Columnist Jim Hillibish offers his recipe to revive even the saddest of plants.
Sometimes there’s a higher level that takes control of us. I’ve quit trying to fight it, especially with houseplants.
So I’m walking past the plant rack at a major discount store, averting my eyes. These folks don’t water their plants. Apparently, it’s not in the union contract. So they’re running a concentration camp here.
Maybe there’s method to their neglect. There are probably a lot of folks like me who cannot stand to see a plant suffer. So we rescue the terrible ones and put up with the clerk’s laughter as we check out.
‘Take Me Home’
For some reason, I turned my cart around and went back to the plants. There on the bottom shelf in a 3-inch pot was the worst-looking philodendron, ever. He was withered; his leaves were yellow and burned out he’d be dead the next day.
The pity factor gets me every time.
My clerk said, “We usually throw these out. I’ll give it to you if you promise to take it.”
Free is too expensive for this plant. Oh well, I can always compost it.
The plant sat on my front seat on the way home. If plants can plead, this one was doing a good job. We’d bonded as I pulled into my garage. Instead of the compost heap, I took him inside.
I repotted him, placed him in a shady corner of my computer den and kept him damp. He lost all but one leaf.
As temperatures warmed in early spring, I noticed signs of hope. He was standing up on his own, one new shoot had formed, and he was greening.
I gave him a cup of my compost tea. More shoots. More greening. I now could identify him and was surprised. He was a philodendron giganteaum, the largest of that family’s hundreds of varieties.
Three years and more compost tea later, he has earned his name. He’s 40 inches wide and expanding overnight, a desktop jungle. He has outgrown all of my pots. He needs water twice a week. He’s sending out runners that threaten to push me out of the room.
I like to think he likes me, but that’s not it. The secret is the compost tea, a brown brew I make by placing a cup of compost in a gallon milk jug.
Add water and steep in the sun for two days.
The tea is a 1-1-1 on the nutrient scale and a perfectly neutral pH. It contains everything a plant needs to thrive. Each dose adds millions of microorganisms, naturally enriching the soil.
If you don’t have a compost heap, use a good potting soil. It contains composted materials.
My guy has earned his big name. He’s constantly interesting, glorious, in fact, worth it at twice the price.
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