Tuesday we were in an office where a dusty cutting of a straggly plant sat in a vase on a windowsill. Fortunately, the shade was down, so sunlight did not show just how dusty the vase was, how little water was in the vase or how brown the edges of the leaves were.
I have been guilty of this pathetic-cutting-in-the-window syndrome. My mother loved having a philodendron cutting in a pewter vase on the table by her chair. After she died, I brought the philodendron home. I kept water in the vase. The philodendron continued for more than a year. I wouldn’t say that it thrived; it wasn’t thriving when I brought it here.
The roots in the vase were prolific, but no new leaves sprouted. The tendrils grew longer and longer. Philodendron leaves dropped off, and those remaining became dustier and dustier. I finally took the sad cutting to the compost pile for a proper burial.
Eventually, I did the same for an impatiens cutting that had broken off a plant outside. I had successfully rooted it in water in the kitchen window. It grew in a clear beaker for months. It bloomed and sprouted a few leaves. Then the leaves turned yellow, and the roots became a tangled mess in the beaker. It didn’t bloom again. I kept it in this sad state in the window for another month before taking it to the compost pile.
For people interested in plants, rooting something in water or growing a cutting is fun. The begonia piece I stuck in the ground earlier this summer is still blooming, but my expert gardening friends have finally taught me to be “ruthless.”
When cuttings and plants look pathetic, it’s time to recycle them in the compost bin. Knowing when to let go seems to be an acquired skill.