The guidance to talk to indoor plants shows mixed results
You may recall that back in the ’70s it was considered good horticulture to talk to indoor plants. Even so, I always suspected that most plants couldn’t care less if humans talked to them, just as long as they got watered and carefully pruned before big dates, such as when they were centerpieces at weddings or other fancy soirees.
Considering that plants had been around for billions of years, I was pretty sure they regarded us humans as Johnny-come-lately’s, and they were just listening politely and biding their time until we became extinct. And even though vegetables had always been willing to sacrifice themselves for our nourishment, plants like tobacco took the initiative to speed up our demise. Cannabis, on the other hand, didn’t care one way or the other and was always pretty cool about the whole human thing. But poison ivy was just plain mean.
Outdoor plants have never really had anyone talk to them, except for yard-care workers who often used profanity (even around impressionable young seedlings). And even though there was an old guy in my neighborhood who used to talk to trees and shrubs on a regular basis, he also talked to fire hydrants, mailboxes, and things that weren’t even there. As a result, most of the plants never took him seriously. I also noticed that entire forests had managed to prosper over the eons without stimulating conversations with humans.
Paternal attempts at plant conversations
But just to be on the safe side, I used to talk to indoor plants, and I would even compliment them on the way they effortlessly performed photosynthesis. But it never seemed to have a positive effect, and the only plant life I ever managed to sustain with any degree of success was some fuzzy blue stuff in my refrigerator that gave birth to a crop of yellow stuff that was eventually overrun by some orange-and-black stuff that had been lurking behind what I could only guess were the fossilized remains of a meatloaf sandwich. In fact, I was so bad with plants that my Chia Pet ran away and didn’t leave a forwarding address. And if herbicide was a capital crime, I’d be serving multiple life sentences.
Then, late one night, while I was burying some of my deceased succulents in the crawl space, I discovered why all my leafy roommates ended up croaking. Yes, there it was – in bold capital letters – right on the bottom of the pot of my feckless Ficus: “PRODUCT OF MEXICO.” To my surprise, my herbaceous roommates were first-generation immigrants, and with the exception of the cannabis, most of them had come here legally on student visas. Yup, all that time I had been talking to my plants in English, and the poor things had no idea what I was saying!
There was only one thing to do, and I set about learning Spanish. But this was in the pre-Rosetta-Stone era, and I had to do it the old-fashioned way … by listening to Cheech & Chong albums. In the end, my vegetation appreciated the gesture, and they eventually rewarded my efforts with various offshoots, rhizomes, and even some cute little buds. Unfortunately, I never did learn Yiddish, and my wandering Jew wandered off into the desert, and I haven’t heard from it in 40 years.
Alas, all of those plants are long gone – with the exception of the cannabis, which is still living in my basement and doesn’t seem to have much motivation to get a place of its own.
Mike Spriegel is a retired human resources manager and former Richmond resident who is trying his hand as a writer, inventor, and businessman. He currently resides in Fairlawn, Virginia.
Read more childhood memories from Mike Spriegel and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.