6 Plant Death Stories for Dìa De Los Muertos

Samain, Toussaint or Dìa de los muertos, whatever the first of November means to you, I wish you a wonderful day of commemoration. As it’s a day for many cultures to commemorate the deceased, I’ve chosen to write an article of stories in memory of my own loved ones.

Photo: Jhovani Morales

Dressed in black and speaking (writing) in a whisper, let me tell you some stories about the life and death of my plants… (And take notes so you don’t repeat the tragic circumstances of these deaths!)

Little Jade Plant of Good Will

This was my very first plant. The trouble is, it died so quickly that… I don’t really consider it as such! And yet, I loved it for the short time it lasted!

I bought her at university as part of a fund-raising campaign. A pretty little crassule that would get all my love! Wanting to do the right thing, I didn’t put it in my school bag because… you see, it was a plant, tiny and fragile! So I kept it in my hands as I made my way to the metro, then to my car.

Unluckily, I was parked far away, had a good 10-minute walk and it was very windy. My little Jade plant (Crassula ovata), whose soil was very dry, flew out of its pot and fell to the ground…


…I forgot to tell you… it was January and there was an ice storm… Oops!

So my baby plant fell into a pool of icy water, into a puddle of brown slush, but it didn’t matter… she was thirsty anyway, I guess!

Hey Northerners! I don’t want to disgust you but… it’s coming!

Anyway, I picked up my poor little plant and went back home. There, I decide to make it a MAGNIFICENT terrarium. I put it in a fishbowl without a drainage hole, with a mini inch of soil, and placed it in my windowless basement bedroom. TADA!

I know, I know, it’s surprising, but… it didn’t die! It’s important to know that succulents don’t need a terrarium – it’s too humid and not sufficiently ventilated. They also need good drainage and sunlight… But this plant wanted to live and, like me, she was full of good will!

Then I went away for a week. My mother, full of good intentions, thought my little crassula was ugly and probably needed water, since I watered it very little. When I returned, theJade plant had been bathing for a week in a jar in which there was more water than soil.

This was the final straw for this poor little Jade plant of good will!

Aloe, Never Again…

Number 1.

My first real plant (which I managed to keep for more than a couple of weeks) was an aloe. It was pretty, green, full of life, and its pretty leaves pointed skywards. I watered it carefully, abundantly, regularly, until the day it started to have flat leaves, as if they’d been drained of their substance.

I did some research and the Internet put me on the trail of a lack of water. So I watered my aloe more and more! But the more time passed, the worse it looked.

My Internet friend told me it was probably too much water having rotted the roots. The plant was indeed short of water; it no longer had enough healthy roots to drink from. It tried and tried to continue its life, but sadly, the hardships having been too much, it died peacefully and very, VERY slowly…

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep any proof of my murders, so for want of a picture of a dead aloe, here’s a live one (not mine!) with a little bird to brighten up this article.

Photo: Jean van der Meulen

Number 2.

My second aloe, which was also my second plant, lived a little longer. In fact, it even managed to grow! It flourished so well, that seeing its good health and pretty green color, I felt it necessary to give it a bigger pot.

Unaware that it was quite at home in a tightly-packed pot, and armed with the best of intentions, I chose to plant it in a gigantic pot. This would allow it to grow at its ease, for as long as it liked, without being disturbed again in a few years’ time for another repotting!

While it survived in its huge pot, it stopped growing. In such a large pot, the roots grow and take all the plant’s energy, leaving it small on the surface.

Disappointed to see it stop growing, I took a colleague’s advice: put it outside, in full sun, all summer long. Armed with this recommendation, I took it out in spring and put it in full sun without acclimatizing it. By evening, it had taken on a lovely golden color, the next day it was more caramel-colored, and the day after that, milk chocolate.

Burnt in a few days in the flames of hell, that’s how a second aloe died in my arms.

Number 3.

Although I had become a serial aloe murderer, I tried my luck with three babies that were given to me. They all died. No doubt I took the advice to “leave them alone” a little too literally and neglected them a little…

Number 4.

Much later, as an accomplished columnist for The Laidback Gardener, I decided to try my luck again and buy an aloe. Our relationship was one of mistrust, and we watched each other from afar. I only watered it once a month, and it did well. It made babies. I was ecstatic. Like the famous Dr. Frankenstein, I could exclaim: HE LIVES! MHOUHAHAHA!

But fate had other plans. As a divine consequence of having taken my aloe for granted, a thrips infestation struck! And since these insects quickly lead to infestations worthy of an Egyptian plague, I listened to the message the universe was sending me and sacrificed the aloe to the houseplant gods by putting it on my balcony in the dead of winter.

“O cosmic beings, I offer you yet another aloe as a sacrifice! I promise never again to give in to the temptation of possessing this forbidden plant, but for pity’s sake, be merciful to your devoted gardener and spare my other plants!”

And the divine response was as follows…

The Kalanchoe of True Love

a massive infestation of thrips. If the story of my kalanchoe has taught me anything, it’s that living in denial about undesirables doesn’t solve the problem at all.

Abandoned by everyone, flowerless and stuck in its withered leaves, my kalanchoe was waiting to die in an outdoor grocery store display, in the middle of October. Even the big neon pink sticker advertising a 50% discount didn’t make it attractive to customers.

But then a young man in love thought of his spouse when he saw this decrepit plant. Having never bought her a gift in three years, he decided it was the perfect item to give her.

My lover’s first gift! I was ecstatic to receive this tortured plant and set about loving it. Some two or three weeks later, it was blooming and beautiful! Although it wasn’t a rare plant, it was worth a lot to me, and its presence on my desk reminded me every day of the man in my life.

After two years of growth, flowers and happiness, however, it also proved to be a favorite of thrips, which devoured it. It had taken her just two weeks to come back to life, but it took it no more than two to die out, devoured on all sides by tiny insects, it’s still colorful flowers hanging limply from the ends of her corpse…

Microscopic observation of a thrips. Actual size: 1.5 mm. Photo: I, Toony, Wikimedia Commons.

Life Is an Learning Experience!

On this Day of the Dead, I hope I’ve made you smile a little with my stories of plant abuse. Let me reassure you: I’ve got a hundred plants alive and well at the moment! Now it’s up to you to tell me the story of your missing ones in the comments.

November is the month of greyness, so let’s smile!

P.S. It’s also the time when I’m planning my speaking schedule. In case you’d like to hire me for your holiday events, drop me a line to reserve your spot!

Audrey Martel is a biologist who graduated from the University of Montreal. After more than ten years in the field of scientific animation, notably for Parks Canada and the Granby Zoo, she joined Nature Conservancy of Canada to take up new challenges in scientific writing. She then moved into marketing and joined Leo Studio. Full of life and always up for a giggle, or the discovery of a new edible plant, she never abandoned her love for nature and writes articles for both Nature sauvage and the Laidback Gardener.

6 comments on “6 Plant Death Stories for Dìa De Los Muertos

  1. Ellen Asherman

    The problem is that different plants require so many different treatments – soil,watering, light, pot size. . . On and on. Especially when the confused gardener is trying to keep them year round.

    Could you share information on bringing in cyclamens, amaryllis and even the common geranium for winter bloom? I struggle with these though my old aloe thrives – on neglect!

  2. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead , is a vibrant and deeply rooted Mexican tradition that celebrates and honors deceased loved ones. Through colorful ofrendas (altars), marigold flowers, and sugar skulls, it’s a joyful way to remember those who have passed, emphasizing the belief that death is a natural part of the human experience.

  3. Ferne Dalton

    Just a good lesson for those who feel they can’t grow plants after only a failure or two. Persistence is a big factor in the life of a long term successful gardener. Two many failures to count. I give any failed plant more than one try. Usually learn and succeed eventually.

  4. Had a good chuckle with all of your mishaps however, this is how we learn. Just bad luck for those plants at the start of the learning curve.

  5. Ann T Dubas

    So sadly funny! Your stories remind me of my husband’s relentless efforts to transplant baby trees from one side of the property to the other. The death rate is staggering. These are native trees which arise abundantly from seed. Why is one patch of rocky clay more favorable than another? Make sure to get ALL the roots! Dig a BIG hole! I exhort him time after time. At the moment a young Eastern Red Cedar, bristling with sharp plastic spikes to protect it from deer antler rubbing, seems to be thriving. A fourth young holly stuck in the same blighted spot as its doomed predecessors is cling to hope. Are there any more hopeful creatures than gardeners?!

  6. Love ur article, made me laugh out loud as I am guilty of the same charges going back a few years. Thank you. Keep up the great work!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!