The Island of Misfit Plants

By Nancy Black

I kill succulents. Yes, the plants dubbed as “perfect for the North Texas climate” don’t last a week in my house or yard. I’ve tried everything: letting them dry out completely, letting them soak up water from the bottom, watering from the top, direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, inside, outside. It’s no use. They all die sooner rather than later.

I actually started a succulent graveyard in a corner of my own backyard. And, lo and behold, a brand-new species of plant is growing from the remains of a dearly departed plant I called Bob. Bob died a slow, painful-to-watch death as I struggled for weeks to keep him alive. He was so hearty and strong when I bought him. Not so at the end. His tentacle-like leaves withered down to brittle little sticks of death.

Now, though, he’s sprouting new life in the form a tubular-shaped plant, which is growing straight up from Bob’s grave. I’ve since surrounded his resting place with four other dearly departed succulents. They, too, seem to be breathing new life into their crinkled crusts. Go figure.

I was sharing my woes of not having a green thumb with one of my neighbors. So she shared a little secret of hers. On Monday mornings, she goes to Lowe’s or Home Depot or one of those other huge big box conglomerates. That’s when the stores have huge racks full of discounted plants hidden in the back of the gardening area.

Some have broken branches, others have dried out to the point of not being “pretty” enough to sell. But they all have one thing in common — their discounted price. I bought a pretty large bougainvillea plant recently for $6. And I always find lots of small plants for as little as 50 cents each.

I figure, if my plants are going to die anyway, I might as well not spend the big bucks for them. Plus, it actually makes me very happy when, occasionally, one of my misfit plants actually takes off and starts to thrive. It gives me great pleasure to cheer it on. I feel like I’ve finally done something right. Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys would be proud.

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