Plants: Low Stakes Parenting

When parenting children with beating hearts, we cannot cut out or relocate parts of them that we deem annoying or problematic, at least not very easily or very affordably. Molluscum, lice, and braces for instance.  Understandably, it isn’t acceptable to neglect children’s needs either. It’s also a bit of a gamble to ignore a problem completely and just see what happens.

Enter plants. Your low-stakes children. You have permission to mess them up. Don’t worry they won’t hate you.

Let me tell you a little story about my eldest plant son, Figgy.

Figgy is a Fiddle Fig Ficus. I think I got him in 2016 or so- who can remember? Figgy and I had a rough start. I purchased him for aesthetic purposes, but I guess my idea of a good spot was not what he felt comfortable with. Kiddos can be so temperamental sometimes. Thankfully though plants do not drop down onto the floor and pitch a fit when their needs are not met. There is also no rush to Walkin clinics either. They drop leaves instead. Silently.

Figgy dropped ALOT of leaves. Clearly, he was unhappy.

I moved him under my patio. Sunlight all day but also full shade. He seemed to like it. He began to flourish. More of a shower than a grower, he maintained about 8 large leaves for a while. Late summer 2016, Figgy was exposed to long-standing flood water. He turned really brown and his few leaves drooped. How did I forget him outside? I try to accommodate his needs. I place his pot on a few supports to keep him up and well-drained. I gave him a few minerals.

After 5 years of good parenting, he grows to be 4 feet tall, still only holding 8 leaves at the most. We begin to call him Twiggy. Honestly, he was still pretty ugly, but I didn’t feel guilty for thinking so. Meanwhile, I’ve raised many other low stake children with success. Shamelessly, I can gloat about my favorites. My Jade, that has never let me down. Lilly, who brings cheerfulness to the space. RoseMarie and my other Salvias always smell fresh. In fact, I never have to uncomfortably suggest any of these children take a shower. No plant’s chemical by-product produces an offensive smell that I have to gently ignore because it is a natural part of their growth.

Sometimes the plant’s needs are not met. I have to put their care on the bottom of my priority list. But that’s ok, who wants a helicopter mom?

I take some bad parenting advice. A friend tells me, “I read that you can cut a Fiddle Fig up and root the top to revive its growth.”

CHOP! I do it. I cut him into 3. Only, it does not work. The top half did not root. He began to turn a different shade of black.  Leaves drop, Figgy becomes a stick. I give up and it’s ok.

Then one day, I walk outside. Low and behold my love is budding again! The bottom half of Figgy, the forgotten, neglected part, and the middle of his trunk that I haphazardly stuck in the dirt has budded new leaves!

A bombardment of new growth. But it just doesn’t hit the same as real parenting. I don’t feel the helplessness of not being able to help with comforting growing pains, like when my son broke 4 teeth at once or grew over 2 inches in a season. I also don’t feel the pride and astonishment of my human son’s intellectual growth and personality.

As parents, we all want our children to have strong roots, get enough sunshine and grow healthy. Parenting can be tough to balance and a bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally, but it sure is more rewarding than watching a plant grow. Focus on your children but may I also suggest the humdrum of plant parenting? the little impact you make on a plant can mean a lot for your emotional health and real parenting style.