This pothos plant (I thought it was a philodendron until I bothered to look it up), whose name reminds me of The Three Musketeers, is low maintenance:
Basic pothos care is very easy. These plants enjoy a wide range of environments. They do well in bright indirect light as well as low light and can be grown in dry soil or in vases of water. They will thrive in nutrient rich soil, but do almost as well in nutrient poor soil. (gardeningknowhow.com)
Read: You actually have to try to kill this plant. Mine has been with me, in a simple terra cotta pot, for 23 years. I can’t say where it was born, but I adopted it in McLean, VA, when we moved there from Los Angeles with our then three-month-old firstborn son Dustin. It lived there in the “great room,” surrounded by the first furniture we’d bought together. I cringe now to think of the teal sofa piped in eggplant, and the ecru chairs piped in teal, and the matchy-matchy blond wood hard pieces, but back then, it f, felt like home. The 9’ windows made drapery expensive and challenging to install, but afforded Pothos lots of light.
When his company transferred my husband to CT, Pothos rode with us – Dustin, now 4, and Devon, 2 – in our white Ford Explorer to our temporary furnished place in the Avalon Stamford apartments. And then to our new home in Westport, where it took up residence in the master bathroom on the counter between his and hers sinks. Far from a window, but near the wide wall mirror, Pothos absorbed the scant light afforded by the northern exposure. But thrive, it did. I watered it every morning with the leftovers in a small wax-coated Dixie cup after my toothbrushing rinse-and-spit.
Over the years I adorned its soil with found objects: smooth stones of intricate geological composition from our local beach, kikuyu nut husks from Maui, and jingle shells my mom sent up from Florida.
Pothos endured as my marriage dissolved and the boys transplanted themselves out of state. I found myself a small fish in a very large bowl that was costly to heat, cool, and maintain. The plant made the cut as I shed my belongings in anticipation of a move. And like all the times before, it came in the car with me. It spent the first few months outside on my small apartment terrace. It must have felt so free – like a housecat allowed to roam outside for the first time – fresh air night and day, surrounded by other plants, and bathed in all-day southern exposure sun, shielded from direct rays by the wall.
It came in only during the November frost warning, and took its spot at the center of the apartment, at the corner of the dark granite counter, with a panoramic view of the space.
I water it less often now, but with more water in each dose. One day, though, I noticed that it didn’t look as happy as usual. Leaves began to yellow and fall. This poor plant had been in the same pot for 23 years. How negligent of me – I’d never have let my boys wear the same shoes for 23 years with blatant disregard for their growth.
So now I’m on a mission. I want to replant Pothos before the Foliage Police knock at my door. I head out to Walmart. They sell everything. I find a glazed pot that looks more sophisticated than bland terra cotta. A swirl of teal, brown, and black echoes the colors in my new home.
Back in the apartment, I dismantle to New York Times and lay it out in the small, tiled entryway to create an operating theatre. I line the bottom of the new pot with green plastic mesh wine bottle protectors that I’ve saved – for what? – Clearly for this – to improve drainage. I cover them with soil, gently smoothing it like a newly laundered bottom sheet for Pothos’s comfort. My fingers thread gingerly through its stems, just touching the rim, forming a safety net as I tip it over gingerly, making sure to stay over the newspaper like a puppy in training. Pothos slides out easily and the tangle of roots tells me this is overdue. I right the plant and center it in its new space – it’s a perfect fit – and I tuck Pothos in with new soil in the gaps.
I envelope the mess as if I were cleaning an OR post-op, dust busting any telltale signs of the procedure. Pothos looks happy as I gaze at it from the couch. No more yellowed fallen leaves. It, like a hermit crab, outgrew its hard shell and needed a new, bigger one to continue to grow and thrive. My shell outgrew me. There is no antonym in the English language for outgrew. Was I ingrown? Had my life become too small for my big space? Or had my space become too big for my different – not smaller – life? I look at Pothos, thriving in its new home, and reflect on mine. It’s not a bigger shell, but it fits me better. I did not uproot myself so much as transfer myself to a more appropriate location, although the transition was a bit bumpier for me. I, like Pothos, brought my in tact roots with me, and hope they’ll have room here to spread and grow.