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Seven Rules for Killing your Succulent Plants

by Luther Sturtevant
Kara Cactus & Succulent Nursery
Portland, Oregon

Any number of books, pamphlets, and newsletters are dedicated to showing you how to keep our valued plants alive and healthy. What they fail to point out is that even if you do all the right things, you can still manage to turn your botanical baby into composting material. By focusing only on the positive steps this literature fails to take into account the “common wisdom” that many persons already have imbedded within their plant care DNA. In such cases positive succulent plant care recommendations often are over-ridden by this inner knowledge.

If any of these rules strike a chord within you, you may wish to enter into succulent plant counseling; it's well worth it in terms of plant lives saved!

RULE 1: NEVER ASK QUESTIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO GROW THAT PLANT. Really, just because they've got Rafflesia arnoldii growing in the greenhouse doesn't mean they actually know anything about growing it.

RULE 2: PUT YOUR PLANT ON A FIXED WATERING SCHEDULE – like once-a-week, no matter what. Why water only when the plant needs it? After all, if it's going to be a house plant it has to adapt to my schedule. And after all, it's going to use the same amount of water in spite of the monsoon last week or the five days of 110 F weather since I last watered.

RULE 3: ASSUME THAT THE PLANT IS HAPPY WHERE YOU FIRST PLACED IT. That cold, gloomy corner on the north side of the basement needs that agave to brighten things up, and by golly, you can make it grow there despite what centuries of evolution have adapted it to do.

RULE 4: DON'T INSPECT YOUR PLANTS TOO CLOSELY. Three months of unnoticed mealy-bugs aren't really going to bother anything, are they? And my, my, -that sun burn scar really sets off the green of the non-shriveled leaves, don't you agree? Besides, if I look closely, I might get depressed! (I once gave a cactus to a friend. When I visited his office I noticed the plant had rotted, leaving the skeletal remains. Before I could comment he said “That's what I like about cacti. You hardly ever have to water them and they just keep on going!”

RULE 5: NEVER READ LITERATURE ABOUT THE PLANTS YOU GROW. These things are written by eggheads for eggheads. Besides, you wouldn't get the joy of killing your plants all on your own.

RULE 6: USE WHATEVER SOIL IS AVAILABLE FOR TRANSPLANTING. If I dump enough fertilizer into the peat muck, Mr. Opuntia will be just fine...at least for a day or two!

RULE 7: TREAT ALL OF YOUR PLANTS JUST THE SAME! They're all green, right? And they've all got leaves … e (well, maybe not all) ...Hey, the plant has been grown “hard” all of its life and now it's time to relax and give it the African Violet treatment.

Obviously this isn't everything bad that you can do to your plants, but it's a good start. If you follow these rules consistently you won't have to wait around forever for those plants to become spiny compost. If you kill them quickly you won't have to wait around trying to nurse them back to health. You'll be able to clear space in the greenhouse or on the windowsill for your next victim in no time flat!

March 15, 2011

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Seven Rules for Killing your Succulent Plants by Luther Sturtevant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.