If you have a favourite houseplant or perennial, you might panic at the thought of the leaves turning brown, dropping off, and the plant withering away. But do plants die of old age, or did something else cause our beloved plants to kick the bucket?
In this post, we will cover:
Do Plants Die of Old Age?
Let’s get right to it. The answer to this is all in the eye of the beholder. Biological aging is known as senescence, and it’s a highly debated subject! People even question whether humans die of old age or if it’s an illness or event that finally puts them to rest.
There are a lot of factors a plant must get through to live a long time. For example, their roots must not get damaged, limbs and branches must stay intact, drought and other extreme conditions should be minimal, they have good soil, enough sunlight…the list goes on and on.
Most plants will eventually fall victim to a pathogen and be damaged over time. The older a plant is, the more obstacles it has overcome and the weaker it gets.
Humans vs Plant Growth
People and animals don’t age the same as plants do! People have a finite amount of growth. We know precisely how many toes and limbs we will have (with the odd exception). Once we’re born, we’re not getting any more naturally.
Plants, on the other hand, have infinite growth potential in theory. Plants will grow as many branches and flowers as they need. So if you keep plucking flowers and deadheading, the plant will continue to produce more flowers.
The growth areas in plants are known as meristems. They appear forever young and renewable. Lucky plants! Meristems develop in many ways and renew the plant’s parts when needed. That’s why it’s so easy to propagate and clone plants.
So, in theory, a plant can keep producing new parts to replace the old ones if it lives in optimal conditions forever.
Do Houseplants Die of Old Age?
Most houseplants live in more optimal conditions than outdoor plants and can have longer lifespans…if their owner has a green thumb, that is!
This means they’re less likely to be affected by drought, disease, pests, wildfires, etc. But anyone who forgets to water or has found white flies on their houseplant knows this is not always the case.
In general, houseplants can last decades if they are cared for properly and are lucky enough not to get an infestation or disease.
Frequently Asked Questions About Plant Aging
A plant’s lifespan depends on two factors: the genetic growth potential they inherit and surrounding environmental factors.
For instance, annuals are genetically programmed only to live a year, while biennials live for only two. Others may die after they flower or fruit, like bromeliads.
Plants will often eventually succumb to external factors like drought, disease, or fire and don’t have a specific reason why they will die. Most lifespans are an estimate of when those plants tend to succumb to environmental factors. Old and slow growth will last the longest, which is why trees tend to live long!
This depends on what you define as the same plant! There are many clone trees that have the potential to continue living forever.
Clones are when a plant produces a genetically identical plant through nonsexual means. This is propagation! When a plant produces a clone, it has the same root system.
The oldest clone tree is Pando in Fishlake National Forest in Utah. Pando is a series of cloned quaking Aspen estimated to be over 80,000 years old!
The oldest potted plant in the world is an Eastern Cape giant cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii) located in Kew Gardens in London. This plant was brought back from South Africa in 1775, making the plant over 245 years old!
What’s the oldest plant you currently have? Let me know in the comments down below!
More Posts About Plants