the basil did, I went the extra mile to repot it into a big self-watering planter that lifts the roots up off the bottom so it’s harder (not impossible, but harder) to overwater it. I also purchased organic potting soil that it is supposed to be spongy and absorbent to also help with the overwatering. And then I promptly left on a three day business trip, to see how this self-sustaining system would do.

(Oh, so when I have a kid, I can’t just teach a baby to sleep through the night by leaving it for three days with a bowl of milk until it learns to shut up and be self-sufficient and sleep on its own? Good thing I am only taking care of plants so far.)

Right now my dracaena (haven’t named it yet, will do once it proves it’s capable of surviving so I don’t get too attached till then, but rest assured that I plan to do so) looks like this:

It’s big! It’s beautiful! I hope it stays that way…

We’ll see how it looks on Thursday…


6 thoughts on “Reforming My Plant-Killing Ways”

  1. That snow was ridiculous! Luckily, most of my garden (aside from a few black, dead leaves) survived it, but after we had snow in May on Mother’s Day, I am not sure how I feel about gardening outside in Colorado. I just planted some cilantro and dill indoors so I will see how long they can last.

    1. Totally my mistake for putting it outside at all, since I had it as a house plant, but it was pretty much on its last legs anyway 🙂 If the dracaena does okay, I’m definitely getting another basil plant and trying again.

  2. If this plant is related to the Yucca Palm, which to me looks very similar, it should indeed be very hard to kill. My dad has one, and when it grew too tall, he cut it into thirds. He kept the lower third, planted the top third after it grew roots, and put the middle in the basement to eventually dispose of it. Almost a year later, the middle third in the basement was still sprouting new leaves, just from the moisture in the air!

  3. You should only have to water the plant once a week. Stick your finger into the dirt up to the middle of your finger and if it feels dry, then water it. If it still feels wet, then wait. More people kill plants by over watering then under watering. That plant will get very tall eventually (to your ceiling).

    Another good plant that you can’t kill is mother-in-laws tongue or snake plant. They also release oxygen at night so they are good for a bedroom. Plus, they will survive in any kind of light, including low light.

    1. Thank you so much for the tips! Snake plant was one of the ones on the Greatist list so I considered it, but wanted something bigger for the spot where I put it. However, I love your idea to put it in the bedroom! I may go back for one of those 🙂

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