The Natural Lifespan of Houseplants

It always surprises people to find out that houseplants–and for that matter, perennials, trees and shrubs as well–have an expected lifespan.

It definitely surprises people to find out that some trees are shorter lived than others and by several decades in some cases. And it is not a matter of taking good care of the tree–as a general rule, a flowering dogwood is not expected to live as long as an oak.

When it comes to houseplants, many of which are actually tropical plants that are merely confined to a container, quite often we don’t think about lifespan. Something happens because of the nature of the fact that it is growing in such artificial conditions and the plant rarely reaches what might be its normal lifespan. Few of us own plants for decades.

Every so often, however, something happens and a plant does grow up and mature in one place for a long time.

The weeping fig, ficus benjaminii, that you see above, is 34 years old. It was given to my grandmother in 1988 for her 90th birthday. She had no real interest in it, so it came to me. I grew it in one place for 5 years, and then for the rest of its life here, where you see it.

Recently, I have noticed more leaves than usual on the floor. After several weeks of cleaning up after the plant, I finally looked up, only to discover that 2 of the trunks were dead (thank goodness that I figured this out–I would have been cleaning up leaves forever if not!!)

You can see where I removed most of the dead trunks here. There’s a story about our loppers but I will save that for another time.

Then I decided to research the lifespan of potted ficus trees. Most places said 20-30 years for this variety so I am definitely on borrowed time as it is.

So we’ll see what happens as we go forward. So far the rest of the tree looks good. Fingers crossed.

One thought on “The Natural Lifespan of Houseplants

  1. tonytomeo November 5, 2022 / 1:54 am

    If not grown as houseplants, Ficus benjamina can live for a very long time, and can even replace itself before the original plant deteriorates. I have grown only a few as houseplants. The last two went into the garden when I relocated, and grew into trees that can live there for a very long time. Almost all of my houseplants from that home lived much longer than they should have been expected to. My original bamboo palm from the 1980s will eventually go into the garden here, where it can grow wild.

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