For all of my nature-loving, fairy-worshipping, earthly Virgo ways, I actually have a terribly un-green thumb. The opposite of green on the color wheel is red, so let us say that I have a red thumb. Any form of gardening stirs my anxiety, and I honor and respect anyone who is able to plant seeds, make them grow, and do it all over again the next year.
However, I do love keeping some plant life in my home. Plants add warmth and personality to a space, they keep rooms fresh-feeling and breathable, and they offer a certain je ne sais quoi touch to a home. If you are like me, and you have a good heart for nature, but have trouble transferring that heart-felt love into the material plane, begin with a pothos plant.
I have named my pothos plant a quite unoriginal, but extremely fitting name—Planty. I love photographing Planty, especially after he has gifted me with one of his jeweled dew drops. © Libby Saylor
I inherited this plant from my former roommates when I lived in New York City (Queens, to be exact). I was never the roommate responsible for the upkeep of this plant, and that was always fine with me, since they seemed competent and willing to care for him. To be honest, I never actually took much notice of Planty. He hung out in the kitchen, humbly perched on our window sill, unassumingly exuding his gentle, perky, brightness. He was a delightful permanent fixture, but I definitely took him for granted at the time. Then at some point, an offer arose for me to move Planty into my room, and I absentmindedly agreed. Planty was fine with the transition, although I honestly do not even remember watering him.
However, what I do remember, is that when I relocated Planty from New York to my current apartment in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he just fell apart. One after another, every few weeks, a leaf would turn yellow and eventually snap off. And with each snap, I felt more and more like a failing parent. I felt so helpless and had no idea why this was happening or what to do about it. I did some basic internet research, but for some reason, the information did not register with me, and all of my half-assed attempts to revive him seemed futile. After a time, just looking at Planty made me sad and depressed, and I even considered getting rid of him, just so I could stop feeling so low about myself.
As a last-ditch effort, I thought to move him a little closer to the light (duh, I know). The instructions said to keep him in “indirect sunlight,” but where I had been keeping him, in a dim corner away from a lot of sunlight, I believe was a bit too indirect. Reluctantly, worrying it would be too much light for him (What was I thinking? Plants need sunlight to grow, double-duh!), I finally placed him directly in front of my window, and low and behold, Planty recovered within days!
[Just a tip: Disregard the term “indirect sunlight” and simply put a pothos plant in front of a window. That is basically what these directions translate to. I made the mistake of overthinking things. Most likely, any window in any home will have a perfect amount of indirect sunlight; because, you know, that is just how it works. I cannot adequately explain why, so I will just draw a picture.]
See here, only some of the sun’s rays are actually reaching Planty. If I give him anything less than a spot in the window, he will not get enough light to survive. My pothos is not exactly in a window sill, but rather, sitting on a table, directly in front of the window, and he is happy as a clam.
Very simple. Do not overwater. Pothos’ are very low-maintenance. I simply give Planty about a cupful of water every Saturday morning, and that is all he needs. Honestly, I just eyeball it. Think coffee-mug-size-cupful, rather than 24 oz.-slurpee-size-cupful. At this rate of watering once a week, Planty grows about one new leaf every two weeks or so.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR POTHOS GROWS…EEK!
My Planty is a bit gimpy, and he only has one vine from which all of his leaves grow. Most pothos plants are a bit more full and well-rounded, but he is a bit quirky. So, when Planty’s leaves started really growing, his vine started to creep along the table and almost dropped down onto the floor. When I noticed this, I tried to put it off because I honestly did not know what to do. If I knew how simple it would be to take care of this overgrowth issue, I would have done it long ago.
First, the plant I inherited is growing in soil, which needs to be changed, which I do not really do, because it is kind of a huge pain (bad plant mom). However, pothos plants can also grow in plain old water. This still kind of amazes me. Why use dirt when water works just as well? So once your plant starts overgrowing, simply snip off a stem (kitchen scissors works for this) close to one of the knobby protrusions (even if you snip it in the middle of the stem, it is okay, that is how chill these plants are). The only thing you need to be sure of, is that at least three or four leaves are left on the stem that you trim off, because this will be the beginning of a new plant. Make sure to trim the stem so that it is long enough to stay comfortably submerged in a container of water. If you need to, it is okay to pull off some of the lower leaves in order to have a clean stem—basically, you do not want any of the leaves under water (triple-duh).
Newly trimmed pothos stem submerged in water, with a baby root forming at the bottom. Image borrowed from here
It was totally scary when I made those first few snips. I felt like I did not know what I was doing and that I was just messing up all over the place. But Planty, Jr.’s new roots started growing under water within a matter of days. And just look at his roots now!
This image skeeves me out actually. The roots look like some kind of monster with a million legs, like something out of LOTR. Sorry Planty, Jr., I know you can’t help that you look skeevy right now.
Now I have two beautiful vivacious plants in my home. If I had more than one window (studio apartment), I would probably get more, but my miniature plant table is getting a bit crowded. My next endeavor, now that I am developing more of a yellow (on my way to green) thumb, will be to try taking care of a snake plant! From what I hear, these are low-maintenance as well, and very beautiful. I am not quite there yet, but everything in time.
Beautiful snake plant. Image borrowed from here
I leave you now with one final photograph of my Planty (before Jr. was born), graciously offering another precious dew drop. I think the fairies must regularly help with this. How else do you explain something so magical?
© Libby Saylor