Fight the ‘freebies’ urge

All those amazing agave and aloe pups! And the miraculous senecio, echeveria or graptopetalum cuttings! They are so tempting to propagate to extend a bed or add interest elsewhere. After all, they’re offspring of plants you love in your garden. And they’re free!

Not so fast. They take water. And space. Space in a new garden like ours is readily available, but water is not.

All plants, even drought-tolerant ones, need water. It may just be once or twice a month, or in their growing season, or in an especially hot or windy spell. Even a few gallons here and there, now and then, add up fast. Water for an area that wasn’t a high priority means less is available elsewhere.

TNSTAAFL. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This century-old adage for the inability to get something for nothing, popularized by Robert Heinlein’s science-fiction lunar colony in 1966 and by Milton Friedman’s economic opportunity costs in 1975, applies to gardening in a drought today. Nature’s bounty of plants simply outstrips nature’s and local district’s supply of water.

Those incredible pups and cuttings are not free. I keep relearning this reality and valiantly resist planting. Instead I gift or dispose of them and nurture what we already have.