I’m killing it. Slowly . . . hour by hour.
The poinsettia sits on the floor of the basement utility room. Its once festive red petals, now wilted from lack of water and sunlight, torment me.
Back in December, with the promise of the holidays, the plant’s cluster of tiny yellow flowers surrounded by bright red petals (called bracts) had been so appealing. Now, though, I’m desperate for spring.
I want to decorate with leprechauns, bunny figurines, Easter eggs, and my pastel-colored ceramic tulips. Oh, tulips . . . I’m going to stop at the flower store and pick up a bunch. I’ll get either yellow, pink or lavender. Easter lilies should be available soon, too. And daffodils. And hyacinths. Mmmm, I love the smell of hyacinths. I let out a long sigh.
Meanwhile, I need to deal with this poinsettia. Last week, when I first removed the plant from the living room, I stepped outside intending to take it to the compost pile. The temperature was below zero, though, and the image of the Christmas plant instantly freezing to death made me bring it back inside. Silly, I know.
I placed it in a corner of the basement utility room, but I didn’t intend to water it. Just as silly, I know. I had kept last year’s poinsettia in this same room. I’d picked off dead foliage, watered it, and in May I’d planted it outside. It grew quite large as I recall. I never fussed with fertilizer, repotting, snipping, or giving it the right amount of water or light, though, and it never produced red bracts. It just blended in with other plants.
You’re just a plant, I want to say to this year’s poinsettia whose leaves and bracts are crispy brown. Its droopy stems make me feel guilty. Did I really think this torture was any better than giving it a quick death by freezing? I need to get a spine and simply take it to the compost heap. A spine, right.
I think of the time I tried to take my beloved dog of fourteen years to the vet to be euthanized. I broke down and when the vet asked, “You really don’t want to do this, do you?” I sobbed back, “No, I don’t.” I brought my dog home, but since she was suffering, my husband took her soon after. The poinsettia, I remind myself, isn’t a beloved pet. It’s just a plant.
A plant that gives cooling shade to small creatures, holds the soil, and gives the planet life-sustaining oxygen.
I rub my forehead. I should have seen this coming.
I tenderly pick off dead leaves and trim it back. I will care for this plant which brought me holiday joy. I will plant it outside this summer where it will add to the greenery. Not everything or everyone needs to produce a showy cluster of bright colors. We all have something to contribute.
I fill the watering pitcher, add some Miracle Grow, and give it a long drink.