Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Never Again List

As of this writing, I have roughly 350 houseplants. If I could total up the number I have had in the past 30 years or so, it would probably come out to well over a thousand. I wouldn't begin to know how to quantify the number of different species I've had, since I tend to become ::cough:: obsessed with certain plants, and thus have had many duplicates. However, I do know that there are certain plants that I do not want to deal with again. These are either plants that I like that I've failed with repeatedly, or those I decided I just didn't care for after trying them out once or twice.

Here is my list of Never Again Plants:

Aphelandra: (Zebra Plant) These lose leaves at the drop of a hat, because they are fussy about watering. One fact of life here among the leaves: Though I try not to let it happen too often, everything I own will have its soil dry out more than it might like, at least once in a while. If a plant can’t handle that, I can't handle it.

Begonia rex: I just don’t know how to please them. I think they need supplemental humidity, and pebble trays just don’t do the trick. They are also prone to powdery mildew in my climate. In fact, Begonias in general are trouble for me, though I haven’t given up on the non-rexes. I think they have temperature issues I haven’t quite figured out, in addition to the humidity thing.

Calathea: (any species or variety) Another one with watering and humidity issues.

Cissus discolor: A heartbreaker. A really beautiful plant that cannot stand to dry out at all. I tried another one this year, against my better judgment. I figured a larger, more established plant might be tougher than the 4-inch pots I'd had in the past, so I bought a large one in a gallon-sized pot. It still didn't work out.

Dieffenbachia: (any variety): Though I did fail with these once or twice, I don't think their care would be too hard to master. I just don't like them well enough to try again.

Dracaena marginata: Another plant that just doesn’t move me. Plus, my cats always try to eat them.

Homalomena ‘Emerald Gem:’ Another heartbreaker. A beautiful plant whose leaves turn yellow if you look at them hard. The problem doesn’t seem to be directly traceable to watering, humidity or lighting, so I’m thinking that it just isn't suited to long-term houseplant culture. Not every tropical plant is.

Monstera obliqua (or M. adansonii, etc.): Based on its appearance, I thought it would require similar care to Epipremnum aureum, or even to M. deliciosa, but it doesn’t. Needs lots of light to maintain leaf size and perforations and is very sensitive to erratic watering.

Nematanthus: I’ve had scale insects on every single one I’ve ever owned.

Peperomia argyreia: (Watermelon Peperomia) Yet another heartbreaker. I keep them moist, they fail. I keep them a bit drier, they fail. I try to give them what they need in terms of light and humidity, they fail.

Peperomia caperata: See P. argyreia. Even more heatbreaking, since I like them better, especially the variegated ones.

Philodendron hederaceum: No good reason, really. Just not my cup of tea. Anything it can do, Epipremnum aureum (pothos) does better, in my opinion.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii ‘(any variety) I suppose it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. And I do love these, but from now on it will be from afar. It just hurts too much. Much more sensitive to watering issues than the taller S. trifasciatas. While overwatering will kill them quickly, moderate watering seems to kill them slowly. Every single one I’ve had has rotted, no matter how careful I am.

There are a couple of addenda to the Never Again List, which are as follows:

Addendum 1. Plants I currently own that I will go on the “never again” list if they die:

Begonia ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’: I love this plant and it does well for me. An exception to my begonia black thumb, so far. Six years and counting.

Begonia 'Cracklin' Rosie'

Hedera helix: Yes, I’m serious. I did give them up for about 10 years, before I fell back under their spell. Coming soon: a post about how that happened. But I really mean it. If for some reason I can’t keep the ones I have now going well, they will be the last ones I ever have.

Addendum 2. Plants that should be on the never again list, but I’m a sucker for them:

Alocasia: Mite magnets, need good light and more humidity than I can usually provide.

Codiaeum: (Croton) I have one now, on its last legs. Again with the spider mites! Again with the watering issues!

Selaginella: This time around they are doing okay in my terrariums. But they don’t always, and I don’t dare try them outside of one.

So there you have it. I think this still leaves me with lots of plants to try in the future. A few of those will probably end up on this list in time. And something on this list will likely end up in my collection again, despite my best intentions. Because as my mother taught me "Never say never!"


Water Roots said...

Oh, I totally agree with Calathea, Begonia, Hedera Helix and Alocasis. Especially Alocasia. Damn those plants and their spider mite problems and all their complaining!

The problem is that I really like Alocasia; they have such interesting foliage. I don't know how many Alocasias it will take before I finally call it quits. I haven't had one for a few months, so I'm still on the wagon. For my sake, let's hope I don't fall off.

Ivynettle said...

Oh, don't discourage me! I'm so happy to finally have acquired some cuttings of Monstera adansonii/obliqua/whatever, and you make me think I'll kill it soon anyway? Not nice.

Also, you confirm my suspicion that cats are just genetically conditioned to eat anything with long, thin, vaguely grass-like leaves. My Dracaena marginatas are fortunately too tall to be eaten by mine, but the Beaucarnea - oh, the Beaucarnea! Constantly chewed on.

And does anyone actually like those bloody rex begonias? They're fun to propagate, but that's the only nice thing about them. No wonder we're currently stuck with about 500 of them at work.

mr_subjunctive said...

I'm surprised by Dieffenbachia (sorta: I was aware you didn't like them, but hadn't thought they'd be a Never Plant) and downright shocked by Nematanthus, which is one of only two gesneriads I can grow at all (the other being Aeschynanthus).

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem' have actually reached an understanding since I wrote my profile on it; it doesn't really excite me and I'm not inclined to buy another if this one croaks, but leaf-drop hasn't been an issue in maybe a year. I think I was overwatering, and/or it was overpotted when I bought it, but I'm not sure. Maybe they just acclimate really, really, really slowly?

Peperomia argyreia also surprises me a little: Mine limped along looking terrible for forever but is doing much better since I moved it to a larger pot. Wouldn't call it an easy plant, but we're getting along lately.

Karen715 said...

@Ivynette: Don't be discouraged. If there is one thing I've learned is that plants that are difficult for one person can be a piece of cake for another, and vice versa.

@Mr_Subjunctive: I'm surprised that you're surprised about the Dieffs--I don't find them attractive, and they aren't super-easy. Why would I want to bother?

I really do like Nematanthus, and I think the flowers are the bomb, but in addition to the scale problems, I've also had them do the mysterious leaf drop thing. Aeschynanthus aren't on the never again list, they are more on the "maybe if I get one as a gift" list. I don't feel inclined to rush out and get one, but I wouldn't object to having one. I've had one before, and it did okay.

I really love Homalomena 'Emerald Gem.' I know that in many ways they are just a plain green plant, but I find something about them extraordinarily beautiful. It's purely idiosyncratic, like my dislike for Dieffs. If yours has settled down, maybe I will try again, some day. Same with the P. argyreia. But that day won't be soon.