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The sad houseplants of Colorado

by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO — There aren’t many sadder sights than the houseplant collection of a southern Colorado household. Oh sure, we’ve all TRIED to grow houseplants. But we end up with shriveled, crispy mutants that look like they were fried by an electromagnetic pulse originating on Jupiter. Not only is growing houseplants here not easy, it’s harder than resisting a buy-one-get-one-free sale on peanut-butter cups.

I, for one, cannot resist some of the beautiful plants you can buy. Ferns, palms, ivy, jade, croton (not to be confused with cretin, which is what you feel like when you can’t get one to survive), and the amazing don’t-have-a-prayer plants. The sign above the garden center display might say, “Easy to Grow,” but that is a bold-faced lie. Whoever wrote that sign never lived in our plant-forsaken area. It’s probably the same guy who made up the term, “One Size Fits All.”

As hard as it is to get plants to grow outdoors here, you’d think it would be easier to do indoors, especially since you can control the light, water and fertilizer AND there aren’t usually deer in your house to eat them. It should be a breeze, right? But we have dry air, dust, starving adobe bugs that will suck the juice out of anything green, dry air, static, and dry air. Houseplants hate dry air.

Some of us are forever optimistic that THIS TIME, the plant will live. We traipse home full of hope with yet another lush, green, robust victim to add to our collection. As we enter the house, we can almost hear the plant gagging and wailing, “Noooooo!!!!!! Take me back to the store!!!! Have you no MERCY??!!!”

For a few days you may look the plant over and think with amazement, “HEY! It’s still alive!!” But as the days fade to weeks, you notice a leaf here and there turning brown. Time passes, and pretty soon there’s only one leaf left, and it’s not looking good. It may be holding a tiny sign that says, “I TOLD you so.” You apologize to your plant and send it to its final resting place, the landfill, where in all likelihood, it will sprout from the roots and grow just fine – proof that our homes are less hospitable to houseplants than a garbage dump.

I mean, sure, it smells bad, but there’s humidity at the dump. So I suppose the solution for those of us who just can’t grow houseplants is to surround them with garbage. Ok, I don’t much like that idea either, and our dogs would have a field day with that. The other solution? Raise a cactus.

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