Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Once upon a time, there was a happy snake plant!

So I'm going to get things started with my -brief- history with plants. Which means I'm going to come clean; with lots and lots of confessions. I'm going to bare my soul and admit all the stupid mistakes I made along the way. It's only fair, right? We all start off as beginners and through nearly destroying things, we learn how NOT to do that. And maybe, just maybe, by sharing my embarrassing, plant-life-threatening mistakes with you, maybe I can prevent a few more plants in the world from dying. I'm on a mission here!

So let's start with how it all began. The picture above is a bird's nest snake plant, or sansevieria. Isn't it gorgeous? So green, healthy, and perky. It's even making babies (see the little green things popping out of the soil under it?). It was a gift from one of my little preschooler's moms my second year of teaching. That was about four years ago. It was the first house plant I ever had. I never cared about plants before. But something about this one stuck with me. I think it was part sentimental and part challenge. The mother swore up and down that these plants are indestructible and anyone can keep this thing alive. And then I thought, how cool would it be if I kept this thing alive for years and years and years and was able to say at some point, "Yes, I still have my first plant! And look how beautiful it is because of me!" Oh, I had plans for this plant. It had been in my hand five minutes and I was already forming a long term commitment to this plant. We were going to have a relationship, this plant and I. 

And then I brought it home. The first thing I did was find a super cute pot to put it in... with no drainage hole (Le gasp! Confession #1). And if I remember correctly, I stuck it in "ol' reliable" Miracle Gro potting soil. Now is not the time to get into soils and what's good and what's bad though. That by itself deserves its own blog. So I put my new baby, in its adorable water retentive pot, on my dining room table next to a west facing window. And I watched it like an overprotective hawk. I probably watered it twice a day. I'm sure you can imagine how long that treatment lasted. And when it started to wilt, I watered it more. Cringing yet? The truth hurts. 

I'm sure you're thinking this will end with an R.I.P., but surprisingly enough, it doesn't. I continued to obsess over this plant and try to figure out what I did wrong. I Googled and Googled and Googled. You know what every single resource said? You know what the number one cause of houseplant death is? I bet you do. 


And as you probably already guessed, that's EXACTLY what I did!!!! By the time I gave in, admitted defeat, and dug this thing up to assess the damage, it barely had any roots left that weren't rotten. So again, being the clueless and stubborn first time plant parent that I was, I dug it up and repotted it, in the same kind of soil, in still another no-drainage pot. I put it on my mantle in my east facing living room where it would get more sun from a big glass door. 

You know what I did after that? 

I bet you can't guess. 

Confession #3. 

I WATERED IT!!!!!!! 

I so did. I watered the thing that just barely survived rotting and now had barely any roots left to drink any water even if it remotely wanted to. 

I told you, I'm coming clean. 

So this poor pathetic plant somehow struggled through months of this torture. Because for some reason, I was just not getting the hint. I kept watering (yes, after all that) and it just kept looking worse. The leaves drooped and wrinkled and sighed. 

I got desperate. I didn't know what to do. I dug the thing up again, after all those months, hoping to find new happy roots. I was hoping that maybe the leaves were suffering because the plant was pulling all its energy into growing new roots. But as you'd probably already guessed, the bottom looked absolutely NO DIFFERENT than it had months before. I was slowly torturing this poor thing. 

So at this point, I had a dilemma (haha, or at least I finally realized that I did). The plant had no roots. It was withering away and dying. It couldn't get any nutrients because it had no roots. How do you save a plant that has no roots???? 

Plot twist!!! I happened to come across ONE CASE on the internet where someone attempted growing their snake plant in WATER instead of soil (oh, the irony) and it WORKED. So I figured, at this point, what do I have to lose? if it doesn't work, then I'll give up and let the plant be at peace. 

So I cut the top off of a water bottle, filled it, and perched what was remaining of the plant so the bottom hit the water. I put it up on my mantle and I waited. I checked it every day. 

And it actually got better. The leaves plumped up. Roots shot out of the stump of the plant. It started to grow new leaves. I did it!!!! I saved it!!!! 

Not wanting to mess with a system that obviously was working, I decided to let my snake plant live on life support. It's been happily growing in water for about a year now. It doesn't look anything like it did when I first got it, but it pulled through and it's thriving. 

So that is how I learned what NOT to do as a plant parent. So yes, I DO still have my first plant, and I HAVE had it for years, but it had to nearly die to make it this far. It's quite the lucky (or unlucky! haha) plant. 

Oh, and these are its babies. They don't look so hot because they went through similar treatment and I'm in the process of reviving them in a well-draining soil rather than water. Hopefully they perk up soon. 

Now that I feel like I've just introduced myself at a plant killers anonymous meeting, I'm going to end my confessions on a happy note. The snake plants lived happily ever after!