Houseplant of the week: A fiddle fig and the gift of patience

How plants helped teach Beza Taddess patience.

Hello, green friends.

Hello, green friends.

KEVIN-lighter

Beza Taddess has been working through her feelings about the coronavirus pandemic from the solitude of her small apartment in Capitol Hill. While a lot of people are dealing with the news and an uncertain future, not everyone has experienced the crisis as intimately as she has.

Taddess works for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates for youth at the Capitol. Taddess and her colleagues lobbied lawmakers and department leaders to make sure struggling families have what they needed as cases of the virus rose and the economy tanked; that work is ongoing.

“I kind of spend all day thinking bout COVID,” she said. “I feel almost suspended in the air because of this pandemic. You’re not going up, and you’re not going down, and there’s a lot of unknowns.”

Caring for the houseplants filling her one-bedroom home is also an act of self-care. She said it’s helped her deal with the stress and see beyond the moment, no matter how slow time seems to crawl during social isolation.

“The best thing I’ve learned in the past two years looking after my plants is everything has its own time,” she said. “Whatever is right now is not the same thing later. Everything is temporary.

“I have done my part. I have watered my plants. I have made sure there’s no pests.”

Her mantra: “I’m just going to let it be.”

Beza Taddess' home is full of plants. (Courtesy)

Beza Taddess' home is full of plants. (Courtesy)

She uses that thinking to confront the wider world, too. Though she deals in stories of “suffering” families during a worldwide health crisis, she said the patience she learned tending to houseplants helps her maintain peace of mind.

When you have to re-pot something that has grown silently, “even though everything is terrible,” you realize that the world is in flux all the time. “It shows that things are changing and things are moving.”

Learning to keep plants alive taught her an important lesson just in the nick of time.

Taddess was not always someone who could keep green friends growing. About two years ago, some friends gave her saplings as birthday gifts.

“They both died,” she said. “I was bummed.”

But she is not one to give up easily. She began binging Youtube videos about indoor horticulture and even volunteered at the Denver Botanic Gardens so she could get close to the experts and ask them questions.

“I hate not being good at something,” she said.

As a Christmas gift to herself two years ago, she bought three plants and made a deal. If she could keep them alive for six months, until her birthday in June, she would allow herself to make this a full-on hobby.

“And I kept them alive,” she said, “so for my birthday I got a bunch of plants.”

Her apartment became full of life. A new additions is a fiddle-leaf fig she calls George.

“He’s glorious,” she said. “He was my first-high maintenance plant.”

Beza Taddess and George, the fiddle-leaf fig. (Courtesy)

Beza Taddess and George, the fiddle-leaf fig. (Courtesy)

Those who are well-versed in houseplant horticulture know the fiddle-leaf is a notoriously difficult cultivar to keep living. It needs careful attention and can wilt from even subtle pressure. Novice plant parents can easily over-water or over-handle the delicate plant if they can’t take a deep breath and let it grow. Fortunately, Taddess was ready when George came into her life.

“He’s really happy,” she said. “Whenever he has a new leaf I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m doing something right!'”

Patience was not among her skills before she found her green thumb. Now, it’s serving both her leafy housemates and her sanity.

“Do what you have to do and then let go,” she said. “It’s helped me deal with so many other things.”

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