Pots

I got a wonderful Christmas present from the therapist I work with. A plant stand with several tiers, mounted on white metal posts in the shape of a crescent moon. There’s a perfect spot for it at the clinic, just beside a west-facing window on a blank stretch of wall. This is real estate any plant will love.

The trouble now is how to decide which of my collection can be pried from their existing spots and come with mama to work. I have a lot of plants—for the sake of this post, I counted: 126—but I love their abundance, their personalities, the way they settle into their space, all leaves pointed like satellite dishes toward the light. They’re so sweet. So blessedly quiet! Caring for them is a lot of work, of course, but it’s not arduous. All they’re looking for really is to feel at home in their tiny pot of earth, to feel that conditions are suitable for growth. They want what we all want, in fact.

The plants are a relatively new obsession. I used to avoid houseplants because I thought I couldn’t keep them alive. And sometimes I can’t. Some plants become ill, or are attacked by spider mites or fungi, or languish unaccountably as if the will to live has passed. I refuse to be bummed out by plants, so I let go of those that can’t be saved. Over time I’ve gravitated toward the more robust species, the scindapsus and pothos, hoya and philodendron and tradescantia, old-fashioned cissus and upright dracaena. I want plants that have some innate hardiness and are amenable to propagation, plants that don’t demand extra humidity or ridiculous amounts of pest control. Plants have language, if you’re listening, so it’s nice to find those that will sag a little when they’re thirsty rather than turning overnight into a collection of crispy leaves and sticks.

As I look around, I’m finding it hard to decide which little grove to carve out. When I lift a plant from its home, the resulting blank space feels like a loss, or at the very least a disruption. I find this so unsettling that I rarely go about it piecemeal, and instead move all the plants to the center of the room and start over from scratch. Actually, I think this is what I’ll do over the long weekend. A big reshuffle, some potting up, a bit of trimming and fertilizing, a new round of propagation.

And maybe, maybe, as a treat, a few new plants for the office.

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