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The story of my first plant

It all began with a single leaf.

All passions have a starting point, one small thing that sparks an idea or curiosity. For me, that spark came when I was a senior in high school, getting ready to head off to college, and I took a rooted stem cutting off of my mom's arrowhead plant.

At the time, I knew I loved gardening but had never really tended a garden. We moved a lot, so having a garden was dependent on our rental agreement and the amount of time we lived in one place. But through all of the years moving across the country, my mom had a few houseplants she liked to bring with us. The arrowhead plant was one of them.

There's nothing really showy about this simple specimen. It has lush green leaves that, when well-tended, create a stunning mound of fresh color. Mom didn't do much other than water it and toss on leftover coffee from time to time, so hers took on a casual draping habit. It was healthy and left to just be what it wanted to be everywhere we lived. Sub-zero winters in Minnesota made for chilly nights. Hot, dry summers in Central Washington with no A/C didn't slow it down either. It was the little plant that could.

No matter where life took our family, that plant was one thing that felt like home to me. Our address changed, but the arrowhead was a part of my childhood that didn't. Looking back, it makes sense why I wanted to bring my Mom's plant to college. It reminded me of home.

She had propagated leaves off her arrowhead many times over the years, so the idea of rooting a cutting in water wasn't a foreign concept. But I had no clue that most plants could root from cuttings. I thought it was something special about this plant. It was like I was privy to a little known gardening secret. 

My little leaf went off to college with me. Since it was rooted in water, I figured it would grow in a fishbowl. So I went to the pet store and picked out a purple Beta fish that I named Freddy the Fighting Fish. It cohabitated that fishbowl with Freddy for a few years before I gifted my fish to a family with kids. By that point, I had taken numerous stems off the main plant and had rooted them. To be clear, it wasn't like I ever had a thriving plant. I just kept it alive long enough in the water to grow a few more leaves that I then rooted. It was my bouquet of cuttings.

Over the years, I have gifted my magical arrowhead plant to people I love. My Mother-in-law, a self-proclaimed plant killer, has managed to keep her gifted plant alive for over a decade. I may have tended to it when I visited over the years and even regrew it from cuttings because it had gotten scraggly once or twice.

No matter how many times it has nearly gone the way of the houseplant graveyard, that little plant keeps producing new leaves. And so here I am today. Once again, my arrowhead has suffered from neglect, and it's time to refresh it from cuttings. 

I have a new perspective, though. A few weeks back, I taught a master class on propagation for my Master Gardeners program. It was a class I spent three months preparing for with research and trials. It went great! I felt confident in the information I was sharing, and now feel competent to root every plant I get my hands on.  

But my little arrowhead hadn't come onto my propagation radar until last week. Have you ever had it happen where you learn something new and apply it to something old?  That's what happened when I went to take stem cuttings from my arrowhead. Suddenly I noticed the nodes and internodes. I saw the axillary buds swelling on the stem. The magic of my rooting arrowhead no longer seemed mysterious. It all made sense.

There's no more excuse for me to own a sad little houseplant. I think it's time to give this loyal plant pet the attention it deserves. It will get a taste of worm tea and be given proper care. I might even start calling it by its proper name, Syngonium podophyllum. It's been there for me all these years, and now it's time to bring my Syngonium to life.


Carilyn Mae

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