I got an SOS call from a friend yesterday, a certified plant killer, she was yet again at a nursery trying to figure which plants she would be less likely to kill this time. I had two instant reactions to her query. First one? Dude, I was chuffed to the bits that someone was asking ME about plants! ME who has even managed to kill some plants that are supposed to be weeds! But having bungled my way as a plant killer, I could understand her pain and the craving to have some greenery in the house to offset the grey and glass that makes up our urban landscape today.
And the second reaction? To discuss with you guys few things that I wish someone had told me when the gardening bug bit me.
1. Most of the plants are notoriously easy to propagate. If they are easy to propagate, they will be easier to maintain as well. And less chances of us killing them with our hyperactive TLC tendencies in the beginning. So reign in your first instinct of going to a nursery and buying plants. Go chat up your neighbourhood uncle or aunty who look like avid gardeners, they will be happy to share their knowledge and their plant babies if they like you.
Easiest way to propagate some plants is by simply sticking the green part of its stem in some water, it will root quickly and can be transplanted to soil if required after some time. Now, water roots are slightly different from the roots that plants use when in soil but for most, this process works with higher success rate than directly sticking the stem in soil.
2. I have wasted a lot of money buying plants from nurseries that die on me within a week or two. The problem is, most of them try to make a quick buck by sell a sapling that has’t developed any root and is essentially just a stem stuck in dirt. Unless you are well versed with this gardening gig, it is a sure shot recipe for disaster. To avoid that, try to buy saplings that are a bit more mature, they might cost a few bucks more but that would definitely be money well spent!
3. One important point very well explained by our resident Gardening Geek, but worth repeating is resisting the urge to over water and over fertilise! You are trying to grow a plant not fattening a geese for foie gras. Overfeeding is as cruel to plants as it is to animals.
4. A general thumb of rule for plants is that they prefer morning sunshine and not the intense wilting sun of the afternoon, so place your plants accordingly. But all plants are different, so grill whoever you are taking the plant from about its sun/shade requirement and find the correct placement in your house/balcony.
5. Lastly, don’t waste your money on exotic looking plants that are pain in certain anatomical parts of your body to maintain. Start with the easier stuff, build your confidence and then graduate to the tougher to maintain plants. The most fool proof plant to grow is the ‘Money plant’ or Pothos, hence its ubiquitousness in discarded bottles world over! The bright glossy leaves look lovely, so if you want to start somewhere start here, go get a small stem and brighten up a corner at a time. Another plant that I think is the easiest to grow is the ‘Wandering Jew’. I once brought a cutting of it from a friend and forgot it in the car for 2 days; guys, it had actually sprouted roots by the time I got to it! It was the plant that gave me the confidence that I could actually grow something and not be on a constant killing spree! There is a long list of plants, that can be propagated this easily, might not be a bad idea doing a full monty post on those soon. What say?