Sunday, January 9, 2011

Succulent Redo

Sadly, the succulents from my birthday did not survive me or summer (though probably it was me). One by one, they withered, wilted, and died. With each death, so died my hopes of ever getting anything to survive on this sun-baked balcony of my apartment. For several months, I have resisted buying new plants, hardening my heart against their cute greenery. From my office window, I have gazed out at the empty plant holder and thought, I'm doing the right thing. Nothing else need die at my hand.

It was rather dramatic, but I never really paid attention. I would look at that lonely white plant holder and think of all the plants that have died there, then look away. All in all, bad feng shui. But it was an insidious thought that existed in my subconscious. If you'd asked me what I saw when I looked out the window, my gaze would have shifted to the trees beyond the balcony and described that, or the weather, or something in the foreground.

Then my mom announced that she'd found several succulents at Home Depot whose prices begged for them to come home to my house. All these ignored feelings trapped in my subconscious welled to the surface and balled into a single, clear emotion: dismay. What was I going to do with more succulents (other than kill them)? Then they arrived, and they're cute. Some succulents can be disturbing looking—like a disease viewed through a microscope or something that's mutated horrifically. These were cute. Fun. Very alive.

So I did some research today about transplanting them. Everything about succulents goes against my nature. They don't want tons of water. They don't even need to be watered when you first transplant them. They like things dry, then to be drenched, then just to be left alone. They don't need to be babied and talked to and pruned and watered weekly (or more often) like my other house plants. They basically are the teenager of plants: just give them space and check in with them every so often and they thrive.

 Yet, much like teenagers who pretend to be tough but are really just disguising their fragility behind arrogant posturing, succulents have a certain delicacy to them. They don't like a lot of direct sunlight and have to be eased into it. Again, counterintuitive. Succulents are always grouped with cacti. Cacti love sun. Thrive in it. Shouldn't succulents? Apparently not.

For now, they're tucked in with my other plants, getting used to bright light near the windows, before being transitioned to some place where they'll get a few hours of sunlight a day. Not too much to shock them. Then I'll ease them outside. If they show any signs of wilting or withering, they'll come back in to live happy lives inside our temperature-controlled apartment. If they can take the sun, Cody's already planning on building them the equivalent of a sun shade for when the weather heats up.

For a plant that needs very little watering, they sure do require a lot of care. I hope I'm up for the task!

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