this thing's incredible

I Can’t Grow Anything — Except This Mini Bonsai Tree

Photo: columbia pictures

My plant parenting is not going as planned. Six months ago, my partner and I went out on a nice sun-drenched walk and returned home, arms brimming with new houseplants. We never plan to buy them, but somehow, we always end up coming home with several. And within a week, maybe two, it’s always the same result: They all keel over and die.

It was neither of our faults. Or rather it’s both of our faults: She is a chronic under-waterer, a “free-range” parent if you will, and I am a helicopter parent — an overbearing father who habitually overwaters until the roots are rotted and the plant is more horizontal than vertical. We’ve tried everything — from setting weekly reminders to nifty crystal gadgets that promise self-watering — and have had no success. Just when we were about to give up, a friend gifted me a terra-cotta bonsai grow set from Modern Sprout.

Inside each of the company’s grow kits is a terra-cotta pot filled with everything you need to grow a plant indoors, except for the water. (Along with the bonsai, the company offers similar cactus and aloe plant kits.) To set it up, all you have to do is add a cup of water to the terra-cotta pot, pour the grow medium into a little stainless-steel basket that holds everything above the water reservoir, and set the basket in the pot. Then add seeds and a little soil disc. From there all you have to do is set it by the window for some good old sunlight. The plant waters itself with a string that hangs off the basket and into the reservoir. Instead of your pouring water on top of the plant, risking adding too much or too little, the water travels up into the plant’s root system from below, delivering the precise amount of water the soil needs at all times.

The only maintenance required is checking the soil every four days to see if it’s dry. When it is, you just fill the reservoir. Being the plant parents we are, even that has been a challenge for us. But after we forgot to water our bonsai for weeks (we both assumed the other was checking), all it took to revive the tree was adding some water. The wick took care of the rest.

I won’t be going back to “regular plants” anytime soon. Instead, I’ve added an aloe to complement my bonsai. And I’m excited to try out one of the company’s edible herb growing kits next. Not killing a plant felt like a huge accomplishment already, but if I can not kill it and produce something to eat, that is the next level.

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I Can’t Grow Anything — Except This Mini Bonsai Tree