My First Plant

By Laura Miller | August 7, 2022
Image by SharafMaksumov
by Laura Miller
August 7, 2022

The first plant I remember buying as a child was a False Aralia (Plerandra elegantissima) houseplant. These feathery-leaved, tropical trees were popular houseplants in the 70’s, most likely due to the similarity their foliage has to marijuana leaf structure and the drug culture at the time. 

False Aralia Care

While society’s opinion of drug use has changed over the decades, I still feel a False Aralia houseplant makes an attractive addition to any d├ęcor. Which would make one think that I might have an Aralia houseplant lurking somewhere in my home. 

Nothing could be farther from the truth. To be honest, I’m terrified to own one of these plants. No, not because they might be mistaken for another plant with ill-repute. It’s because as a child, I made every mistake possible when it came to caring for False Aralia.

Now, if I’m really being honest, I have to admit I didn’t own just one Aralia houseplant. I owned many. Just not at the same time. You see, every time I’d kill one, I go to the store and purchase another. They were rather inexpensive at the time and my babysitting money was mine to spend.

Somewhere along the line I lost count as to how many False Aralias I had owned. But to this day, I still have flashbacks of leafless Aralia sapling stems haunting my windowsills. False Aralia losing leaves is a common problem with these plants and it happens for many reasons:

  • Too much water
  • Too little water 
  • Too cold
  • Too little humidity
  • Moving the plant to a new location
  • Pest infestation 
  • Rapid change in ambient temperature

Pretty much any mistake one makes in caring for False Aralia will result in the False Aralia losing leaves. And I made them all. Repeatedly. 

Growing Houseplants

In the ensuing decades, I’ve matured and become much more responsible. In fact, I raised two boys and neither one of them ever lost their leaves. I’ve also gained decades of experience cultivating houseplants. Yet, there is something about caring for False Aralia that still terrifies me.

Is this a carryover from my childhood? Most definitely. Will I ever get past this trauma? Who knows. But I won’t, unless I try. And this means that someday, I will need to buy another False Aralia and give it a go. Will I now find success in caring for False Aralia?

I believe so, but it’s not because I’ve grown and matured as a gardener. It’s because in this day and age, we have something I didn’t have as a child. Yes, that would be the internet. This handy reference source is more than a way to stay in touch with friends or look at adorable videos of kittens. 

With the click of a few buttons, I can find accurate and relevant information on caring for False Aralia or any houseplant. And that, my fellow gardeners, gives me the confidence to try again.

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