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I Brought My Plants Back From The Brink Of Death

Well, almost.

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Zoe Burnett / Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

As most of you know, being able to keep a plant alive is a crucial part of becoming an adult.

I have never successfully raised a plant. Therefore, I am not an adult.

I had a succulent once — I got it from a White Elephant party — but even that died. I am not a girl, but clearly I am not yet a woman.

JIVE / Via youtube.com

Raising plants would prove that I have focus, determination, selflessness and watering skills — all of which are crucial requirements of adult life.

If I would care for plants and keep them alive for an entire month, I could do anything adult.

Hell, if I could keep plants alive, I could probably change a tire on a car, do my taxes, or use the oven as something other than storage.

Ready to finally prove my worth, I headed to The Sill, a plant shop in New York City's Chinatown, to adopt some plant babies.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

The Sill's marketing manager Erin Marino showed me around and taught me some plant care techniques, like dusting.

I didn't even know dusting was an essential part of plant care. Like us, if plants are left alone, they can get dirty, and that can make them sick. Like us, plants need more than some water and D (the vitamin).Looking around at all the potential plant babies, I was getting antsy. The crash course in plant care was completed, and I was ready to become a woman.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I didn't even know dusting was an essential part of plant care. Like us, if plants are left alone, they can get dirty, and that can make them sick. Like us, plants need more than some water and D (the vitamin).

Looking around at all the potential plant babies, I was getting antsy. The crash course in plant care was completed, and I was ready to become a woman.

Erin introduced me to three different types of plants.

They were all so unique and green and pretty. But when you adopt plants (as opposed to birthing them yourself), you get to pick out the most beautiful plants there. So that's what I did.

Meet my babies: Snakey the Snake Plant, Neo the Neon Pothos, and Dickboy the Cactus.

I was told Snakey and Dickboy would be relatively easy to raise. Both required minimal watering to survive, and both would be tolerant of the indirect light found in most offices, including mine. Snakey the Snake Plant is essentially a succulent from Africa. Because succulents and cacti have the same requirements for humidity, water, and sunlight, Snakey and Dickboy were pretty much like fraternal twins. Neo, on the other hand, would be more difficult. He needed to be watered once a week but could NOT be soaked. Neo was also toxic, so I did not eat Neo, which was hard because Neo looked like salad.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I was told Snakey and Dickboy would be relatively easy to raise. Both required minimal watering to survive, and both would be tolerant of the indirect light found in most offices, including mine. Snakey the Snake Plant is essentially a succulent from Africa. Because succulents and cacti have the same requirements for humidity, water, and sunlight, Snakey and Dickboy were pretty much like fraternal twins.

Neo, on the other hand, would be more difficult. He needed to be watered once a week but could NOT be soaked. Neo was also toxic, so I did not eat Neo, which was hard because Neo looked like salad.

Holding my three plant babies, I felt something was missing.

There were so many plants that needed a home. I looked at all these plants, with their puppy-dog leaves, and I knew it was my duty to adopt a few more. After assuring Erin that I could handle a few more plants, she let me pick out two more.

Please say hi to Xero the Air Plant and Horny the Staghorn Fern.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I probably shouldn't have taken Xero the Air Plant (or Xerographica) home with me. But I just thought she was so cool. She didn't even need soil to survive. An old coworker of mine had a collection of air plants, and I always wanted one. I knew taking care of Xero would be difficult, since she needed lots of misting, but I was up to the challenge. Or at least I thought I was.

The Staghorn Fern and I were destined for each other since the moment we met. When in-house plant expert Chris Satch described the plant, I knew we would get along. Like Horny, I am also "ideal for bathrooms" and "can be wet all the time and be OK."

After I took my new plants back to my office, I said goodnight and left them on the window sill to get some sunlight over the weekend.

Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

What, was I supposed to take them home with me? I had other things to do.

I returned Monday morning to find my babies teetering on the brink of death.

Zoe Burnett / BuzzFeed

Apparently the heater — located on the window sill — had turned on over the weekend, baking my poor plant babies in the process.

Zoe Burnett / BuzzFeed

I couldn't believe it. Three days into plant motherhood and I was killing my babies.

Horny and Neo looked the worst at the time. They had both wilted, and many of their leaves had died. I removed their now-dead limbs, watered them, and left them near a heater-less window.
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

Horny and Neo looked the worst at the time. They had both wilted, and many of their leaves had died. I removed their now-dead limbs, watered them, and left them near a heater-less window.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I bought medicine to help speed their recovery.

Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

I reached out to the plant doctors at The Sill for advice. Erin told me to soak the Staghorn Fern with tepid, low-pressure water, and then move the fern to a spot that receives moderate to low, indirect light. With that advice, I brought Horny back from the brink of death by dehydration.

Chris didn't think the plant food spikes were a bad purchase, but he instead recommended powder/liquid fertilizer, since "the nutrient delivery is immediate."

Within a week and a half, my plant babies started were looking healthier.

With one exception.

Xero had started to look dry and sickly.

I spent so much time caring for Horny and Neo, I had neglected Xero. I had been misting her regularly, but apparently it had not been enough. I followed the plant doctor's instructions and soaked her for thirty minutes. I was taking off a few days to visit my mom in Florida, so I left my plants with their aunt for a few days.
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

I spent so much time caring for Horny and Neo, I had neglected Xero. I had been misting her regularly, but apparently it had not been enough. I followed the plant doctor's instructions and soaked her for thirty minutes.

I was taking off a few days to visit my mom in Florida, so I left my plants with their aunt for a few days.

Auntie Joanna took good care of them and gave them lots of love and kisses.

Joanna Borns / BuzzFeed
Joanna Borns / BuzzFeed
Joanna Borns / BuzzFeed

Still, I couldn't stop worrying about them, especially Xero. I had left her when she was sick. Should I have taken her with me? Was I just a bad plant mother?

That's when I made a startling discovery.

My own mother was a plant murderer.

Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

When I got home, I learned that my mother was in the process of deliberately poisoning and suffocating a poor, helpless plant in her backyard.

I fell to my knees and cursed the gods. Was plant murdering just in my blood? Was I no better than my mother? Was it just that my chosen method of murder was simply neglect?

No.

I could and would end the cycle of plant death; I would keep my plant babies alive.

I returned home and immediately took Xero to the plant E.R. (I emailed the Sill again).

With these photos, plant doctor Chris was able to diagnose my plant with a fungal infection.

This infection couldn't be stopped with some Monistat; this infection was deadly. Xero was dying.

Chris also told me she looked "mega-crispy," which was curious, since the fungus infects the plant when it is wet. Somehow I had over- and under-watered the plant at the same time.

I didn't understand how this could have happened. I tried so hard to be a good plant mother. Apparently, some things were just outside of my control.

"Like all plants, and living-things in general, an extreme change in environment or care will disrupt them. Think of how our skin can break out based on the season, or based on what we eat," plant doctor Erin explained.

That's when I got an idea.

Although I couldn't save Xero's young life, I could make Xero comfortable in her last days of life. I could make her feel like she was home, safe in her natural environment.

For one day, I would let my plants experience simulations of their natural environments.

Snakey is native to Australia, so I put up a kangaroo poster in her room.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

I read that Neon Pathos like fishtanks, so I let Neo pretend he was in one.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Horny dreamed of living on a tree in the North Pacific, so I tried my best to help her imagine it.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Dickboy got to transport himself to Las Vegas.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Finally, I let Xero feel what every air plant craves: the wind beneath its leaves.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

The next Monday, on day 33 of my motherhood, Xero passed away.

Technically I had made it to 30 days without killing a plant, but with Xero gone, I knew it was a false victory. Xero was too sweet, too young for this world, and I trust that somewhere up there in plant Heaven, Xero is blowing in the wind and floating in the air.I learned a lot from plant motherhood. Some plants are easier to care for than others, but if you're like me, you'll love them all equally. That said, it's probably a bad idea to adopt five plants at once. If I could do it again, I would have only taken home the twins, Dickboy and Snakey. I was ready for a cactus and a snake plant. I wasn't ready for an air plant. Currently I have an 80% success rate as a mother. I hope to improve that in the near future. Once I reach 95%, then I'm allowed to have a human baby. That's the rule, right?
Sarah Burton / BuzzFeed

Technically I had made it to 30 days without killing a plant, but with Xero gone, I knew it was a false victory. Xero was too sweet, too young for this world, and I trust that somewhere up there in plant Heaven, Xero is blowing in the wind and floating in the air.

I learned a lot from plant motherhood. Some plants are easier to care for than others, but if you're like me, you'll love them all equally. That said, it's probably a bad idea to adopt five plants at once. If I could do it again, I would have only taken home the twins, Dickboy and Snakey. I was ready for a cactus and a snake plant. I wasn't ready for an air plant.

Currently I have an 80% success rate as a mother. I hope to improve that in the near future. Once I reach 95%, then I'm allowed to have a human baby. That's the rule, right?

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