Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Plant Doctor's Hospital

View from the Plant Hospital
I covet two nicknames that my Mother has given me: The Plant Doctor and Superwoman. The Plant Doctor refers to my knack for bringing seemingly dead plants back to life and bloom in my sunroom while the Superwoman name is a hat tip to my physical strength.
Mom likes things to look just right so any plant that struggles makes its way over to my house. Some go straight to the compost pile but a number of plants in my sunroom serve as testaments and metaphors to strength, nurturing, and eternal life. Here are a few of my favorite plant stories:

My Christmas Cactus is one of my pride and joys. I believe it is 20 years old this year. With each replanting (4 times), I have increased the size of the pot, and the plant triples in size and strength. The one thing I learned (notice where part of the “tree trunk” has rotted away) is to not overwater this spectacular plant.
When my grandmother died in 1990, my Mom found a philodendron several months later that had not been watered since before her death. She watered it several times and the plant snapped back to life. This summer Mom decided to clone it as a gift to her Plant Doctor. When she was in the hospital for two extended stays in both May and September she reminded me several times to make sure the plant cuttings in her laundry room had water in the jar. I thought it was an odd request. When she gave me the potted clone (see picture above) late last Fall and told me how it survived and thrived through the years, I couldn’t help but think “yet another example of eternal life.” 

My best friend from college Denise Harrod gave me a small cutting of this rabbit foot fern. In addition to the two hanging in my sunroom that grew from her 6-inch cutting, I have made several additional plants as gifts. I believe Denise received her cutting from her mother who started hers from a friend’s plant. Clearly, the rabbit foot fern is a unique (and lucky) gift that keeps on giving.

Recently Repotted (above)
Soon to Re-Bloom (below)

Orchids. They have a reputation for being difficult. Since I’ve never had a problem having my orchids re-bloom, my mother sends hers to the Plant Hospital during the dormant phase, declaring them hopeless. Several orchids from my Mom later, I firmly believe that patience is the key to orchids. They really do not require much care. I’ve only repotted one over the last eight years and have enjoyed dozens of orchid blooms throughout the seasons and years.

Over five years ago, my Mom sent an almost dead jade plant to the Hospital. It was soaked to the root. I put the plant, roots exposed, on my deck table to bask in summer heat for at least a week and then repotted. Several repots later, I have a jade “tree” and another jade plant that survived being dropped on the sidewalk when I moved it from my work office.

These are just a few stories that my plants can tell. When I look around my sunroom I realize that almost every plant has a history of importance in my life. Many of the planters do also. I see celebrations, gifts, funerals, weddings, and life milestones. These thriving plants are another face of family and friends and experiences fully worthy of my loving attention.
A few simple tips from The Plant Doctor: don’t overwater, be patient, and enjoy the stories and memories that healthy plants can offer.
Jim's Plant
A Clone of a Clone from Miss Margaret Neate
Gene Moore: Your plant is in good hands!


  1. I really enjoyed your posts. My Mother had a green thumb and cared for a multitude of indoor and outdoor plants while she was alive. Now, my own house is filled with greenery. I have a large umbrella plant that is 45 years old - I know because it was given to me as a wedding gift potted inside an antique crock. The crock cracked when we moved cross country, but the plant has never been repotted and thrives on very little TLC. All my plants have stories, too - that's what makes them so special to me.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Barb. I bet that umbrella plant is something to see. It's very cool to be able to match up life milestones, such as your wedding, with a plant. I appreciate your reading my blog!

  3. I am always amazed when people don't notice a plant in need of TLC and I often can't stop myself from sticking my fingers in the soil or picking off dead leaves when I go to friends and I still have my grandmother's purple shamrock from 20+ years ago... enjoyed the read

  4. You are amazing. I wish you lived close to me so you could doctor my plants and get my orchids to re-bloom. I've never been that lucky though I do have a lovely (and very old) Christmas cactus. Thanks for sharing this story and photos.