I’ve done exactly the same thing…why isn’t it growing?

Why is it not growing?

We hear it every day:
“I watered this plant exactly the same way I water the other plants. Why is this one dying?”

Or a variation on the same theme:
“I have always taken care of this plant exactly like this. Why is it dying now?”

In both cases, the reason the plant isn’t thriving is because you are telling the plant what it needs, instead of letting the plant tell YOU what IT needs.

I recently had a woman insist (at great length) that she did nothing wrong when her house plant died because, “I’ve had it for five years and I’ve watered it exactly the same way every time.” What she was ignoring is the fact that the plant and the conditions it was living in did not stay the same for five years.

First, the temperature, humidity and light levels the plant is dealing with change all the time. Your house may be drier in the winter time or receive more light in the summer. If those conditions are not the same, how can you expect your plant to need exactly the same amount of water at different times?

Second, the plant itself is changing — it is GROWING! As it develops more roots, it may need more water. As those roots fill up the pot, it will need to be watered differently.

Then there is the gardener who planted several of the same type of plants and argues that since he has watered them exactly the same way, he is doing everything right — yet one is dying!

Just like people, each plant is different. (If you have more than one child, you are aware of how different two kids with the exact same genes can be!) One plant may have a less-developed root system than the one next to it.

And even though they are in the same flower bed, one part of the bed may retain more water or receive slightly more sun. Even the soil conditions can be different for two plants that are very close together (we call those “microclimates”).

Highly organized (maybe OCD?) people really struggle with these concepts. They want to be able to follow a schedule and stick to it. But Mother Nature’s schedules are always subject to change. We have to go with the flow, even if it goes against our nature.

We preach this over and over — feel the soil. Let the plant tell YOU when it needs water. The calendar can’t tell you it is time to water.

Always the same is not always right.