I can’t handle this kind of pressure.

My friend Maile gave me one of those mini build-your-own-bonsai-tree kits for my birthday and it actually sprouted and is still alive, but when I was bragging about Leafer Sutherland and how proud I was of growing my son, the tree, someone was like, “Actually, looks like you’ve grown six of them and you need to transplant each of them into their own pot because otherwise they’ll strangle each other.”


So now I accidentally have 6 children who are going to murder each other? Now I’m responsible for a half dozen violent indoor trees when I can’t manage to keep a single plant alive other than a forgotten potato that rolled into a corner of the pantry that I didn’t notice until months later when it was growing into a tree itself?

This is too much pressure. I didn’t even have a pot for the first tree so I just used a soup bowl and I don’t have 6 soup bowls. Am I a bad parent if I just let them battle it out and possibly kill each other? Or make them fight to the death and the last one standing is the final boss that is probably immortal and is the only thing I should be trusted with? And then I only have to raise one psychotic serial killer and don’t have to buy anymore soup bowls and I’m not sure if this sounds like good parenting or terrible parenting.

In my defense, I did throw the potato tree out into the backyard to give it a chance to thrive and it died almost immediately, so technically it seems like neglect is the best way to raise trees in my limited experience.

Wait. Victor just pointed out that potatoes aren’t trees and I guess I knew that since I’ve never heard of potato-picking season but I think this really just proves I’m bad at all living things and I need someone to come take my murderous children away while they’re still thriving in their soup bowl. And that is a sentence I never thought I’d write.

67 thoughts on “I can’t handle this kind of pressure.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Hah, I have a bonsai kit I picked up at a rummage sale. I’ve had it for 5 years and like the previous owner, I haven’t opened it. The light in my apartment is not plant friendly. But one of these days…

  2. LOL My hairdresser forced me to take on a small Christmas cactus plant a client gifted her for Christmas because she couldn’t stand the pressure of trying to keep it alive, so I understand if you have a “black thumb.” Every time I get my hair cut I take her a picture of the plant so she can honestly tell her other client “that plant you gave me is thriving!”

  3. You know those painted rocks people are leaving everywhere to spread kindness and cheer in random corners of public spaces? Do that with the extra plants… I live in the land of perpetual winter, so I make sure they are comfy and warm wherever I leave them. Last time I checked, the one I left in the historical room of the local library is living its best life under a portrait of our town founder.

  4. My daughter gave me a Money Tree for my birthday. Apparently, you have to keep braiding the stalks to maintain the aesthetic. No money will ever come to me so I replanted it in a larger pot. I grow dandelions and I rule!

  5. When we lived in Japan we went to a village that specialized in growing bonsais for sale. They had bonsai “forests”, multiple trees in one pot. You have a forest!

  6. The sooner you carefully separate the trees the better. The longer you wait, their roots grow and tangle with each other. You can temporarily put them in disposable plastic cups. Or … you can be ruthless and weed out the weaker looking ones. But what kind of mother would that make you?!

  7. Someone gave me a bonsai potato kit where you place a potato on some pebbles and it does it’s own thing. That’s about my patience level for bonsai.

  8. I have taken the “let the plants battle it out” approach and it works more often than not. I usually end up with two of whatever I planted. I have a small mulberry tree in my bedroom that was the two trees left from such a Darwinian weeding out, but they were growing so close together that they twisted around each other and fused at the base. It looks as if I did it on purpose. It might be time for a real pot and some more dirt though.

    Good luck! You should be proud of how long you’ve kept them growing.

  9. I also have a black thumb but I also want one of these. I had a tree that thrived for 20 years b/c I kept forgetting to water it. My dumb ass tried to “get my life together” a few months ago and put in action a regular watering schedule and so now it’s dead. Sorry Arnold Palm-er.

  10. I, too, love plants but am a bad plant parent. Even so, I have a jade plant and an aloe that I once bought from Home Depot’s “50% off because they’re half dead” shelf, and those suckers LOVE my front patio to the point that I don’t think I could kill them if I tried. Each started in those tiny containers and were no bigger than my palm. The jade has been through every abandoned pot in my garage, and is now 3 feet tall and almost as wide, and it flowers every winter and just keeps going. I even have two baby plants from it that are also on their way to ridiculous sizes. The aloe had so many babies I put it in the widest pot I could find and said “ok, you’re on your own,” after which it practically committed suicide when it couldn’t expand anymore. The snails and ants attacked it, too. (I hit it with the hose and put a circle of salt around it to help. The dumb snails slimed their way across and died anyway. My front patio is a rough neighborhood.) Finally, I stuck the last four remaining bits of aloe that had green on them in new soil and tossed the rest of the dead stuff and now it’s at it again, expanding and growing like a weed. What I’m saying is there is hope for your thumb. You just have to find the kind of plants that will put up with your brand of neglect. LOL Hang in there! Your trees will sort it out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  11. I think every town needs a Pant Nanny that you can send your sick houseplants to and pick them up a couple of months later when they are healthy again. Repeat as necessary, of course.

  12. I say you just trim a couple back at the base so as not to disrupt all the roots. Wait a week and see who is still strong, cut back more. Wait again. Eventually you should theoretically have just the strongest plant on its own without doing any transplanting.

  13. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever had, so I’m staying out of the discussion.
    P.s. I think Kristin meant to say “Plant Nanny”, but ” Pant Nanny” sounds much more interesting.

  14. Way too much pressure. What are you, plant god? Is it plant Sophie’s Choice?!? Maybe they’re all arms (branches, arms, 6 of one, right?) of the same plant, and you just can’t tell because the one stem is introverted and under the soil. Not a thing that happens you say plantknowers? Then go over and help Leafer and his as-yet-unnamed sibs out instead of judging all us blackthumbers. Jeez.

  15. Growing conifers from seed is really hard. They’re likely to just randomly die from a bacterial or fungal infection one day, as they have for me every time I’ve tried it. I never understood bonsai kits from seed for beginners. You’re better off finding a bonsai nursery locally where you can pick up one that’s already been started for you, and try to keep that alive.

    And I wouldn’t recommend trying to transplant that many seedlings out of that little pot, you’re just as likely to damage their delicate little baby roots and kill all of them. As heartless as it sounds, you’re supposed to cut the weaker ones off at the base so the stronger one can survive and grow to fill the space without competing with the others. Once it’s older, it’ll be hardy enough to survive some handling.

  16. Wait, do they eat the other siblings, like those people who are born with teeth and spines and other remnants of the twin they absorbed in the womb still in their bodies? Is there a Bonsai Thunderdome plant cannibal fight where only one emerges after killing and eating the others? I feel like this could be an ongoing horror movie saga.

  17. My husband has allergies and my cat has pica, so I am off the hook for plants. However, I do have the best bonsai tree ever: it’s Lego.

  18. If it’s too much pressure, you can always divide them into paper cups with potting soil and then give them away to customers at your bookstore. Send your sibling-cide plants to good homes of their very own.

  19. The one house plant I have yet to kill is an aloe. I’m really good at neglecting it, so it’s getting revenge by taking over my family room. It keeps sprouting little clones, which I also neglect. I think it and the clones will soon be The Aloe That Ate Cleveland. I speak to it occasionally, but I only ever say “aloe, aloe!” Rude plant doesn’t even nod back.

  20. Use cuticle scissors to cut the two weakest looking ones at the base. Then wait two weeks and cut 2 more. After another week, cut the weakest one and now you just have the strongest seedling, and only lose one soup bowl.

  21. Bawhahaha you have bonsai fight club going on in your house. I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I can’t help you at all I could kill a fake plant

  22. I wasn’t good with regular plants so I collected some succulents from Trader Joe’s and now I’ve got a thriving gang taking up a whole tabletop.

  23. I love you & everything about this! You always have THE BEST names for pets, taxidermied animals & now plants! Thanks for the laugh!

  24. Growing plants from seed is hard! I killed dozens of seedlings last year even though i tried really hard to take care of them. But years ago my husband and I were gifted a pencil cactus that was about a foot tall at the time. Thirteen years later we have three very large pencil cactuses (one is over 6 feet tall) and we have given away tons of cuttings to family and friends. They are extremely low maintenance and very hardy, and no spiky bits!

  25. Personally, I think six seedlings is less pressure than one, because the one is inevitably gonna die that one week in summer when you decide to go on a trip, or that one day in spring when a random frost rolls in, but it’s ok, because you have five back ups lol.

  26. Yes, I’m throwing my vote in for the ‘Pant Nanny’ comment. I feel like that’s a great title for a new book…something to the effect of “the court assigned me a Pant Nanny because I keep forgetting them before venturing out into Public.”

  27. You could call for a small seedling tree euthanizer. A grief counselor might help as well for … you know … afterwards.

  28. I keep telling my mother don’t give me plants, because I kill them and she keeps giving me plants. It was fine until my husband quit smoking and never goes out on the balcony anymore. Now I have to throw out six dead plants as soon as it’s warm enough to spend time on the balcony

  29. I think Kae has the right idea. Thin them, but not all at once. Two at a time with an interval in between that lets you see how the others are doing. You might let two or three grow on together, and see what happens.

  30. I love bonsai but they are a bit of a commitment (otherwise you are just growing trees). You can do multiple plantings together and for what it’s worth you essentially torture them by pulling off leaves and using wire to force them into the shape you want and giving them rather scant soil to keep them small. So really there is no such thing as a good bonsai tree parent

  31. I’m actually keeping my plants alive. The trick I learned was to not overwater them, so I have a water meter that I stick in the soil to tell me how wet they are. Water when dry. I also get those miracle grow fertilizer stakes and stick them in there. Feeding done.
    As Amy said, bonsai are hard. You could get a book on growing them and read up about what to do. This could become a new hobby. Good luck.

  32. I bought a spiky grey air plant and put it in the bathroom where I can neglect it. I guess shower moisture and indirect sunlight are enough to keep Griselda Fitzgerald alive. So I vote for neglect

  33. Potato picking season is a real thing. When I lived in a potato growing area as a kid, we started school in early August so classes could be suspended for three weeks in September for potato harvest. Otherwise the farm kids and kids of families that relied on *everyone* working for that bump in income would just miss school anyway and fall way behind. By accommodating reality, everyone stayed caught up, and the HS produced several significant scholarship students every year

  34. if you’re happy with just one seedling, take some sharp tipped scissors and carefully cut the stems on 5 of them, leaving just the tallest, thickest looking one. (and don’t accidentally knick it with the scissors). if you have unsteady hands, maybe ask vince for a little help. you dont have to save every seed that sprouts. and its possible you might kill them all trying to separate them. this way you dont have to disturb delicate roots.

  35. Separate them out. They won’t all live, and you’ll have a better chance of at least keeping one. I speak from experience growing lavender.

  36. Your story and Karen’s comment brought back a long ago great memory.
    My Dad was in the Air Force back in the days when big military bombers just flew all over the globe so that the Soviet Union would know that the military was always ready for their nonsense. Anyway, they went to Japan a lot and all the kids and moms I knew on base had a bonsai tree. They were the standard little bent around trees that you would always see. I’m not sure what kind of tree that is, but I think you all know what I’m talking about.
    As a young adult visiting California I was told a must see was the Huntington Library and Gardens — especially the bonsai garden. I was underwhelmed about that idea, however, when I went, the bonsai garden was my favorite part of the day.
    It was not full of those little twisted things, but there was an absolutely amazing oak forest with more than 30 trees in one pot. The leaves had turned color for the fall. There were cherry trees and almond trees that bore fruit in season. There were more kinds of trees than I could ever imagine and they were beautiful and teensy tiny. Imagine how much care had to go into each little tree.
    So, your story made me smile, Karen’s comment brought back a wonderful memory and now I’m hoping to find a “Pant Nanny”–what a great day!
    And by the way–not everyone is cut out to be a plant parent (or a human one for that matter). I think it’s a good thing to recognize your limitations!
    Much love to you all!

  37. Separate them. They won’t all live, but maybe you’ll save one. I’m speaking from lavender growing experience.

  38. I donno. Housing a familicidal maniac sounds dangerous. I mean, who wants to shut their eyes at night knowing that at any moment..pow…you could be the next victim? I vote to eat them all in your next salad and forgettaboudit. Take the upper hand while you still can.

  39. I like the idea of buying a well established bonsai plant and sending a picture to Malle! Good luck!

  40. I am encouraged and impressed that you even attempt live plants with pets in your home. My kitty, Norman, looks at every living plant as his own personal salad bar. But….maybe he is just really happy being an only child and doesn’t want siblings?

  41. Snip off the five weakest sprouts and leave the strongest one to fend its way. A little infanticide to round out your week.

  42. I vote you go with the Thunderdome (Thunderbowl?) approach. Six plants enter, one plant leaves. Let them duke it out.

  43. Or you could just proactively choose to kill 5 of your plant children and then hope the lone survivor makes it.

  44. Darn it – the FIRST RULE of Bonsai Fight Club is we don’t talk about Bonsai Fight Club!

  45. Braid them and keep them trimmed. It’ll be fine…or it won’t. Either way your child and business are thriving so you are already ahead.

  46. Have you considered braiding them together while they are still supple, and pliable? It’s a beautiful look for Ficus whom almost never commit siblingcide.

  47. Pick one and just cut the other sprouts at the base 🙂 that way you don’t disturb the roots of the immortal chosen one

  48. And this is why I have plastic plants. (Actually, I’m surprised that Ferris Mewler hasn’t already tried to “cull the herd.” Looks like he’s plotting…)

  49. I grew a bed full of accidental ragweed. I thought it was pretty and boy was it hardy. I’m so sorry, Texas.

  50. Having never been able to keep any house plants alive, years ago I once bought an “air plant.” Remember those? You’re supposed to be able to just hang them in their little pots on the wall and you don’t have to do anything to them, not even water them. Sadly, mine died anyway. Because apparently air plants don’t much care for cigarette smoke. I don’t smoke any more and have come to find out I’m a pretty awesome OUTDOOR gardener. Like watermelon sized zucchini and tomatoes the size of your head.

  51. I’m a cactus killer!…cacti are the tough guys of the desert, so I guess that brings me up to ninja level in the ranking of people who can’t tame plants.

  52. Everybody can earn 500 dollars Daily… Yes! you can earn more than you think by working online from home. b12 I have been doing this job for like a few weeks and my last week payment was exactly 25370 dollars

    COPY This Website OPEN HERE.…. http://joinwork1.blogspot.com

  53. I’m a black thumb as well. I inherited it from my grandmother. She’s so bad with plants she once killed a plastic one. She put it too close to the stove and it melted.

    The struggle is real.

  54. One podcast that I enjoy when things get too dark is Clear and Vivid, hosted by Alan Alda (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/clear-vivid-with-alan-alda/id1400082430), especially “Why Birds Don’t Lie and We Do” (Carl Bergstrom, August 15, 2022), “When Time’s Totally Up” (Katie Mack, July 18, 2022), and “When Animals Break the Law” (Mary Roach, January 31, 2022). Alda is a brilliant and funny (of course) interviewer, and his podcast is a welcome diversion from the dark world inside my head. I share many of your medical issues and understand the chicken–egg problem of chronic pain/illness–depression/anxiety. I’m impressed you can manage the long flight to Hawaii. ❤️

  55. If you have the patience to very carefully seperate them,you could just poke holes in empty yogurt or margarine containers,or takeout dishes&use those for temporary quarters,but whatever you do,you need to do it now,cuz they’re going to die off one by one if you leave them. Potting soil is DIRT CHEAP at hardware stores. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: