Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Name a Houseplant

It's hard work to name a plant.

And a lot of pressure. At least humans and animals have some control over what they are called, can change their names when they get old enough, or refuse to come when called by it. But plants have no say in the matter. In fact, they have almost no choice in anything--where they sit, how often they're watered, how ugly/adorable their pots are. So you must take special care to get their names right.   

When I asked Joe for suggestions, he said I shouldn't name plants, that it would make it harder on me if they ever died. But I thought they deserved some recognition after being boxed and covered and hauled 2,000 miles across the country in a hot truck bed.

There's Thomas, a variegated laurel that I've had for almost two years; Elliot, who's the same age, but I'm having a hard time remembering/figuring out what he is; Cassandra, an anthurium with light pink flowers that bloom all year; Frank and Chanomi, two bamboo plants that we named after a married couple we know because we couldn't remember the first set of names we gave them; and Sylvio, some kind of vine that I saved from the greenhouse floor last summer.

But the two moss rose branches I rescued never got names. I think I held off because they began as an experiment. After putting away a new flower shipment one day, I found them loose on the ground. I tucked them in my raincoat, brought them home in the evening, put them in water, and watched them slowly grow roots in their glass jars.

But now that it's been a year, I think it's time. And because the one pictured above decided to fall (or jump) out of the pot she was sharing with the other moss rose, it's obvious she is in need of attention. I just painted this little blue pot for her but can tell this diva is growing impatient for a name.

Try to let them come naturally:

  1. Walk backwards up to the plant while thinking about anything else. You want the plant to be a surprise, to keep your mind off the naming process.
  2. Spin around and look at the plant cross-eyed as if you were looking at one of those 3D illusion pictures. Don't focus directly on one specific part of the plant. Instead, you want to see a blur, to capture its aura, to take in its general shape and personality.
  3. QUICK! What's the first name that comes to mind?

Steve?  No.

If the name doesn't seem appropriate, try again. Maybe you didn't turn around quickly enough.

And again. Maybe the lighting is too dim to accurately see the plant's true essence. Try some back-lighting.

And again, until your husband/wife/roommate/pet looks over in concern and asks what you are doing.
This is the proper way to name a houseplant. If nothing feels right, just wait. Don't rush into a name. There's nothing a houseplant hates more than the instability of name-changing.

If you still can't get it, don't worry. One day, you will come home, see your moss rose on the kitchen windowsill, glowing in the evening sun, brushing her dainty pink petals against the window, and you will just know her name is... 

seriously, what is her name?  I need suggestions.    


  1. Replies
    1. A+ Krista! You've passed the course. :)

    2. I like Clementine! (And this post!)

  2. Juliet! also, hilarious. i'm now walking backwards through my whole apartment.

  3. All very nice. It may have to be Clementine Juliet Ronnie Adelle. CJRA for short. :)

  4. I love the idea of naming plants. So cute!

  5. Pippa! :) This post is amazing. And Wesley wanted to chime in that if you have a fern, you could name it Fernando ;)


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