About plants:

Plants want to live. If they are dying then it means something is interfering with their innate desire to live. Make sure it isn't you.

Plants' requirements to live (and/or thrive) vary wildly between species. These needs also sometimes vary greatly within a season. For example, some plants require a dormant season. Trying to provide the same conditions when they require dormancy that suited them during the growing season may cause stress or even death.

To illustrate: I once had an amaryllis bulb which I watered regularly and it just seemed miserable. I shared my frustration with my stepdad and he asked, "Are you trying to keep it growing all winter?". I was. "You need to stop watering it around late October and don't start watering again until spring." By following his advice and allowing the plant to, basically, hibernate during its natural dormant season, the bulb thrived, bloomed and, eventually, begat dozens of new bulbs.

Such lessons as the above have led to my becoming more "tuned in" to the plants' own needs. Another guiding principle is that of balance between root and foliage. When a plant wilts, it shows there is an imbalance between leaves and roots. For whatever reason, the roots are unable to supply enough water to keep the above-ground parts "perky". Don't assume the problem is lack of water. I've learned to try and eliminate other causes first. I've learned to use the "heft test" if the plant is in a container that can be, well, hefted. Is it heavier than you would expect, or lighter? If it is the latter, it probably needs watering. If the former, check the drainage. Over-watering can cause root damage, which can make a plant wilt. Other possible causes for wilt include stem damage, root parasites, human intervention. That last one could be likely if you recently transplanted the plant. Another story follows.

My wife currently works for a florist. Occasionally she asks if I want a plant that is being discarded. I usually decline because, frankly, the plants are often not worth the trouble. One notable exception is dwarf azaleas. I have several healthy specimens in a flower bed in front of the house. Today she texted me a photo of a potted azalea with the query, "Do you want this plant?" I did. First of all, it isn't a plant, it is three plants stuffed into a tiny flowerpot. Then it is fed "Saint Fiacre knows what" to force it to bloom prematurely and, if not sold in a few days, it begins to die. Yours truly to the rescue. First things first, I make sure it is watered but not drowning. Next, all blooms are removed, regardless of condition. This grants a stay to the poor plants' death sentence. It is then placed in a spot with light but no direct sunlight (At this point they have had little or no light and full sun would crisp them). After a few days of consistent indirect light and adequate water, the crowded trio will show new growth.

Now for surgery. This is like dividing conjoined triplets. It is no use trying to separate these roots any other way. I fetch my lovely, scimitar like, Black Forest knife from Solingen, Germany (I know because it is stamped on the blade). I remove the root mass from the pot and slice through it with my weapon dividing the plants and place each into a new pot with good potting mix. Water well and place, again in shady spot with adequate light. Now if we see wilting a likely cause is the root damage just caused by the "surgery". In that event simply prune off some more leaf growth to maintain that balance until the plant has a chance to develop new roots to replace the ones we just, inevitably, severed.

These are just some random thoughts and examples. I hope this helps someone. Do I talk to plants? Sometimes, yes. But more than that, I'm trying to learn to listen.

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