Throw It Away….?

by | Mar 6, 2018 | 12 comments

Something has been bothering me lately so I decided to write about it. The “something” is the concept that seems to be more prevalent lately and that is the concept of “throw away” plants. Now, I realize that we have all received cut flowers and of course, they are “cut” and so therefore, technically dead. Yet, the plant they were cut from may still be alive and producing flowers someplace in the world. I’m talking about the use of houseplants as decorating items and when they are not looking as stellar as when first placed, out the door they go and a new one comes in. Maybe this idea comes from our own industry. I worked for a plant care company and though we tried to place them where they would do as well as possible, in offices that isn’t always possible. Plants add so much to a home or workplace and if the light cannot support the plant, it gradually goes into decline and may die. And who knows what may have been dumped in the pot by cleaning people and even the employees in the office. When the plants start looking a little tired, they are swapped out with fresh plants. Voila! New plant that looks amazing. I hear people say, “The fiddle leaf fig in my office looks great and it has been there for years.” Has it been? Or was it changed out for a better specimen while you were at lunch?

When I buy a plant, I’m hoping it will live for a long time. I never look at a plant, other than maybe a poinsettia as a “throw away” or temporary plant. Even when all the leaves have dropped off my poinsettia after the holidays, it is still hard for me to throw it away. So, for me to realize many people consider plants to be temporary and destined for garbage can, bothers me.

I have plants growing in my home that I have had for over 34 years! I told that story here.

Below is a picture of great grandma’s fern.

I also have the ponytail palm that I took to college with me in 1984 in a 2″ pot. It’s a little bigger now……

My ponytail palm from 1984

I know there are plants that are considered and always have been, considered “throw away” plants. These include poinsettias, cineraria, calceolaria, and occasionally kalanchoe and cyclamen. The reason? Getting those plants to re-bloom is almost impossible, so people steer clear of them or just throw them away. Some people may not realize that cyclamen and oxalis have dormant periods and will lose all their leaves and rest. Leave them alone and they will usually come back. Yet, even though those plants may not bloom again (or have colorful bracts in the case of the poinsettia), doesn’t mean the foliage part of the plants isn’t beautiful. Some people throw away their moth orchids (phalaenopsis), African violets, and amaryllis after they are done blooming, as well, much to my dismay. The last three plants are easy to get to bloom again. They just have to be in the correct light and the right amount of water.

Moth orchid or phalaenopsis

Don’t even get me started on the painted and color infused cacti and succulents! Yuck!

After attending the TPIE (Tropical Plant Industry Expo) I’ve seen the trend of plant companies thinking the same way. If the plant lasts a few months or even a few weeks for the customer, that is perfectly acceptable. Now, to be fair, not all companies look at it that way and want us to be successful with plants so that we will want to grow more. I guess I’ve always been a collector and of course, I love houseplants, so when I buy one, I buy it with the expectation I am going to have for years. That doesn’t always work and it may only last a few months. But, that is usually my own fault, as I’ve forgotten to water or placed it in the wrong place for the plant.  I’ve definitely killed my share of plants. That’s how you learn. The rationale is that even if it only lasts for a short time, it still has lasted longer than a bouquet of cut flowers. (Again, they are already technically dead.)

Plant pots without a drainage hole, plants potted in moss with no potting medium, and succulent tops cut off the plant and glued to a pretty dish are just some of the things done to plants, usually resulting in a slow death. It will last for many months after all. It looks nice on my table in the dark dining room. It may not last, but its pretty now. Who needs a drainage hole?

What are your thoughts about this “throw away” concept? Am I just behind the times; old fashioned?  Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Becky

    I am like you in that when I buy a plant I expect it to be with me for a long, indefinite period. I love my many plants and do what I can to keep them healthy and thriving. However I can see the other side of the coin and think it’s okay for those who are not quite so committed as I to buy a plant with the idea of it being a “temporary” fixture in their homes. I’d rather see them get some enjoyment for a few weeks or months than think they shouldn’t buy a plant because they might kill it. Hopefully they’ll learn something along the way and become more successful.


      That is a good way to look at it, Becky! Maybe just getting the plant in their home, even though they think it may die, may change their minds. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Becky

    And I think that those dyed plants are UGLY!!

  3. Lisa Lane

    Hi Lisa !
    My intention would be to keep the plant alive, I’m troubled when I kill it. I’m learning more and more everyday so I feel the plants have a better chance with me now. However, I’ve also become much more aware of not wasting plant material, Right plant right place both indoors and out. I think your article was very nice !


      Thanks, Lisa! Yes, right plant, right place is the way to go! Thanks for your comment!

  4. liz

    Yes, please keep tossing those plants out. In my direction. I rescue everyone I see. Side of the road, garbage can, dumpster, where ever they are. Check for critters, treat, heal, join my jungle. The term “throw away plant” is not in my vocabulary. I moved a lot in my younger days and had to leave plants behind with trusted friends or neighbors and still miss them. The plants, not the neighbors.
    I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Now we have you and the internet and much more information at our fingertips. I have three African Violets that have yet to bloom. One of them has variegated leaves the other ones are the softest, fuzziest green I’ve ever seen, bloom or no bloom, they are staying right here.
    If I like a pot without holes I might use it as a container for a plant that is still in the nursery pot. As for the coloring, chopping, gluing, and all the other fads, it breaks my heart to see plants abused like that. Then I think of the fish they dye fluorescent colors and shake my head again. Anything for a buck. And most of those Frankenplants, in my opinion, are not even that attractive. I can see a use for people that decorate, redecorate, entertain a lot, throw themed parties, change things up and like fads, go for it.
    So, if you want to toss it because it no longer pleases you, and buy another one, fine. You have plants in your life and the nurseries are staying open. Who am I to judge?


      Thanks, Liz for your comments! It is hard to throw a plant away and sometimes I leaf them sitting there and voila, a leaf appears. The roots weren’t dead! And as far as your African violets go, move them into a bit more light, and they should definitely bloom or place them under lights. They are pretty plants even without flowers, though, especially the variegated ones. Thanks again, and keep rescuing those plants!

  5. Roxanne Carney

    I try and give my plants the longest life not to say I have lost my share. Other than cut flowers, I don’t consider them dispossable but we are living in a world that does consider that the case. One reason is they are so inexpensive and available. When you had to go the extra mile to find something, you tend to cherish it more. Most have some dispossable income that makes it possible just to pick up that new pretty. It is not only with the lastest phone or techno gadget but we have gotten that way about the lastest desighner dog or cat which really distresses me. When I divorced, my ex knew not even to try to get our old orange cat even though he is an SPCA recue. My girlfriend told her husband not to embarrasse himself by making her choose.


      Hi Roxanne, Thanks for your comments. I think we are living in a disposable world and it is sad. They are much cheaper now and I think that does make a difference. We do what we can. And p.s. my kitties are all rescues. Have a great day!

  6. Dianna

    When I was younger, we moved around a lot. My plants were my friends, because I was usually the only Mom on the street that didn’t work. My dear sweet husband always rented a trailer to drag behind the car to take my “family”, kids and plants every where we went. Now I’m old, live in the same house and still have plants and now a garden. Where would we be without plants in our lives.


      I love it! I’ve always told my husband if we move, I will need a semi-trailer just for the plants. That, he says is why we are never moving! lol I truly don’t know where we would be without plants in our lives. Thanks for your comments!


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