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How to keep a plant alive from someone who can’t

Art by Joleen Cardoza

I can not keep a plant alive for the life of me. It is above my pay grade, beyond my capabilities, and in my opinion, a very overrated skill. However, I wish I could say I can own a succulent without accidentally causing its imploding, (rest in peace Gus), so I have decided I am in need of an intervention. I’m not big on self-reflection though, so instead, I'm just going to read a plant blog! Sad Plant Help. Well would you look at that, my search history has appeared. And with a link too! Considering I don’t want to do further research, whatever is written there will be my main source of help. So thank you Danny Nett and NPR, maybe I'll finally be able to keep a plant in good health. I would specify that I mean a real plant, but I’ve melted a plastic one before so the bar is on the floor. Now, for any of those who wish to tag along on my journey, let’s begin.

My Source Danny

That’s right, I have a plant man. I don’t know a lot about Danny but I trust him. What are you doing with your life if you don’t have a Danny? Probably just sitting alone with a dying plant. Did you know that Danny has a mushroom tattoo? Therefore he’s very reliable. Going back to the helpful material Danny has provided, my goal is to gain some botanist insight or the way of the plant mamas.

Their first words of wisdom
Art by Anika Norton

“Find your light.” Well, how spiritual. To sum up the mushroom man’s advice, plants require a certain level of exposure to light in order to thrive. And that “perfect lighting” differs from plant to plant. If I wish to not commit involuntary vegetation manslaughter I need to study up on my plant. The article also mentions the ways to measure your house’s light levels through shadow. By placing your hand a foot above where you want your plant to be, you can judge the shadow’s sharpness to determine light quality. Crisp shadow means you’re working with bright light, slightly fuzzy edges suggest medium-light, and low light is essentially just bright enough to read a book.

Picture of Lil Timmy T by Anika Norton

The ever-so-wise Danny also stated, “If your plant is starting to look "leggy" or stretched out, that's a sign it isn't getting enough light. It might also start putting out smaller leaves or stop growing altogether.” This made me realize exactly why Lil Timmy T, our designated family house plant, was so tall and lanky. To preface, he has since been moved to a better spot.

Dirt is key and the way of water has no order

Use quality dirt people, none of that “Honey we have good dirt at home,” stuff. Danny says that you need airy dirt that will allow proper water drainage, so we all need to GET airy dirt. Don’t disrespect the dirt, dude.

Art by Anika Norton - Root Rot In Question

Speaking of proper water drainage, there are two important things to cover. One, be careful what container you choose, if water can’t flow through properly your plant could get root rot. And two, even if you keep to a regular watering schedule it is still possible to over and underwater your plants. (News to me but Danny makes me feel like I can give advice now, so you should trust my plant scorching self.) It’s actually safest to do a finger test, by placing your index into the dirt you can judge the texture. If the top 2 inches are dry it’s time for watering.

There are also some tell-tale signs of a plant with a water issue. The under-watered might be curling at the leaves, whilst the over-watered may turn yellow and possibly start to develop root rot. Can you tell I’m drawing directly from the NPR article? Or is my “confidence” covering the fact I didn’t know that 2 minutes and 36 seconds ago?


OK, THIS I KNOW. Everything needs a name, how boring would you have to be to not give your plant a name? Remember Gus the succulent, brought him up earlier? He’s one of the fallen tributes but hey, he still got a name. Danny said you need to give it a name… do you need another reason?

Be a good PTA member (plant teacher association…?)

Finally, bring good snacks to the soccer meets and volunteer at your flower’s book fair. Be attentive, if that fly trap is giving your poor peace lily a dirty look, you better distance those two. Watch out for pests, aka other (rude) plants and bugs. The more you focus on your plant’s condition, the better its survival rates are. No ignoring it for weeks then giving it an ice cube…. on a totally unrelated note a personal apology to Lil Timmy T. Love you kiddo- hold on. Breaking news.

The heartbreaking truth about Danny.

Look, we've made it to the end, we’ve studied, made jokes, and though we learned how to keep a plant alive. But all good things must come to an end and unfortunately so must Danny. No, he’s not dead- but he is a liar. You see, the Danny we loved, the Danny we trusted, just concluded his article by stating no one has a green thumb. How am I supposed to respect someone who has never bought cheap rings? How am I- it seems he meant that not literally. Our trust has been restored! Viva la mushroom man! I was totally just kidding Danny, we love you man, and we appreciate your insight. It’s been fun! Personally, I have some respects to pay to the fallen plants and one headless planter, so I’m off. Hope all who tuned in learned a little more about plants and remember, if you accidentally set one on fire, it’s got 9 lives… Right?

Art by Anika Norton

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