Nameology: Appellations for Your Household Plant

I recently bought a little thyme plant. I like this little herb; it is a Lemon Thyme, and it smells amazing. It is also tiny, delicate, green, and growing.

I love green, growing things.

But unfortunately, they don’t love me. This plant, like all green and growing things that come near my cold and cynical heart,  might not have long to live. I have a long history of killing plants. I forget to water them, I water them too much, I don’t let them have enough sunlight, I give too much sunlight, I put the outside, they have hissy fits over Texas summer heat and refuse to live . . .

I do not have a green thumb. Which is kind of ridiculous, because my mom is an incredible gardener. She can coax pretty much anything to grow. Her backyard is filled with verdant fauna. She is often asked to host fundraising garden parties. In fact, my aunts, uncles, and a few siblings seem have this gift a well. In high school I worked at a sort of greenhouse, and did a pretty good job with the plants there.

But household plant are different beast entirely. And I am concerned about the well-being of this little guy.  I check the soil before I water the plant, leave outside in sunshine, bring it inside during direct heat, and pinch off dead leaves. Despite all this, my little herb has been fading to a paler and paler green, and refusing put forth any new growth.

Thus, I have decided that my Lemon Thyme need a name: an identity, a word that speaks to its very being and calls it to a more full life.

Plant names are hard. Usually I just go by gut instinct. But I once had a bonsai which I named Florence, but something felt wrong about that. It took a friend to tell me that this bonsai was actually male before I realized that its True Name was Lawrence. (I left him alone over spring break, and he gave up the ghost.)

I would prefer not to make the same mistake. I prefer to use methodical nameology.

So, in case you are every caught in such a quandry, I am sharing these plant-naming methods with you. Along with my own (an my room mate’s) examples for the Lemon Thyme’s name.

  • The Ironic Method. I suggest this in part because it would amuse me, and in part because calling the herb something so incongruous might stir up existential angst enough to keep it alive through sheer questioning. For my plant, I would use Fern.
  • The Association Method. I’ve never been to Greece, but the lemony smell somehow calls up images of white hills, turquoises seas, and cool Mediterranean magic. Also, I like Classical names. Calypso.
  • The Awesome Method. Boethius is awesome. And Lemon Thyme is very consoling. So, Boethius.
  • The Opposite Method. Not to be confused with irony. A name full of vim and purpose, to force this puny cadet of a plant into discipline and life. Bullet. Also, it would be so incongruous that it amuses me.
  • The Literary Allusion method. Delicate grace withdrawing into an ivory tower of contemplation and lofty ideals . . . Princess Ida. Or just Ida.
  • On that note, if this plant is male, Ferdinand.
  • The Preference Method. I like the name Sadie. Maybe not enough to name a child Sadie, but enough for pet or plant.
  • The Room Mate Method. Ask your room mate his or her opinion. Mine suggested Augusta.
  • The Other Method: part instinct, part irony, a pleasant blend of head and heart used to name a plant. Eucalyptus. It is similar to the with the ironic other-plant name. But more than that – I have always loved the sound of Eucalyptus. It has a pleasant pattern of sounds that make beautiful to both tongue and ear.
  • The Ultimate Method. Unlike the “other” method, this method contemplates all the factors, meanings, associations, sounds and feelings of the names, and searches for one that encapsulates all and still fits the character of the pet plant. Eudora. This has the beautiful sound, the classical and literary allusions, and the light lyricism that Lemon Thyme would appreciate.

Please feel free to use this handy guide while searching for name for you own houseplant. Remember to choose wisely, so that your plant has a greater chance of survival!





4 thoughts on “Nameology: Appellations for Your Household Plant

  1. I am the same way with plants—I have a Black Thumb of Death, but both my parents are good with plants, and my mom’s sister and their mother are amazing gardeners. I am celebrating the fact that a potted philodendron, given to me for Christmas 2012, is still alive! I decided it was a boy and gave him a combination ironic/cinematic/punny name of Phil(Odendron) Coulson (named for Phil Coulson from “The Avengers”).

    • Someday, if I prove mature enough for a plant, I might branch out into keeping a pet. But thus far, it is not going well.

      Two years is a long time to keep a plant! I think you have passed the first round. Helped, no doubt, by the awesomeness of the name you gave it. Well done!

  2. My approach often involves considering “Fictional Crush of the Hour.” Hence my purple flower-bearing red clover plant named Alistair, after the goofy ginger heir apparent from Dragon Age: Origins who woes female players with a red rose.

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