Cause of Death: Unknown

dead plant
Sometimes plants just die.

In my conversations, I frequently hear some rendition of this question: why did my tree/shrub/rose/houseplant/whatever plant die? This is not a bad question, and sometimes the answer can be succinct and very educational. At times I can answer that the Maple tree died of an iron deficiency; that the houseplant was overtaken by spider mites; or that the rose died from graft dehydration. Weather can play a big part in untimely deaths as plants can be scorched or frozen.

More often, however, I don’t have a good answer as to why the plant died. Maybe it was a combination of factors: perhaps the drought, the heat, and the bugs were just too much for the plant to handle. Perhaps there was too much garden competition and the plant was crowded out.  I sometimes surmise that the plant was just old – yes, plants have a life expectancy and then they simply don’t return the next spring.

I rarely find that the plant’s death was directly caused by the gardener. Certainly, it does happen that the plant wasn’t watered or that it was accidentally sprayed with Round-Up but usually the cause of death has nothing to do with the owner. Personally, I refuse to take full responsibility for it when one of my plants dies. I may be guilty of being negligent in caring for it – but I didn’t kill it!

If you’ve had some plant losses in your yard this year, please don’t assume it’s your fault. There may be a valid cause of death for the plants, but many times the cause of death is unknown. Don’t be discouraged when something dies – look at it as an opportunity to learn something and to try something new.

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