Benjamin the jungle cat, and questionable plant advice

As I try to write this week’s post, I struggle to reach the keyboard from around the girth of my cat, Benjamin, who frequently assumes that when I sit down, it is because I want to be cuddling him. He’s not really the type to take no for an answer, either, so instead of removing him from my lap fifteen times before he takes the hint, I’ll just awkwardly reach around him.

I had been wondering what to write about anyway, so I’ll take his presence as a suggestion that perhaps you’d like to hear about our adventures in plant care today. I had grand expectations going into it— I was going to take all of the knowledge I had compiled from my hours of reading, watching and listening to the experts and expert hobbiests who produce the most wonderful articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts, and put them into practice. And Benjamin, well, he helped. In his own way.

For my first trick…

I’ve been pretty good about not over watering my plants. I like to let them get mostly dry (depending on the genus) and then give them a good watering. Well, I had heard somewhere, I think it was a podcast (probably On the Ledge, or Bloom & Grow Radio) that if you give them a ton of water it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to get a chance to soak it up. For instance, you go to water a plant and the water whooshes down through the pot and straight out the drainage holes. I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me before that this was a bad thing, but I was so afraid of over watering that I just quit when I saw the water leak from the drainage holes and wondering why I had dry pots so often if I was supposedly “soaking” them.

So, we gathered up all my thirsty friends and headed for the shower. The advice I had heard was to really give them a good going over with water, and let it run out the drainage holes for a while— also let them sit in the water for a few minutes before moving them back to their regular homes.

Three hanging pots, two 12” pots, and an armful of 4” later, we had a crowded shower. I turned the wand on to a not too warm, not too cold temperature and went to town.

Cue Benjamin, the thirstiest feline I’ve ever met. He has three water dishes scattered around the house, but whenever you do anything involving water he is right there. (Because its for him, obviously). He crawls right into the middle of things (careful not to get sprayed himself, because he is thirsty, not dirty…duh) and starts lapping up water.

I’m trying to keep him out of the way with my foot, balancing on the other while hosing down philodendrons, an umbrella plant, and a cebu blue pothos.

Other than the leaf litter I had to shovel out of the shower floor (the umbrella plant has been pretty upset with me and dropping leaves all over the place), I was pretty happy with the results. My Cebu Blue has perked right up, although he’s rarely hard to please, and both my Heart-shaped Philodendrons seemed to really enjoy the dousing. My Philodendron Selloum, who had some questionable yellow leaves, will hopefully respond well, and the Umbrella Plant… well… he left a lot of leaves behind, but hopefully this will encourage better behaviour. Worst case scenario, he dies, and his moody ass is no longer my problem.

Next plant care method I wanted to try was cleaning the leaves of the rubber plants. Now, I have had a variegated rubber plant since the end(ish) of August. I just purchased one of the dark green ones last week. It’s quite a bit larger and better established than the little variegated one I got in the summer, and I bought it because I’m afraid I’m going to lose the other. Now, don’t panic, it’s not dying per say, but it isn’t exactly thriving either. Anyway, that’s another blog post.

The technique I had seen was in a facebook group of houseplant enthusiasts. Someone recommended rubbing down the leaves with milk. The new rubber plant had an awful lot of water marks from where the nursery had hosed the plants down, and it was rather unsightly on its dark leaves.

So off I went and got a bowl of milk and a paper towel.

I found the concept and process bizarre, but I’m a sheep and blindly follow the herd, so I didn’t bother to do any research to find out why I was wiping milk on the leaves of a plant… I just went ahead and did it. It was moderately successful? I guess? The marks are less, but not gone, and it did add a bit of shine… but no more than I think I would have achieved with a bit of water.

So, as I’m examining the not large improvement of the leaf I had just shined… over waltzes Benjamin, who has recognized the bowl of milk on the floor as his own personal saucer of cream.

Now a) cats are lactose intolerant when no longer infants and b) I had just been wiping down a toxic plant with that milk, so it was 100% off limits. Cue 15 minutes of me shuffling a bowl of milk away from a curious and greedy cat, trying to wipe down a leaf, and pushing said cat away from said toxic plant because he didn’t understand why it was getting pets and he wasn’t. We won’t be using milk again.

My Alocasia “Low Rider” suffered a fallen stem today due to a curious cat following my watering can around. He usually gets his bowl filled with whatever I have left in the can, so he gets excited whenever it comes out, and will follow me around as I water the plants, nose up in everyone’s business, wondering when it will be his turn to be “watered”. Well today I was watering near a pair of handmade wooden candle stands and Ben’s tail gave a flick and sent the precarious stand toppling down, taking out an Alocasia stem with it. I cursed, I shouted, I threatened to open the front door and let him out to fend for his fat self in the wild.

He looked at me, said “meow” and sauntered away.

It is these and other misguided attempts at plant and cat keeping that keeps things interesting around here. I will try more “old wives tale” methods of keeping houseplants, and I will of course share the successes and failures with you. I will also be sure to share the mischief the cat gets into.

But don’t get me wrong, Benjamin is an exceptional indoor jungle cat. He leaves the leaves (haha) alone and never tries to eat anything. He enjoys basking in sunbeams just as much as they do, and is pretty quiet.

In fact, he’s pretty much a plant himself.

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