The Stubborn Plant

30 years ago, my son was just starting school. With his allowance, he purchased a plant for Mother’s Day and brought it home. It was a corn plant–a dracaena fragrans, growing in a small paper cup. My son handed it to me with a big, gap-toothed grin. Over the years, the plant grew, was trimmed, cut, re-potted and eventually it bloomed.  Some times I cut the top and replanted it; some times I cut off the top and let it grow another stem. For 30 years, I’ve moved the plant with me, and it has put out fat, cream-striped leaves.

So when we were ready to move across the country, I chose it as one of the three plants we were going to try to take with us. I gave my husband directions on topping it before I flew back to pack. When I arrived, I gasped. When I described topping it, I didn’t think he was going to leave a 10-inch stem and three ratty leaves. The bottom of a corn plant is never the best part. I thought the plant had come to the end of its life.

Corn plant peeking over the couch

Corn plant peeking over the couch

A new stem poked out. It was the size of the tip of a lead pencil. The next day the plant went into the moving truck. In August. The truck would not be opened again for six days. It would have been a death sentence for most plants. When I unloaded the plant, the new stem was black. I decided to let nature take its course–what choice did I have? I kept it out of direct light, but the plant had to stay outside for two weeks while we unpacked and I had a chance to re-pot it. When I checked on it, the blackened stem had recuperated. It was pushing out. And there was another stem beginning.

After re-potting the plant, I placed it behind the couch and in front of a window that flooded it with light. This morning, I saw the top of the new branch poking up from behind the couch. In another week or so, the new leaves will be big enough for me to trim the old leaves off. With luck, the second branch will develop also, and for the first time in 30 years, the plant will have two branches. Maybe.

Corn plant, repotted

Corn plant, repotted

The other two plants also survived to thrive. Our miracle ficus, which had originally been used to prop open the door of a hardware store in a snowy December, made it through 6 days of a locked truck and dropped only about a dozen leaves. It is also in the living room, in front of a North-facing window, separating my studio from the front entrance.  The orchid found a home in the bathroom, under the skylight. The new branch is full-size, but I have yet to see the stem that will carry the blooms. The stem has developed as early as August and as late as October, and has bloomed as early as August and as late as December. It’s still an unknown, but it looks as if it made it through the move.

I gave away my other plants–some far more beautiful and exotic than the ones I took. I took these three because they have a history–the corn plant a 30-year history–and they proved they can put up with the most outrageous changes and still thrive. You can make up your own moral to the story. I have!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. You can see her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008 All rights reserved.