Ghosts Of Houseplants Past

By Mary Ellen Ellis | January 20, 2022
Image by liuyushan
by Mary Ellen Ellis
January 20, 2022

Some houseplants haunt me because I failed them. Before I knew much of anything about growing plants, I desperately wanted more in my indoor space. I experimented with all kinds of houseplants, knowing next to nothing about keeping them alive. 

The one that I remember the most survived the longest. That crown of thorns was a real fighter.

Trying to Grow a Crown of Thorns

I ended up with a small potted crown of thorns on a whim. Wandering through a garden center, I saw it and loved it instantly. I was drawn to everything about it: the small, bright flowers, the fleshy leaves, and of course the vicious looking thorny stems. 

It looked great when I got it home. The plant was small, maybe a foot (30 cm.) tall, and it had several flower clusters in a deep coral-red. It was full and healthy looking. That was the healthiest it ever looked. 

I had no idea how to water what I now know is an evergreen succulent from Madagascar. It’s a plant from a hot, dry climate, but I didn’t bother to find that out until much later. I probably overwatered it. I have no idea if the soil was appropriate or if it appreciated sitting by a window. 

Eventually my lovely crown of thorns began to shed leaves. It still bloomed, but it became pretty spindly and barren-looking. I kept trying to revive it. Surprisingly, it survived a few years in this state. I only lost it after my mother, who was sick of looking at this sickly plant, threw it away. 

Will I Grow a Crown of Thorns Again? 

I still love this plant. I saw one recently in a botanical garden and fell in love all over again. Maybe I’ll grow another one someday. I learned from that experience. I now know that if I do grow a crown of thorns again as a house plant, it has some specific needs: 

  • Crown of thorns loves the heat. I could have taken it outside in summer. It probably would have appreciated the hot Michigan days. 
  • A bright window with lots of light is best, especially to get more blooms. 
  • The soil should drain very well. I had my plant in a draining pot, but I definitely overwatered it. This dry climate plant doesn’t need a lot and can’t tolerate soggy roots. 
  • Keeping my crown of thorns in the same pot for years with the same soil didn’t help. It would have benefited from some fertilizer or fresh soil with organic material to provide nutrients. 
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