Plants are diverse and varied living things, some requiring more care than others. However, they all require a minimum of attention to grow and flourish.
Generally, when a plant is unhealthy, its owner is often the cause, whether it be through overwatering, underwatering, or poor light exposure. However, it sometimes happens that despite our good care, a plant suddenly dies. Is this due to old age? Is this even possible?
Old age in plants
As humans, we know that all living things have a limited lifespan, meaning that they will eventually die. Plants are no exception, as Michele Debczak points out in Mental Floss. However, death occurs much more slowly for them than for animals.
Indeed, even with proper care and ideal environmental conditions, plants can eventually wither and die of natural causes. Nevertheless, it is important to note that houseplants experience “indeterminate growth,” meaning that they continue to grow and mature under ideal conditions, while we age much more rapidly.
Plant age and deterioration factors
Depending on their species, plants can live from a few decades to several centuries (like some ancient trees). Today, the oldest potted plant in the world is a thorny cycad planted in 1775. In nature, some plants live even longer, such as Methuselah, the famous 4,850-year-old Bristlecone pine in California, USA.
Even the best-maintained plants eventually deteriorate over time. After years of prosperity, their cells no longer regenerate, leading to poor water retention, leaf wilt, and eventually death. However, few plants live long enough to reach this stage. The majority of them die as a result of inadequate care, pests or diseases.
Caring for your plants as they age
In short, if your houseplant starts to shrink and look dry and unhealthy when you've had it for less than a decade, it's unlikely that old age is the cause. It is important to know that since plants never stop growing, they may need to be repotted into a larger container when they run out of space. So, by paying attention to the specific needs of your plants and adjusting your care accordingly, you can give them a longer and more fulfilling life.