As any gardener knows, you never stop killing plants, one way or another. I’ve certainly done my part. When I first started buying plants, I chose them simply because they looked cool to me or were a pretty color. Then I would take them home and plant them anyplace I thought needed a little color or interest. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly figure out that’s not the way to a beautiful yard, and I was about as bad at indoor or hanging plants.
First and foremost, I learned about zones. So many plants are impacted by a climate that’s too cold in the winter months or too hot in the summer. Since my first home was in Houston, that heat lesson came first and I did some pretty impressive plant baking. Each time I moved it was further north, so the freezing lesson was next.
Following closely, came the need for sun. At the beginning, I had yet to figure out that the little tag would tell you exactly how much sun the plant needed (as well as that zone thing). Many a plant struggled to survive striving to reach the sunlight. And shopping at the big box stores only made it worse since they would sell any plant, in any climate.
Of course there was also the watering. As we quickly learn, too much water can kill a plant just as easily as too little. The hardest lesson to learn about watering for me was with orchids. After the ugly death of more than a few, I finally read up and learned that they really prefer to be ignored. My hanging and potted plants were a lesson in how often you need to water also. And when I learned about drought tolerant, native plants, I got a lesson about the fact that they needed more water when first planted.
Study and planning are the keys. The list goes on and on: planting dates, grouping, size when fully grown, common pests and other varmits, pruning, dead heading, mulch, feeding, soil testing…
As time went on I’ve learned to check all of these things, and I’ve managed to greatly reduce my self-inflicted plant mortality rates. When we moved to our 20 acres outside Kerrville, a new lesson was deer resistance. You do learn that deer don’t read up on that and not many are totally resistant.
So if you’re new to gardening, take advantage of all the information available to you today. There are many great books and garden writers and bloggers. As a small business owner, I am a strong believer in supporting your local nursery, no matter how good those sales can look at the Home Depot. And on a final note, one of my favorite things to do is to buy the less than healthy, marked down plants and do my best to save their lives. Even the best nurseries can let plants get root bound, under or over watered, or subjected to lower than expected temperatures. Here’s to all of us learning to kill fewer plants with each season of experience.