The first plant he got was the first year he failed at the academy. Iruka-sensei had bought it for him, possibly out of pity or guilt, Naruto really didn't know. It was just a common houseplant and occupied only a small corner of his room. He didn't even pay it much attention except when he had to water it. But he didn't look too kindly towards it, even though it was Iruka who bought it for him. It seemed like it was mocking him. A constant reminder of his failure. Pretty soon, he forgot all about the plant and it withered and died away in his corner. When it began to attract all sorts of bugs and gathered a sort of stringent smell, Naruto happily dumped its shriveled remains into a random rival genin's yard.
The second time he failed, Iruka-sensei presented him with another plant, this one gaudier and larger than the previous one. Iruka asked him how his past plant was faring as he handed it to him, and Naruto was forced to concoct a story about some bastard genin who stole it by climbing through his window and ransacking his house for it. After five minutes of the tale, Iruka waved his hand in exasperation, right at the part where Naruto was explaining how he jumped off the roof of his house and glided gracefully towards the genin to tackle him. Iruka-sensei merely told him that Naruto should start being more responsible and how keeping a plant was a good way of showing it, before he left.
Which Naruto did. For the first week.
Then, like most things in his life, it was traded for a straw doll, which he figured would come in handy later for his training. Iruka-sensei would've supported him, Naruto reasoned, after all, it benefited him more than a plant could. He was taking responsibility for himself by giving him something to train with. And it didn't really matter that after the straw doll was beaten to a strawy pulp, causing his house to resemble a barn, his training schedule was greatly reduced. That was because he had gotten so strong with the doll that he didn't really need it anymore, he reasoned.
And what could you do with a plant? It wasn't as if he could fight it. It would've been like fighting an innocent old lady. Naruto was too noble for that. He didn't really know in what way a plant could benefit him. So like any reasonable boy of his age, he forgot all about his plant and it died quietly in its sleep.
When he finally graduated the academy, Iruka-sensei happily brought Naruto (after their celebration at the usual ramen stand) to the Yamanaka flower shop to purchase a brand new houseplant. Naruto was ecstatic about his graduation and brand new Konoha forehead protector that he eagerly pointed out the type of plant he wanted. It was a bit more burly than the last two, supported by a tough trunk with fan-like leaves. Iruka-sensei was slightly amused by his choice, but coughed up the money to pay for it. He helped Naruto carry it into his house and instead of the usual corner where he stuck his plants, which Naruto claimed smelled like death, he placed the plant right next to his refrigerator where he wouldn't forget about it.
Iruka was pleased with Naruto's sudden desire to take responsibility for himself. So pleased that the next day he presented Naruto with a watering can and a package of premium plant food. Naruto eagerly made it a point of his day to feed the plant with all the love and care of a doddering housewife. It flourished under his care and its leaves shot up towards the ceiling. He was so pumped up by the results that he decided to lovingly name the plant Iruka.
The next day, after being dismissed from a mission of weeding out an old woman's garden by Kakashi, he unconsciously passed by Yamanaka's flower shop again. He surprised himself by his eagerness at seeing the store. After standing in front of it uncertainly for a few minutes, he rushed in practically screaming at the top of his lungs.
Ino watched him as he paced the aisle of houseplants and loudly talking to himself about which one to buy. She was annoyed by his loudness but then intrigued by his odd behavior. She grinned maliciously as she realized she found another source of ammunition against Sakura. Something about a stupid teammate obsessed with botany.
Naruto quickly rushed around the store, making a big scene with his loud mumblings and jerky movements. He was conflicted on what plant he should get. After much debate and indecisiveness, he shrugged and grabbed all three plants that looked good to him. He juggled the pots in his arms with much difficulty to the counter where Ino watched him, not even bothering to help.
It was lucky that the fronds of one of the plants was blocking Naruto's view of the smirking girl as she snidely told him the price, or else he would've made some sort of witty insult back to her about… being a girl. Or something. He somehow managed to throw the change to her and then ran out into the street to return home.
As soon as he opened the door, he placed the three plants next to Iruka. Immediately, he named the plant with the frilly curly leaves Sakura and the short stubby plant Konohamaru. As he came upon the last plant, however, he realized to his dismay that numerous stems and branches were crushed or smashed because of the run from the flower shop to his home. He groaned loudly in anguish, and then wondered what he should do with a broken, soon-to-die anyway, plant. It's not as if there was anyone to name it after—
Then he immediately thought of Sasuke. After cackling evilly to himself for his ingenious idea, he dubbed the plant Scaredy-Cat Sasuke. And with that, he began to feed the plants like the nice plant-owner that he was, pointedly ignoring Scaredy-Cat Sasuke.
After a few weeks, with much tender love and care, Iruka continued to flourish, sprouting greener leaves and flouting them about proudly. Konohamaru didn't seem to grow past its originally stubby state, though it did bloom with numerous fronds that smelled nice in the morning. But Sakura didn't fare as well. Naruto was baffled, since Sakura was the one he gave the most attention to—he poured it at least a bucket of water at least every hour and packed its soil with at least ten bags of plant food. It wilted and died promptly after the first five days. Naruto was devastated when he was forced to throw it into Sasuke's yard.
Even more baffling was the fact that despite numerous tattered and frayed leaves and broken branches, Scaredy-Cat Sasuke doggedly hung onto life. Naruto barely fed it, only doing so when he felt guilty. But even when he did, it was barely an entire can of water. Not only that, but he paid it all sort of neglect, even took to knocking the plant around senseless whenever he was angry. Yet it continued to live, albeit with difficulty.
In some ways, Naruto sometimes thought, it was a bit like the real Sasuke.
But that was stupid, right? It was just a plant. At least, that was what Naruto told himself.