Documents: Doktor Doom:

A Case of Plant Abuse
by Eleanor Tylbor
by Eleanor Tylbor


Eleanor Tylbor has been a freelance writer and columnist for more than twenty years. A resident of Laval, Quebec, Canada, she began her career as a columnist writing for weekly papers and continues to freelance a column covering local news for “The Chomedy News.”

She has also freelanced articles for Internet sites in addition to providing human-interest pieces for various dailies, and is a monthly contributor to the site, sharing her humorous observations and gardening-angst with gardening aficionados.

She is now into balcony gardening.

Blog The (Somewhat) Complete Gardener

September 19, 2010

Some of us treasure our houseplants with tender loving care heaping words of praise upon it, while others show their affection by playing some soothing classical pieces, or Broadway show tunes for a change of pace. Then there are others who…how shall we say…act less than civilized-bordering-on-abusive…towards their plants. Frequently, these types start out with good intentions but somewhere along the way end up in an abusive relationship of the leafy kind.

There exists in this world a certain sector of the population that have "PA" tendencies. You won't find the disorder mentioned in medical textbooks but houseplant raisers recognize the tale-tell signs that give them away. They may look your every day average people but "PA'ers" or Plant Abusers have learned to blend in well within the general population. A profile of these personality types reveals that many of them never really wanted the responsibility of raising a houseplant in the first place, while others kill them through various means ranging from over-kindness to downright neglect. Either way the end result is the same.

Take Gerald for example, a high-powered executive with a spacious office on the top floor of a major office tower. When he received a promotion his co-workers got together and sent him a Yucca plant, to add some color to his very well furnished but austere office. They chose this specie due to the ample availability of light and presumed Gerald would treat it as a welcome addition to his workplace. It wasn't long, however, before the employees noticed signs that something was amiss when the tips of the leaves turned brown and shriveled up. After numerous hints dropped by those in the know that the plant was ailing and failing, Gerald cracked under pressure, admitting that he didn't really like plants and had watered it maybe once in three months. He also acknowledged sending messages mentally to the Yucca to "feel free to die." Shocked at his admission and callous indifference, the plant was removed and placed in the protective custody of a temporary foster plant sitter. No longer burdened with the responsibility, Gerald has seen the error of his ways and has vowed to use only plastic greenery.

Then there are those who don't mean to mistreat their plants but due to well meaning but erroneous action, end up as abusers. Plant lover, Felicia, adored African Violets and did what she believed to be all the right things to make her plants happy. She always placed them on her kitchen counter near the window, knowing they would receive the perfect amount of diffused light. The violets thrived during spring and summer but when the temperature dropped outside, so did the plant leaves. Perplexed and obviously upset, an assessment of her situation and subsequent examination of the leaves told the story, with the admission that she opened her kitchen window while cooking, thus exposing the plants to a sudden blast of cold air. "I didn't realize what I was doing," she divulged tearfully in a conversation over coffee. "It didn't occur to me that violets are that sensitive to cool air." Uh…duh. Although this could be classified as borderline abuse, she has since moved them to another area of the house, where they are now in a perpetual state of bloom. A happy ending to what could have been a tragedy.

Pets – especially cats – can be classified as PA's, although it's difficult to prove, but sometimes the proof is literally in the soil. After inheriting a large and thriving Hibiscus from a family relative, Chadwick noticed leaves were falling faster than they were being replaced. In spite of ideal growing conditions and ample "TLC", he was perplexed as to its sudden downturn. Examining the earth he was shocked to find cat excrement buried in the earth, and realized that his cat, Snuffy, was using the plant as an extended litter box. After trying a number of recommended deterrents Snuffy would not be dissuaded, and the cat is now in pet therapy in the hope that he (the cat) can be re-trained to ignore houseplants.

In the end this disorder is difficult to prove because officially it doesn't exist, and even if it did, what type of sentence would the guilty party receive? A slap on the wrist with a leaf? It all comes down to the fact that a plant replacement is cheaper than lawyers, anyway.

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