Ugly is the new beautiful

I’m starting to have renewed appreciation for ugly plants. I bought an ugly one at Grow Something about a year ago thinking at the time that it was cute and interesting. As it began to grow bigger, it starting showed this mass of hairs that previously were barely visible, much like in this picture. I thought, yuck, how ugly! I gave it to my garden friend, who appreciated its uniqueness, but not before I kept a leaf for myself, just in case I grew to love it again.

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Adromischus cristatus, ‘Key Lime Pie’

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Much cuter at this stage

My garden friend offered me a gollum jade (hobbit jade). Initially I declined, but later it began to grow on me and I asked for it. The one she gave me died, so she gave me another one that seems much happier at my place.

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Gollum or hobitt jade, Crassula ovata

Last month I noticed an ugly cactus at a plant shop near my house. I passed on it as it was $8 and, well, ugly. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it over the next few days so I went back and bought a smaller version for about $5.

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The ugly sucker I couldn’t stop thinking about. Euphorbia trigona – African milk tree

I planted it in 50:50 potting soil and perlite (mimicking cactus soil), watered it deeply and put it on my west-facing windowsill, the brightest light source in my house. The next thing I knew the entire cactus turned white! I thought it might be sunburn until I squeezed it and found it to be absolute mush!

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African milk tree in all its ugly glory

I’m trying to propagate the offshoots at home and at work. Some have dried up and died. Others seem thin but remain rootless.

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African milk tree offshoots ready for planting

Last week I saw a bunch for sale at Tiny Flower, my go-to plant shop downtown. It was $13 but I was getting 4 plants in great shape, so I thought it was worth it.

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I told the owner how I drowned my other African milk tree. She told me about a patron that bought one last year, kept it in the same pot and it’s doing well. I’m not sure I want to do that. The soil seems rather moist.

Coincidentally at my dentist’s office, I saw a beautiful plant that turned out to be relative to the African milk tree, Eurphorbia milii or crown of thorns. Would love to have one at work.

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Eurphorbia milii — crown of thorns. Such attractive flowers!

Ugly can be beautiful!

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