I know that there are whole blogs devoted to “garden ranting” but you can tell when something has set me off, can’t you? This time it’s an article in a style magazine called something like “Decorating with House Plants.”
So many things were wrong about the article that I scarcely know where to begin. The first is that almost no proper names for plants were used, only common names. Now, I am not such a stuffy person that I think we have to go around only referring to plants by their proper botanical names–but I also think that if I am recommending a plant for a space, I want to make sure that the person buys the right plant. Common names too often lead to confusion. At least reference the botanical name in parentheses so that they person can acquire the right plant!
Next, far too many ficus plants were recommended as “decorations.” Seriously? As a lover of anything and all things ficus, I can tell you that many are not particularly easy to grow. The one recommended in particular was ficus triangularis, which was described as “extremely rare.” I don’t find it to be “extremely rare,” but I do find it to be at least as finicky as the plain old benjaminii type. It seems that if I blink the wrong way, mine starts dropping leaves. Not a good recommendation, especially for a “decoration,” unless you find dead leaves decorative.
In fact, in the above photo, you will see 2 of my many ficus. The “extremely rare” triangularis is the plant in the middle–the one in the pot with the fluted edge. Since its repotting last week, it has lost 8 leaves. The variegated benjaminii type to its left hasn’t lost a single leaf–and they are reputed to be very finicky. Hmm…
Finally, and this is my favorite crazy recommendation–oxalis triangularis! Oh yes, please, if you like to pull dead leaves and flowers off the plant at least every couple of weeks. Otherwise, once again, maybe you find all those stringy dead parts, “decorative.”
Clearly these decorators don’t know a thing about house plants and their growth habits over time. And that’s where we all suffer. People are going to read these sorts of articles and take these recommendations and then feel that somehow, they can’t grow plants, or there is something wrong with their conditions. And that’s wrong.
I am not sure how we solve the problems of bad advice articles like this because I think they do more harm than good. Luckily there is lots of good advice out there. With any luck, most people will not be discouraged by losing a plant or two.
After all, there are so many beautiful plants in the world. If you don’t succeed with one, try something else that’s better for your light conditions!