Get a plant to water often

Diagram of identification of trees through the shape of leaves

I’m 3 years away of turning 40. Forty! What an absolute joke, I keep telling myself. I felt like my life skipped the whole 20s entirely and I turned 30 before I knew it. I remember about 10 years ago, talking about turning 38 in 2020 with a partner at the time, planning that we’d have at least 3 kids (!) and a big house and all of those hullabaloos. Sweet, sweet summer child. I’m extremely glad I didn’t go that route and am definitely much happier now.

An even bigger joke: while everyone else is climbing up corporate ladder and building their family and all — more power to them, good — and evidently those are often something that would invite envy, I, on the other hand, envy my friends who could keep their succulents alive more than 3 weeks. Because I, for the love of everything holy you worship, could not.

I haven’t traversed much over Tumblr these days, but I found this today:

People who tell you that cacti or succulents are “beginner plants” are full of shit.

If you want to start taking care of plants, you need a plant to water pretty often. Something like a spider plant or an ivy or a dieffenbachia or most other cheap houseplants will get you in the habit of checking your plants every morning to see if they need something. This will get you ready for plants that require regular trimming (like basil), repotting (orchids), fertilizing (vegetable plants), or any other frequent care. (Plus they’re easy to propagate so you can make multiple from one in case you mess up and kill the originals).

With a plant that needs little attention, you’re either going to over-water it from the start (convincing you that you’re incapable of caring for even the “easiest” plant), or you’re going to basically forget about it. A plant that thrives being left alone in a forgotten windowsill of your house isn’t going to teach you much of anything. It’s just going to be that hobby you started and never got very far with.

Then a following Tumblr reblog with a comment:

I always recommend people start with something that requires checking but is also not easy to kill. Like pothos! This plant will communicate its needs VERY well, so you’ll get in the habit of checking/watering/trimming it. If you make a mistake, it bounces back and can be revived easily!

Plus, it grows quickly. People who are just starting out with plants need some encouragement, and a plant that can bounce back quickly from mistakes and grow quickly when being cared for will make them feel good! It’s rewarding! It makes you want to try more plants! Cacti and succulents, on the other hand, grow so painfully slow that beginners don’t get to really see the results of their efforts before they lose interest and/or accidentally kill it.

I find the last paragraph particularly interesting and definitely true, especially when to train some new beginners or if we are beginners ourselves. Lack of communication or signs of how one is doing within their learning progress can demotivate people, and lead them to entropy. This is definitely something I have been struggling with my doctoral progress at the moment sometimes, as I don’t see much significant progress even when I work every day, and there is also definitely lack of validation or metrics of any kind as we doctoral students work independently most of the time.

Whenever I feel like I’m not making any progress, or someone comes to me and talk about feeling stagnant, I always refer to this brilliant article from Jocelyn K. Glei on how to feel progress. The premise is we all make progress, even on a small scale. It’s just that we never track them, hence we never see them. The solution? Devise some system to track them — to-do list, get an accountability buddy, anything.

So. Pothos, then?

Related: Take a walk and identify trees with this New York City street tree identification guide.

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