Finding the balance between smothering and neglect

It’s the second week of November, and it seems like none of my plants have realized its winter. As it is my first winter as a plant parent, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in respect to dormancy, but everything I’ve read told me to prepare for a major slow down in growth.

Obviously, my plants did not read the same books I did. My prayer plants and calathea didn’t get the memo- I’m finding new leaves popping up daily. I finally got the first new leaf off of my variegated rubber plant since I bought it in August just a couple weeks ago, and my monstera gave me a brand new shiny green split leaf while I was in the UK.

Prayer plant giving me at least two new leaves

The most surprising was my fiddle leaf fig— I have been feeling quite insecure about my fiddle leaf fig’s well being. Until recently it had only given off one new leaf, and that leaf never really grew into the size of the ones that had come before it. But, when I was away it gave me not one, but two leaves! The most recent of which looks the healthiest of any of the leaves developed while under my care. While I would like to take pride in this, I can’t help but feel a little offended that it was not until after I had left the country that he decided to smarten up. I will be interested to see how the next leaf fairs, now that I’m back home and smothering it. This must be close to what it feels like to raise a teenager.

New leaves of Ficus Lyrata

I’m trying the best I can to take a step back from over-loving my plants, as it seems they do well when left to their own devices— better, perhaps, than when I’m poking and prodding. This has been a challenge for me, as I enjoy the task of giving my little plant babes the once-over every now and again, and especially since when I returned from the UK I found mealy bugs on a number of plants in my southeast window.

I’m sure there are a few of you out there who can relate— every time the sun hits a leaf in just the right way you run over and check that the highlighted portion of leaf is in fact just a shiny part of the leaf and not another mealy. I would say its bordering on over reacting, except that I know I’ve crossed that border and have planted my flag in the Republic of Paranoia.

And to think, I spent the majority of my vacation reading fellow plant-parent posts on instagram and Facebook about their pest problems, feeling oh-so-smug about the fact that I had yet to encounter any of these issues. “It’ll happen,” they said. “Not to me, apparently,” I snottily replied. Oh did I ever get what was coming to me.

I had two casualties. Luckily, they were both Golden Pothos, and therefore easily replaced. The other affected plants were just ones that were living beneath where the pothos had been hanging. The only other mealies I found looked like they had probably dropped onto their leaves when I had moved one of the pothos. I would like to think I might have been able to save the Pothos if I had really put some effort into it, but mealy bugs are GROSS. Like they look gross in photos, but they are REALLY GROSS in person. I wussed out. I ran up the white flag. I still haven’t brought the pots or macrame hangers inside— they’re sitting out on my potting bench. I hope any remaining mealies are dying a cold, frigid, mid-November-in Southern-Ontario death.

EW.

But, every cloud has its silver lining, and when I was at my local nursery picking up neem oil for treating my surviving mealy victims, I found one of my wish list plants: a philodendron Micans! It’s in a beautiful trailing hanging pot, which nicely fills the hole in my south-east window where my pothos betrayed me. Don’t worry, I THOROUGHLY cleaned the area before placing my new baby there, and I have my eyes peeled for even the slightest sign of pests so if anything happens, I will hopefully catch it early.

My new philodendron micans

So I find myself with a challenge ahead of me— on one hand, I have seen what giving these little guys some space can do— turns out they mature a little better when left to figure it out for themselves, but, again, just like the moody teenagers they are, they might need mom to come bail them out when things get a bit sticky.

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