Since I’ve lived in Tucson, keeping flowers alive has been one of my biggest challenges. Four sets of bougainvillea have perished, in addition to roses, petunias, pansies and even an aloe plant that practically passed away because I overwatered it.

A few weeks ago, one of my writing students, R.L. Clayton, invited me to his home for dinner. Before the other guests arrived, he and his wife, Linda, showed me their backyard. Oh, my heavens! I felt as if I were back at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. Rarely have I seen such a beautiful array of vibrant flowers, bursting out of their containers in glorious color. I was green with envy.

“No big secret,” Linda said, “feed them, water them and take care of them.”

“Easy for her to say,” I thought, calculating in my mind the amount of time and money I’ve spent while still failing to produce anything resembling a lovely garden.

A few days later, I sent Clayton an email asking him to call me.

“What is the name of the food Linda feeds her plants?”

“Hang on, I’ll ask her.” When he returned to the phone, he said there were two kinds of food she used. “Thanks,” I said.

Immediately going online, I searched for the plant foods. Eventually I found one of them available from QVC. Determined to have success with my flora, I ordered this expensive plant food called Blossom Booster. In a couple of days, QVC advised my order had been shipped. Be still, my beating heart!

Less than a week later, the product arrived. Eagerly I read the instructions, making sure I did this the right way. The instructions advised feeding the plants every two weeks. Excited, I filled a pitcher with water, using the exact amount of food prescribed. Not only did I feed the plants on my patio and backyard, I also fed my house plants.

The next day I expected the flowers to be abundant. A childish fantasy, but each day more buds and flowers appeared. One of the plants hadn’t bloomed in two years and was barely staying alive. Now I saw several bright, purple flowers. Success!

Telling my story to a friend who has healthy flowering plants, she admonished, “Of course you have to feed them.”

Why does everyone in the universe know these things except me?

She continued, “I feed mine once a week.”

Once a week? Wow. I immediately called Clayton. “How often does Linda feed her flowers?” I asked.

When he came back with his reply, I was stunned. “She feeds them twice a week,” he responded. Dumbly I repeated his words, “Twice a week?”

That’s exactly what I’m doing. My flowers love it — and so do I. I knew I shouldn’t pay attention to the instructions!

Alexis Powers is the author of several books and lives on the northwest side. Email her at or view her website at