Crowley’s Houseplants

One of Crowley‘s hobbies is, rather unexpectedly for a demon, gardening. He has several plants in his London flat, which are “huge and green and glorious, with shiny, healthy, lustrous leaves” (240). They are “the only things in the flat [he] devote[s] any personal attention to”.

Crowley’s demonic side shows in the particular way he cultivates his plants, however. Like any mortal gardener, Crowley mists them with a “green plastic plant mister” once a week. He also talks to his plants — something he heard about “in the early seventies, on Radio Four” and thought to be “an excellent idea” — although he does not so much talk to his plants as he “put[s] the fear of God into them”; or “more precisely, the fear of Crowley”.

Every once in a while, Crowley picks a plant that is not growing too well and carries it around the flat to the other plants, telling them “‘Say goodbye to your friend. He just couldn’t cut it…'”. He then takes the plant out of the flat, and brings home “a large, empty flower pot” which he “leave[s] somewhere conspicuously around the flat”. Because of this, his plants are “the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London” (241), but “also the most terrified”.

The plants are only referred to as “houseplants” (240), with the exception of one “luxuriant rubber plant” (244).

Crowley’s treatment of his houseplants is fitting with his image as a ruthless demon, but may also have deeper roots (no pun intended) in Crowley’s psychological make-up. Near the end of the novel, when Hell has just finished threatening Crowley over the sound system of his Bentley, he is described as looking “very tired, and very pale, and very scared” (272). Then he suddenly becomes “very angry”. This change of mood is explained by “the way they talked to you”, “as if you were a houseplant who had started shedding leaves on the carpet”. Crowley feels his status versus that of Hell is similar to his houseplants’ status versus his own, and this possibly indicates that he treats his plants the way he does to exercise the same sort of tyranny over something — however insignificant that something may be — that Hell exercises over him.

Edition referenced in this article: UK Corgi paperback (1991)
Written by Linn