Mourning Plant Loss – When A Plant Dies, It’s A Real Thing

By Nikki Tilley | April 6, 2020
Image by JackF
by Nikki Tilley
April 6, 2020

Plants make me happy, most of the time anyway. I get to nurture them and watch them grow much like I did when my kids were little. The kids are all grown and moved away. I miss nurturing them, so I am guessing that my love for plants has somehow filled the void of my now empty nest.

While this isn’t anything new, as I’ve always been close to my plants, even giving some of them names and talking to them, it’s definitely intensified. This is especially true with plant loss.

Grieving for Dying Plants

Grieving for dying plants, after all my best efforts, can be devastating. I won’t lie – I cry! Laugh if you must. I’m used to it. My family thinks I’m a bit “off” in this respect. But it’s real my friends, and I think it may just happen more than most people care to admit. But why? It’s just a plant after all, right.

Plants have always held a special place in the hearts of gardeners. And nowadays more and more young people are taking on the task of “plant parenting“ as opposed to getting a dog or cat. Many are even putting off having children. I must admit this is a good thing. It teaches one to put something else first, and that means caring for and meeting its needs. So when a plant dies suddenly, it can be heartbreaking. It may even make you question your ability to adequately care for something other than yourself.

When a plant dies, you’re not alone.

I’ve been gardening for nearly 30 years and this is, by no means, a reflection on how well you would do in caring for your pets or children. It just happens. Most would consider me an experienced gardener, yet I’ve managed to “kill” many plants, most with kindness. For me, it’s usually houseplants. I can basically make anything thrive in the garden where nature does most of the work. Inside is a different story.

Houseplants require more work and specific growing conditions that aren’t as easy to accommodate. That said, there are TONS of low-maintenance plants that can be grown both in the home and garden.

Still, having a low-maintenance plant doesn’t mean it’s immune from death. These plants still require care, but even with the best of care, plant death happens. Succulents are one of the easiest plants to grow, but I manage to lose them, mostly from overwatering. And I simply cannot get croton plants or even a schefflera to thrive despite my best efforts. Mourning plant loss after putting so much of yourself into it is hard. It hurts. I failed! The gardener with so much experience failed!

How could this be? And the tears come. Not sure if it’s so much for the actual plant, though I do grieve for it, as it is my feelings of failure. And, of course, the loss of plants that I have grown for years or those I’ve started from seed and watched grow, flourish, reproduce and then wither away tend to hit me especially hard.

Regardless of why the plant died, the loss felt is real. Grieving for dying plants, and grief in general, is different to everyone. Some take it harder than others, and that’s okay. There’s no one size fits all. And for anyone laughing, consider this – gardening, or just being around plants, has been proven as therapeutically beneficial. It’s great physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Why then is it so difficult to believe that losing a plant wouldn’t have some effect as well?

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  • Marijke Veenstra
    Comment added June 20, 2020Reply

    I was looking forward for the package to arrive for weeks. The first time I bought this plant it was an impulsive buy. I didn't do my research. I was instantly in love with how it looked. When it arrived the baby plants were packaged safely and I was excited to start immediately pouring my love into them. I searched what the best way to care for these babies was and found out the plants this size and colour (cuz of the lack of chlorophyl) were basically impossible to grow. I was devastated but tried growing them anyway. It was quite expensive so I had to try it... I researched for days on end on making my own chlorophyl water, maybe giving them sugar, more sunlight etc. It was useless. They started making roots, my hopes were growing, were they actually growing? But I knew the odds werent in my favor. Too much sugar could kill the little chlorophyl the plant has and too little could also kill it. It was my own experiment, nobody had written about this working for this plant. I couldnt bear watching it grow a little and then die.... So I bought another one before this one could die. This time I researched extensively so I knew exactly what to ask the seller. She warned me that shipping could be risky, but I had good experiences with it and was sure it would be fine. Together we discuss the best method of sending these kalanchoe pink butterfly babies, and for weeks we go back and forth with messages. So we're back at the beginning of the story: I am waiting for weeks, planning whom I will grant the offsets and where in my room I would keep it. The excitement growing bigger everyday, estimating what time it would arrive and waiting for the postman everyday to arrive. I often couldnt concentrate and would make drawings of the plant or smileys everywhere.
    When it arrived I was SUPER excited. I had done research, was prepared this time, everything would be perfect. When I got them out of their package, they turned into slime on my hands. I had barely touched them. The succulents were transported in a tube filled with water. One major thing I hadnt thought through. I was horrified, tried to save some by dropping them softly on soil and wait for them to dry. Boy did they dry. At some point I couldnt see the difference between the soil with organic matter and the plant because it had dried out completely. Once again I was devastated. I had invested so much time in them, even before they arrived. So much excitement, I was SO CLOSE to getting them.. Time and money wasted for nothing. I cried for a long time and I am still trying to find the motivation to take care of my other plants, be happy for those plants that are doing good. But its hard...
    thnx for reading if you came this far.

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