Plant Killer

I’m a plant killer. The evidence is now irrefutable.

I feel wronged by this reality, because the recipe for keeping a plant alive seems so simple: pour water onto dirt.


I always thought I would be a plant person because my mom is a plant person. Growing up, I loved watching her garden — the pride she took in it, how she’d dream for weeks about which flowers would bejewel our yard that year. I loved going to the nursery with her to pick them out — petunias, pansies, snapdragons, marigolds, day lilies. She taught me their names, as well as which were the toughest, which needed special care, which the deer liked to eat. Of course I became less interested once it was time to actually plant the things. But I loved watching as she removed each precious flower from its plastic carton, cradling the dirt pods with their fledgling roots as she transferred them into a little hole in the earth, a home prepared just for them.

Having lived in an apartment for the entirety of my adult life, I don’t exactly have access to a garden, but I’ve still tried to cultivate my green thumb.

When a recipe called for fresh basil, I bought a basil plant instead. I daydreamed of being a person who knew which dishes could do with a dash of fresh basil, plucked right off the stem. I saw myself casually tossing it into my gorgeous, sizzling pan, to the delight of all who would taste some signature dish.

The basil plant died after one use.

I tried to decorate with cute mini succulents in trendy little pots, but within days they inexplicably withered.  I thought succulents were cactuses? Aren’t they supposed to survive anything?

For a while I made a habit of picking up a potted plant from Trader Joe’s — a mini rosemary bush or poinsettia at Christmas or springy baby roses, before killing them all and finally moving on to cut flowers instead.

And then a few months ago, Scott and I bought a house plant. A 5-tiered Dracaena that would prove, once and for all, that I am not the angel of death. When we brought it home, it was like the entire apartment was transformed. There was life! Inside! It was green, it was cleansing our oxygen, why I had gone so long without knowing the simple joy of a house plant?! We bought a tool to measure the light and soil, we Googled how to care for this species. We filled a big pot full of water and let it sit overnight just like the internet said. We watered until we saw drainage.

We drowned it.

The shortest tier died first. The leaves went droopy and then flopped completely flaccid and finally in a moment of rage, I pulled them all off. The next tier followed, and the next, but I told myself the top two might still make it! They had to make it.

Now, the top two tiers have started drooping. I avoid walking by the plant, because to touch it, even gently, is to cause a cascade of falling fronds. I should throw it away but it’s heavy. Which is a metaphor for it being super depressing.

I’m a plant killer; there’s so much proof. It’s making me sadder than it should.

One thought on “Plant Killer

  1. Jack Hadley says:

    I remember Jerry Seinfeld once said, “I have no plants in my house. They won’t live for me. Some of them don’t even wait to die, they commit suicide.” I guess you’re not alone.

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