Friday, February 19, 2016

The lazy person's guide to plants

I've heard so many people say that they can't keep houseplants alive, at all, ever.  That's a real shame because houseplants have some amazing benefits, from helping to ward off depression to cleaning the air.  They're also easier than taking care of pets, and most landlords don't care if you have houseplants.
I am both lazy and easily distracted.  And yet, I have quite a number of houseplants, many of which I've managed to keep alive for years.  (I think my longest is going on eight years now, although I worried for a bit last summer that our move had killed it.  It didn't.  Disaster averted.)  I'm not special and I don't have a particular green thumb.  I mean, I love plants, but come on.  Plants need care and I am forgetful.  However, my secret to success is actually in my laziness.
We have pets.  They drink water.  But sometimes, the bowl gets nasty and needs to be cleaned out.  And the cat, of course, hates water if it's been in his bowl for longer than about ten seconds.  So I found myself dumping out quite a bit of water and it was annoying until I decided to keep some of my plants near their water dishes.  Now when I toss out the old water, it's into the plants instead of down the drain.  The plants don't care if it's nasty and maybe has a little bit of dog hair in it.  In fact, I kind of think that they end up pulling in some extra nutrients that way because my plants only get fertilized about once a year when I think, "Oh, I should probably feed them," and then it takes another month or two before I actually get around to doing it.

The plants nearest the cat's dishes.  They're both safe for him to eat.
In fact, one is catnip, but he doesn't seem to have realized that yet.
Of course, our pets don't leave enough water that even a bit daily will keep alive the houseplants I have.  But that's where water glasses come in.  You see, the Munchkin will drink some of her water and then stick her grubby fingers into it, then leave it behind when she runs off.  No one else wants to drink it, and I don't want her drinking it anymore, especially when it's cloudy with whatever was on her fingers.  Ew.  Into the plants it goes.
We all like to have water by the bed at night in case we get thirsty.  But it only gets fully drunk maybe 1/3 of the time so most days, whatever is left goes into the plants before the glasses get washed.
This is, hands down, the easiest thing to way I've found to care for plants.  It takes about zero time out of my day (particularly if the plants are near the water source, like near the pet water bowls or on the way to the dishwasher) and it saves a bit of money on water, since I'm not tossing perfectly good water down the drain and instead using it for a secondary purpose.  The only part to remember is which plants have gotten water recently, but that's easy enough that even my scatterbrain can do it.  And if you're not sure, as I'm frequently not, testing the soil with your finger will tell you which ones could really use the water.
Very rarely do I have to specifically go around watering my plants.  I used to try to keep it on a schedule, watering them all once each week, and that was horrid.  I kept forgetting and sometimes they'd go two or three weeks before getting watered, looking wilty and losing leaves.  This way, not only are they getting watered often enough but it also forces me to check on my plants about once each day, making sure there are no diseases, pests, or other problems to contend with.  There never have been, but it's also nice to say hello to the plants and breathe on them a little extra.  Sounds crazy, but I swear they love it and studies have borne this out.  (I know, Mythbusters is not exactly peer-reviewed science, but that one's just for fun.  If you want real research, look it up yourself.  It's fascinating.)
Watering my plants this way has become so routine that I barely think about it anymore, and I never worry if my plants haven't been watered enough.  So if you, too, can barely keep a plant alive, get one and try my way.  If it doesn't work you're out a few bucks.  If it does, you get all those wonderful benefits from the plants.  Just please, don't be like my friend who once said, "It's a cactus.  It doesn't need to be watered every month.

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