Plants make a home more welcoming, don’t you think? Lately, I’ve acquired so many plants that my daughter recently teased, “I think you’re becoming a full-on Plant Lady.“
But, come on!
Antique store succulents… hanging pots for crazy cheap… certain plants just need to come cozy up our home, and THAT’S THAT.
Today, after Doug and I filled up on local brisket (I think I talked a mile a minute in between bites of glorious, smoked meat), I plopped down on the back porch to enjoy the weather and sort out the wayward and needy among my burgeoning plant population.
THE ROOT-BOUND PLANT
One of my recent garage sale finds— a hanging pot– looked luscious and full, but was actually terribly root-bound.
Root-bound: having roots formed into a dense, tangled mass that allows little or no space for further growth
I’m not talking about roots that had kind of reached the edge of the pot and were beginning to bend along the edge– no, these thick, reedy roots had encircled the pot several times. Though the pot wasn’t six inches deep, one root tendril was (when untangled and extended) more than two feet long!
So voluminous were the roots, that there was hardly dirt! The limited amount of nutrients in that pot couldn’t possibly feed all the roots, twisting and strangling one another in competition for minerals and water.
Kept too long in its confines, without additions of fertilizer, additional soil, and room to grow, the plant was slowly starving itself– but you couldn’t tell it by looking at it.
That starving, strangling plant appeared to be vibrant, and it wasn’t until you dug down deeper that the truth could be seen.
By dividing it into thirds, our outdoor areas will be graced with more hanging plants, AND each will be well-fed and well-watered, with enough space to flourish.
Sometimes, I think, our souls can operate like this. If we are too long in a tight, stifling environment, our thoughts go round and round with the same insufficient input. We are stuck and can’t find the resources and/or answers we need. We can be so blocked off from outside sources (whether through the confines of our lives, through the influence of others, or because of the beliefs we hold) that we fail to get what we need in order to healthily grow.
And some organizations are “root-bound” like this, I think. Schools, families, churches, and businesses can all get so insulated from the outside that those inside of them struggle for life. Anything “outside” the organizational confines is (whether spoken or unspoken) off-limits, or seen as a betrayal, and so the overall health diminishes.
While both individuals and organizations may need some structure and protection in order to grow, sometimes that structure and protection can end up strangling out the life and health.
About a year ago, a different plant of mine (a ZZ plant) was so beautiful and happy that I divided it into two. But as time went along (and as my hoppy-happy-bumpy-jumpy sons jostled them), both plants began losing vibrancy (and losing leaves!).
So, more than a month ago, I combined them back into one cozy pot. This week, I noticed two new bright green stalks. The plant is happy; unlike other plants that need dividing when the pot fills, my ZZ plant thrives in a full pot.
When you dig, you can see that each ZZ stalk has its own straight, bulbous root support that doesn’t tend to tangle up with other stalks’ roots. Even though the stalks work together for a visually-stunning impact, there’s less competition underneath. Each stalk gets what it needs and seems able to thrive in a full pot.
My limited experience with ZZ plants seems to indicate that if the plant appears to be thriving, it is. Put a different way, the things you can see match the things under the surface.
And that’s an interesting metaphor as well– it IS possible for structure and fullness and togetherness to produce healthy growth. It IS possible to be close to others and still have health down under the surface, in the parts no one else sees.
QUESTIONS THESE WORD PICTURES BROUGHT TO MIND:
What would you say is true in your world:
Is your soul “root bound?” — Are you inwardly starving, struggling, and churning, even though no one looking on would know that? Do you need to seek some sort of outside input– a book, counselor, Bible study, podcast, support group? Is there someone wise in your life you could talk to, to begin exposing the things that are twisted up and unhealthy, so that you can ultimately flourish and thrive? Do you need to reach out to someone outside of your normal “circle?”
What about the state of your home? Your marriage? Your church? Your work environment? For each, consider:
- Is there enough space and enough health and “nutrients” for everyone– including you! — to thrive and grow as they are able?
- Would someone in it feel as if they are “betraying” the home/church/office if they expressed that they are struggling and not getting what they need to grow and thrive?
- Do you (or someone else) control the confines of your home/church/work environment so tightly that its inhabitants are (deep down) unhealthy?
Regarding health (like the ZZ plant):
- How can we cultivate our souls, so that we are able to thrive alongside others– getting what we need, without competition or control (in either direction)?
- What habits and norms make for a place where people can be in close confines with one another (home/ church/ office/ group), and yet thrive in health?
- Have you experienced this in a family or group setting? What contributed to the health of that situation?
I welcome your thoughts/input.
Grace and Peace,