A Small Rainforest to Fill the Emotional Void

Like many students, I had to leave a pet from my parents’ house when I moved out for university (I miss you, Bobbie). And even though I have tried to talk my housemates into getting a furry friend together, they are not completely convinced just yet. So, in an attempt to fill this emotional void, I have turned to the plant kingdom. It started out quite innocent: the university's Green Office was handing out free plants on campus and so a small spider plant came into my life. This plant was quite easy to take care of, so I decided to get some more: cacti I got from my dad, Aloe Vera from IKEA, Dieffenbachia from a Storm event. All these survived easily as well.

I sank into real misery, only when I found two not-so-good-looking Philodendrons next to the trash bins of my housing complex. They awoke a true saviour complex in me: someone had clearly thrown them out because they were on the verge of dying, but I thought I had it in me to save them and give them a new life. Unfortunately, I found out soon enough that not all plants are taken care of as easily as a cactus or spider plant. When more leaves turned both brown and yellow, I read online that brown leaves mean too little water and yellow leaves too much. This left me utterly confused. I watered them a little more, just because I love putting effort into my plant care. As the leaves then started dropping one by one, I read that overwatering almost always leads to root rot. And how important light availability is. Plants with too little sunlight start hanging, plants with too much sunlight get ‘burns’ on their leaves. Even though I was in no way taking care perfectly of the plants I had, I kept buying more plants with difficult requirements. If only they could just tell me what exactly they needed...

For advice, I mostly turn to one of my friends. Her house has been looking like a small rainforest for a while now, so she is definitely better at taking care of them than I am.  When I come to her in despair, she always seems to know what to do: “You NEED to mist your tropical plants, no wonder they’re not growing”. This seemed logical to me, so I asked my dad if he had any leftover misting sprays, on which he answered: “You don’t need one! Just use an empty cleaning bottle with a mister. Easy!” Looking back, I probably should’ve thought of the fact that my father is not so good at keeping plants alive either. Nevertheless, this still seemed like an excellent idea to me, so I completely rinsed a bottle that was still holding some cleaning liquids. I then happily sprayed all my plants, thinking that this would save even the worst looking ones. When I was done, however, my room suddenly smelled familiar. As it had just been cleaned… My eyes became big as I realized what I’d just done. I tasted some of the misting water and it tasted like soap. I had misted all my plants with a watered-down version of the most toxic cleaner I had in my house. 

In an attempt to save my plants from the toxic bombardment I had just conducted, I wiped the leaves of all plants with a wet cloth. And as they are recovering, my philodendron is still half-brown and my alocasia hangs sadly. I probably have to refurnish my room soon so that all my plants can stand at the exact right distance from the window for perfect light availability.

And as I’m repotting my new monstera adansonii, spilling soil all over my room, removing all my books from my bookshelf to make space, I realize that my housemates were probably right: I am not ready for a furry friend just yet.


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