Did I Buy The Right Plants? A Plant Killer Starts Over

Did I Buy The Right Plants? A Plant Killer Starts Over

Cambria Bold
May 4, 2011

Some time ago I wrote about my knack for taking care of indoor plants. (And by "knack" I mean my tendency to kill all living things that I bring into my home.) But despite the soul-crushing experience of watching yet another plant die under my care, I was determined to try again. After all, as was so wisely said by a number of readers in this post offering advice to beginner gardeners, even the best gardeners started out killing a ton of plants. So it was with a renewed sense of purpose and a positive outlook that I walked into the annual members-only plant sale at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last night. My goal? To buy the hardiest, hardest-to-kill plants there. You can tell me how I did:

Every year the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens holds a 3-day plant sale in a tent on the Cherry Esplanade, a broad green field bordered by two rows of the Prunus Kanzan, or the Japanese flowering cherry blossom tree, which are currently in full bloom. The BBG plant sale is the largest of its kind in the New York area, and sells every kind of plant, both for indoors and outdoors, including annuals, perennials, small trees and shrubs, roses, herbs, vegetables, all kinds of tomatoes, houseplants, orchids, and hanging baskets.

First of all, call me a sentimental sap, but I'm convinced that the people who work and attend the BBG plant sale are the nicest people in the world. Clearly the verdant beauty puts people in a good mood, and despite my amateur line of questioning ("Um, is this plant hard to kill?"), both workers and attendees alike were warm and accommodating. (And enthusiastic! One fellow in the cactus aisle talked to me for 10 minutes about the need for "people with vision!" to take home the the melon cactus, which won't bloom for another ten years.)

Inside the tent plants are arranged by group: hanging baskets, orchids, aquatics, herbs, perennials... I was admiring the orchids (no, no, no— you're probably thinking. Orchids are notoriously finicky and NOT the best plant for someone with a bad track record of plant care. Don't worry, friends. I knew this much and was only admiring) when I caught another area out of the corner of my eye: succulents. Yes. This was the place to start. Low maintenance, water-retaining plants that thrive in harsh environments and like lots of sun— perfect for my very sunny living room windows. Thankfully, I also love the look of succulents. (Remember this table and this wall?) I picked up three small individually-potted succulents, one cactus/succulent arrangement, and a small Jade plant.

Instructions for Succulent Care: According to the paper they gave me...

When watering Cacti and Succulents in the home, wait until the soil is completely dry before watering. Then water well, and let any excess water drain off. For good lighting, Southern and Western exposure windows are the best, although North and East will suffice with cautious watering. Fertilize sparingly every 4-6 weeks April through September. Allow the plant to remain dormant for a period of rest with little or no watering December through February.

My next stop were the herbs. The one-pot herb garden I planted last year was dead and gone a few weeks later. Though I'd determined to pot the herbs individually next time, I still decided not to buy any last night because... well... it seemed too ambitious. I'll get back to herbs eventually. Instead I bought wheatgrass! I love the look of grass indoors, and thought that two long wooden boxes filled with wheatgrass would look splendid in my windowsills. And since I'll actually be trimming the grass myself (either to juice or put in a smoothie), it seemed pretty doable to me.

Instructions for Wheatgrass Care: I did NOT receive instructions for the wheatgrass, so if you grow wheatgrass or have a wheatgrass plant, tell me what you do!

After walking around and admiring all the plants I would not be purchasing for my home, I made my final stop: houseplants. I considered the Ficus, the Fern, and the Philodendron, but was most drawn to a large, hearty-looking plant... another Jade! When I asked the woman if I would need to replant it when I got home, she said "I wouldn't touch it!" OK, sold!

Upon checkout, I surveyed my little red wagon of plants (seen above). Dominated by succulents and wheatgrass, I certainly hadn't made a very diverse selection, but I hoped I'd made a lasting one.

Thoughts and advice for me? Do tell!

(Images: Cambria Bold)

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