Dear, departed Ivan and Tahmatassu

Ivan, Pilea peperomioides. February 2021 – July 26, 2021

It’s with a heavy heart I acknowledge the death of Ivan, a once-hopeful pilea peperomioides.

Ivan was born from one of two juvenile pileas I acquired in summer 2016 from a vendor in Toronto. Oh, 2016. It was a sunny day, and I’d gone into a corner store to purchase a drink. At the side exit, lo! there was a covered plant market. I bought from there my first two pileas, in very small pots. They were so cute.

These original plants grew up under my inexpert care, sometimes being turned to the light, sometimes not. Sometimes surviving long periods of drought and neglect. They grew into twisted, beautiful, Dr-Seussian specimens of whimsy.

I gave them away during a purge around April 2021, but kept their many babies (honestly, Ivan probably started developing some time in 2020, well before I cut him off him mother plant around February or March, but I’m not exactly sure). Several of these babies I again gave away, but I kept two of the smallest for myself–eventually to be named Ivan and Sigmund. Ivan was the larger; Sigmund just a little runt of a plant.

Due to the limited space for lighting and the number of plants I had, Ivan and Sigmund did not receive enough light and were looking ill. I wondered if they would like to come outside in the afternoon for some sun and would therefore improve, but being unsure, I just took one plant. Unfortunately, the sun was strong and although I did not think I had left it outside too long, I did indeed. Ivan got sunburnt. Just a little. I thought he would survive. But over the next two weeks, leaves kept dropping, and I didn’t give it the right amount of light/water to let it come back. His roots rotted away and he died.

Goodbye, Ivan. Thank you and your ancestors for teaching me many things about plant care. Light, water, propagation, stress, sunburn, and nuances about all these things. I truly did like you.

Tahmatassu, unknown succulent. June 16, 2021 – August 23, 2021

I bought the cute little Tahmatassu from a porch sale of one of my local plant shops on June 16, 2021. He wasn’t doing well and cost me a dollar. He failed in his original pot and developed root rot; so I cut off the clean areas and repotted him into a smaller pot. He rooted and his little leaflet survived too.

He had space to share, and seemed to like the same care as my string of dolphins, so when I needed to move the string of dolphins to a smaller pot too, I combined them. They seemed happy together–Tahmatassu even put out some new growth! Two days ago, they were looking well. Today, I checked and Tahmatassu was toast. Twisted, shrivelled, wilted. I don’t know what happened. The string of dolphins, at least, is still holding in there. So, I pinched off Tahmatassu and pulled out what I could and threw him into the trash.

What did you teach me, oh Tahmatassu? Look for healthy plants. And don’t buy unhealthy plants if you can’t find out what they are and what care they need. But also: you taught me more about propagating succulents by sticking them into dry soil and leaving them alone–and it works! Until, that is, I kill them later.

Adieu, cute little friend.

Cryin’ ‘bout my Baby’s Tears

You’re “supposed” to be easy. Why’re you causin’ such trouble! (Don’t shake the plant.)

Fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked little fella

Just kidding. I love you. But you are trouble!

  • Binomial name: Soleirolia soleirolii
  • Given name: Ympäri Pyöreä
  • Native to: Western Mediterranean
  • Bought: April 7, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot: 4 inch plastic nursery pot
  • Repotted: June 17, terracotta 4 inch
  • Current pot: outside, on the edge of a potted lavender plant also in plant rehab
  • Signs of pests: one slug
  • Soil: aaargh. Soggy on bottom, dry on top
  • Longest strand: who knows, getting shorter
  • Number of strands: fewer, at any rate. Perimeter of growth is constricting.
  • Anti-new growth: just slow death.
  • Signs of pests: millipede in bottom of container. Are the little dots millipede eggs or fecal pellets or both?
Millipede at bottom of original pot plus little dots that are fecal pellets and/or eggs
  • Signs of care issues: drying out; humidity is too low. Had given Marphyl fertilizer by top-watering; seems to have disliked this (I tried to avoid the leaves, but it did touch some).
  • Repotted to terracotta 4 inch pot.
Less lush 😦
Will this work? Maybe it will reduce sogginess while allowing me to add more water to the top regularly!

Still wasn’t happy. Will a cloche work to keep it humid?

Steamy little cloche by June 17.

Didn’t seem entirely healthy — too much condensation inside and a funky smell. Should research how to use cloches before I try them next time.

Still dying back. How about more humidity via a humidifier!?

He’s just not happy, no. Nor is his buddy, Ferris. Ympäri Pyöreä is dying back, maybe less quickly than before? But: I decided enough of this and took him outside in the evening. Do or die outside, little plant.

Le sigh.

I decided to finish this post and, in my research, came to feel love and hope again. Went outside and realized I’d placed him in an area of direct sun. Pulled him out of the death-sentence in sunlight and placed him in a container with a similarly rehabbing, likely-to-die lavender plant. Maybe they’ll keep each other company and either survive or fade out together?

See him hanging out at the bottom right?

Well, we’ll see. As my aunt said to me the other day (not about this guy, but in relation to her plants), “There’s a gardener’s motto: ‘It may come back.’”

No luck. It crisped up entirely and is now, officially, a goner.

Atmosphere

  • Light: medium; part shade to shade
  • Humidity: high
  • Temperature: 10 to 27 degrees Celsius

Water

  • Preference: evenly moist but never soggy

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: any potting mix, African violet mix is good; well-draining, fertile soil
  • Fertilization: slow-release feed in spring; every two weeks indoors with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted by half
  • Repotting: when they overgrow and crowd out existing pot, go up one inch size; great in terrariums. Note that roots are shallow. Set separated plants on top of potting medium and water.

Lifestyle

  • Grow style: fast
  • Common problems: overwatering, underwatering, too much or too little light; whiteflies, scale, aphids
  • Propagation: by division

Research sources: Guide to HouseplantsMy Garden Lifepick Ontario

Farewell, Ferris

Well, I suppose you aren’t faring well and aren’t likely to, and that’s the issue, eh.

You started out feisty and fuzzy, bouncy and pert, and oh-so-cute on June 15.

But you needed more humidity, lost some of your bounce, and I didn’t have a humidifier.

On June 21, I stuck you in a cloche.

So far so good!

Then I gave you some air on June 25 cause you smelled a little earthy (which is probably OK) and you wilted almost immediately.

Look at all those dull wilty bits.

And I thought, OK, you really need that cloche! And you seemed dry, so I gave you some water too.

Science experiment

But lo, by July 2, you developed a lot of — mold? A fungus?

So, with your friend Ympäri Pyöreä, I decided on June 3 evening that we were done.

Pretty gross now in there.

I took you outside and opened the cloche and a cloud gently drifted out from your slimy, damp, wilted strands. Your soil was soggy. You were too gross for the empty green bin, so I collected some dried weeds to line the bin, then dumped you in.

Such is your resting place, Ferris. Go forth, break down, and become part of something more.

Thank you for teaching me the beginnings of the importance of managing humidity in my plant environment, and giving me the lesson with alacrity. It will be some time before I try fern and moss-style plants again! And with more research in advance.