Going Dormant

Monday, November 28, 2011
On my last day of my seasonal job last month, Andy and his mother bought me a potted mum. It was lovely: full and bushy, completely covered with mauve blossoms.  I take it out of the cramped, plastic pot the greenhouse had it in, repotted it in a terracotta planter and set it on a living room cabinet. It continued to look lovely for a good month and then it started to lose its blossoms. No big deal, I thought as I deadheaded it, to everything turn, turn.

But as the weeks go gone by, the mum's appearance continues to deteriorate. At the very time when both my Christmas cactus and African violet are loaded to barracuda with buds and blossoms, the mum just looks like it wants to kill itself. Every time I pass by, I can always hear it whisper: "Take me now sweet Jesus . . . and get it over with." 

Actually, I'm sure the mum would love to have a long, fulfilling life. Truth be told, I'm the hitch in the mum's giddy-up. Apparently, I should have been watering this sucker every day if I wanted to keep it green and lush all winter.As the mum's declined, I've queried Google with increasingly frantic searches that are some variant of  "how to keep potted mum alive indoors over the winter." The search results have been less than edifying (would someone please just devote their life to creating a helpful database on houseplant care already?) but I think I have a couple things figure out about my mum.

Turns out, I have two choices on what to do with it. (Well, three if you count my current path of plant homicide . . . Planticide? Pesticide?)

I can:
1) Begin watering the mum daily and move it to a place where it might have a better chance of getting 12 hours of daily light.  Considering that I have not seen the sun in, oh, 10 days, that's kind of a laugh.


2)  Put it in the dark, heated (but not too hot) room under the cabin, water it occasionally and let it go dormant for the winter months.

I'm leaning towards option number two, for obvious reasons - aforementioned lake of sunlight, the fact that the rest of my houseplants demand only a weekly watering (and they're lucky if they get that). And truth be told, I'm kind of jealous. Jealous of my houseplant.

Because if the mum chooses dormancy, why can't I?!

We're in the final slog of longest, darkest days until the Winter Solstice is upon us and it is dark my friends. So very dark. How dark?

Andy went into the bedroom last night at 6:30 to "stretch out" and promptly fell asleep. In these deep grey days, I slog through my workload in a half-conscious daze. As an example of how desperate things are around here, I just got down on my hands and knees to feel around on the floor, which I have not vacuumed in months, for a single milk chocolate chip I had dropped . . . so I could eat it. Seriously, put me to bed with a warm cup of cocoa and wake me up when the lake is frozen over and the sun is shining (aka, January) when I can actually do something!

Oh, these are dark days, dark days indeed. But sadly, only the mum gets to go dormant. 


  1. hibernation sounds pretty good right about now! at least for the month of december.

    i'm the Elizabeth Báthory of houseplants, by the way. i will be in awe if you get the mum to come back to life.

  2. This has to be the only plant that you've ever had die right? Well, I guess it's not actually dead...yet...but if anyone can keep it alive, my money is on you!

  3. haha, oh the dark winter nights sometimes I feel like just going to bed after work and sleeping until morning. Or spring. whichever...

  4. This made me laugh, Ada--especially the chocolate chip! I sympathize with trying to keep plants alive that want more than twice-monthly attention. I excelled with the christmas cactus and ficus, and always felt like it was some personal vendetta of those high-needs plants to just dry up (or, when I tried to water them often, rot) on me.

  5. It kind of is a very Shakespearean quandary you've got there---- a sort of to be/or not to be puzzle. I don't envy you that. I do however, envy your green thumb. Because while you lament possibly killing one plant among many, I kill all plants.

  6. It's weird how it starts getting lighter as it gets colder. Before last winter, I always had an unspoken image of winter's days progressing congruently in light and temperature. But I was wrong. Oh so very wrong!

    I vote dormancy, too.


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