There will come a time in most people's lives when they feel the need to become an adult and nurture something other than a shoe fetish, a labour-free income, social gaiety and/or an obsession with Ben and Jerry's ice-cream.
Responsibility suddenly holds a startling allure that was previously implausible. One starts to take one's parents' advice simply because it has become one's own, awareness awakens that obligation doesn't just relate to making sure everyone covers their round at the pub, and there is the realisation that being shackled down needn't involve bedposts to be something worth considering.
For women, this transition often occurs with the fusion of gametes. Either they are ready to embrace the secondary commandments of 'Love Thy Day Planner', 'Ye Shalt Not Covet Chucking Sickies', and 'Remember Thy Household Chores' from the moment they are conceived, or they take them up right quickly when they do some gamete fusing of their own.
For others, things progress a little differently. While paying the bills can't be escaped and the washing is done because the alternative is buying new underwear every week, the thought of actually being accountable for the survival of someone or something is filled with one part hope and two parts heinous fear - with a dash of irrational compulsion.
In these circumstances, the best test is to grow a plant. Growing an animal or a child in order to discover your reading on the responsibility dial would be very irresponsible indeed. Plus, a plant will enhance your living space. It won't relieve itself in your handbag and doesn't require anything that can't wait until the ad break.
Choosing Your Plant Sowing the seeds of responsibility needn't involve actually digging about in the dirt yourself. Buying a potted plant and starting from there is a perfectly acceptable practice.
Try Cyclamen or Begonias if you are looking for a hardy indoor plant that flowers, or grow some cacti. Some Cyclamen flower all year, and you can actually eat them, if it comes to that. House succulents are generally very low maintenance and come in many interesting forms. Whatever shade your thumbs may be, you shouldn't go too far wrong. These plants are relatively cheap from the local nursery and are frequently available at supermarkets and fresh produce stores as well.
If you are feeling particularly sensitive about your ability to keep something alive, another option is always to plant some dandelion seeds. Weed they may be, but they are colourful and provide you with a wish upon their death. You're not likely to wipe them all out, and you'll have buckets of fun blowing their fuzzy seeds off the stems after beseeching the humble thing to grant you a million dollars and the endless adoration of Christian Bale (or whoever).
What not to do: Don't get an Aspidistra Elatior. It may be known as the Cast-Iron Plant because of its ability to survive almost anything you may or may not do to it but it is terribly lacking in glamour and its very presence in your home will immediately denounce your whole life as a one big cliché.
Keeping Your Plant Alive Now, if you're the fly by the seat of your pants type, and this plant is your first attempt at settling down, chances are you are known for particular behaviours.
1. You buy obscure appliances such as domestic hot-dog rollers with heated bun spikes, ice shaving machines and waffle toasters, make a practical friend set them up, delight in using them once and then put them in the cupboard forever.
2. You invest in new technology with relentless zeal, refuse to read the manual and again enlist the services of a practical friend to assist in getting things started.
3. You don't consult recipes, preferring to use whatever ingredients are at hand, in the quantities your instincts command, often substituting liberally. (Baking a cake but have no self-raising flour? Sure, why not use custard powder instead!) You then throw out your culinary attempts and invite yourself around to a practical friend's house for a lovely dinner prepared with care.
When it comes to your chosen flora, it is important to break these habits. Ascertain exactly what it needs to be healthy and happy. Plants usually come with an information card detailing what type of light it needs, how often to water it, and whether it requires any plant food. Keep this card.
You may also need to monitor potted plants for root rot. If the soil is kept too damp, bacteria can grow and damage the roots. If you suspect this is the case, try unpotting the plant, washing out the pot (hot water and detergent) and rinsing the roots, and then repotting in new soil. If you're worried about getting the plant in and out of the pot, try watching this video for tips.
What not to do: Don't ignore the directions on the information card. When it refers to 'watering' it means: with water. Tipping in the dregs of your cup of tea as you pass by or sharing your glass of sauvignon blanc, while generous, is not really what your plant needs.
Successfully nurturing a house plant can be a great achievement (never mind that they are generally seen as fail-proof, they aren't). They are pretty, help to purify and oxygenate household air, and they are a symbol of happiness and growth (if you keep them alive).