My newfound responsibilities as a plant mom

Taking care of my stromanthe has been no easy task

My dad is a master gardener. Everywhere we went, whether it be a new state or down the street, he made it a point to examine the plants and take their seeds. 

Our yard was filled with flora, and its expanse only grew as the years went by. 

My green thumb was sparked at an early age, having helped my dad with watering, weeding and tending our plants. Seeing the pride my dad had in his own plants' growth was something I wanted. To have that kind of responsibility meant I was able to take care of not only myself but another living being. 

But my initial start was fruitless. I killed way too many, way too fast. I couldn’t get the knack for succulents or cacti. No matter how little water and how much sunlight I gave them, they never lasted. 

For my 18th birthday, my friend gifted me an echeveria elegans. I thought this plant would be my true shot at success, but it only turned out to be an under-watered and withered pile of dirt.

The following summer, I upgraded to a larger model of the same species. Maybe if I did less soil and more of the plant, it would flourish.

Sadly this plant never got to the name stage, and its life ended with root rot

After that, my mom suggested I stay away from succulents. 

“Maybe try a different kind of plant,” she said. 

I waited for the perfect time to pursue a new plant companion, and it turned out to be sooner than I thought. 

I somehow managed to survive the first semester of my sophomore year, taking care of myself fairly well and balancing school work with other aspects of my life. If I could do all of that while taking Intermediate Reporting and Writing, one of my hardest classes, I could take care of a plant. 

So, in January, I made my way to Pueblo Life in downtown Phoenix. 

Walking around their enclosed nursery, I spotted a pink and green sprout with a tiny sign that said: “Neglect me.” 

"Don’t mind if I do," I thought. 

I happily welcomed Timmy, a stromanthe, into my life. From that moment, it was my mission to keep him alive longer than my previous plant endeavors. After all, he was different from all the others I had before. 

But taking care of Timmy has been no easy task. 

This species of plant grows slowly, very slowly, so the more sun they get, the better. Every morning when I get up, I make sure to open my blinds and place him on my windowsill to ensure he gets the right amount of light.

Stromanthes should always be in damp soil, and I have taken the utmost care in ensuring that Timmy’s soil does not dry out. There have been times where I woke up in the middle of the night just to water him because I forgot to do so earlier. 

I cannot use tap water for his soil either. Stromanthes can get leaf tip burn if distilled or filtered water is not used. So I constantly had to sacrifice my drinking water for Timmy’s growth. My water gallon would be down to its last drop, and I would rather give it to my plant than to myself. 

Once I saw growth, I knew it was time to repot my plant. I had never gotten to this stage before, and after purchasing a new home and more soil, I was ready for Timmy to get even taller and stronger. 

The more attention I put into Timmy, the more results I saw. Leaves began to unfurl, and each was larger than the last. The pink and cream tones looked brighter, and stems were sturdy. 

Looking back at Timmy’s small stature in the beginning is crazy now that he has grown to be so big. And in the end, Timmy’s growth was determined by how much I put into his care. I could not sit back and wait for nature to take its course, nor could I truly neglect my plant.  

In order to truly see results and begin the indoor garden I always dreamed of, I needed to put in the time, effort and research. 

I needed to see which species would fit best with my hectic college schedule. Had I gotten a houseplant that was more time-consuming or expensive, my attempt would be similar to when I was younger. 

Before, when I watched my dad's garden, I thought that taking care of a plant was easy — that it would be able to function on its own. But I know now that I was naive. A plant can't communicate its needs to you, the way a pet can. You need to monitor it every day because if you're not paying attention to it, you won't know what it needs.

I may have been eager to take care of a plant before, but I was not ready. This meant getting my life in check before I started to care for something else, even something as simple as a plant. 

And I can safely say I feel pride every time I look at my flourishing stromanthe named Timmy. 


Reach the reporter at omunson@asu.edu and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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