12 Life Lessons from a Plant Re-Potting Mishap

fear growth perfectionism Feb 08, 2023
Photo of Charis Santillie's Monstera plants
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🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #042 here.

I don’t have a super green thumb when it comes to gardening and plants, yet I have managed to learn the specific water and sun needs for the indoor plants we have so that I’ve been able to keep them alive. There's one specific plant that has received some extra attention from me lately, and today I realized that the experience I've had with this plant over the last few months is a great metaphor for some of the experiences we have in life.

Technically this plant is actually three separate Monstera plants all in one pot. A friend gave them to us as a gift about a year ago when they were each small and young. I put the pot in the sunniest spot of the house and rotated it regularly so different sides would directly face the sun. I also diligently kept an eye on the water level and loved how the pot it was in had a water gauge, so there was no guesswork.

All three really were happy and thriving, and many new leaves formed. I saw water drops at the end of the leaves, which I always love to touch; the process amazes me that they can absorb water through their roots and then pull it up into the leaves and expel any excess it no longer needs out through the edges of the leaves—it’s just really remarkable to me.

I noticed the roots were running out of room and starting to come up through the soil, so it was obviously time to repot the plant. So I ordered a larger pot and plenty of this special type of soil that it was initially in that I knew it really thrived in. I remember the day I gathered everything together and took it outside so I could have fun making a bit of a mess and get these beauties moved over into their new, larger home.

I really enjoyed this process. It was a nice, quiet morning, and I was happily listening to a fun and inspiring course I was taking at the time.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a major green thumb—and that’s not bad; it’s just that I haven’t spent that much time experiencing or learning about gardening. The plants we have that I’ve learned how to take care of are doing well because I learned over time what they need.

I don’t have much experience repotting plants, and it turns out that I waited too long. The roots were pretty locked into the starter pot these Monsteras were in, and they were really bound up in the rocky soil because it was just too crowded in there. I did my best to get them out, but in the process, I ended up breaking them short. In hindsight, it occurred to me that I should have let the whole thing soak in water for a while first, but that just didn’t come to my mind at the time.

As I was finishing repotting them, I had a mixture of feelings come over me—on one hand, I was really proud of my accomplishment as this was not something I did very often, and on the other hand, I was a bit concerned that the roots were now too short and that I had damaged all three of them.

Each of them quickly showed signs of trouble as some leaves began to yellow. The initial concern I felt turned to worry and dread that I’d damaged them upon repair.

I noticed that I felt an immense amount of shame for not knowing how to more safely transplant them, for not asking for help, and for not searching online for what to do in that instance before just forcing them out. I found myself Googling to find out how long the roots of these plants need to be to survive, and I learned that the amount they’d been shortened was too much and would cause damage.

I was scared to tell our friend and finally mustered up the courage one day to send him a voice message explaining what happened and asking for his advice since he had become so great with plants. He told me, in this case, to leave the yellow leaves until they dried up because the plant would then pull all the nutrients from them. And he told me that Monsteras are resilient and they’d bounce back.

I did my best to water them extra but trying not to flood them, and I misted the leaves, and I also followed my husband’s suggestion of putting a few ice cubes on the soil of each every day. I also talked to them and apologized, and asked them to hang in there. I remember hearing about studies where researchers found that when people talk kindly to plants, it helps them grow faster.

I did everything I could that was in my control, and then…I had to let go of the outcome and release my expectations. I had to remind myself that no matter what happened to them, it was ok. I didn’t mean to harm them. I was learning, and now I know more than I did before. I had to trust myself to do my best to do what I could as I nursed them and also trust that they’d do their best to heal themselves too.

It honestly took a few weeks to give myself a break and let go of the guilty feelings I had.

Now, here I am about two months later, and I’m sure you’re wondering, are the plants still alive?

I’m happy to report that—Yes! All three are thriving. In fact, as I prepped notes for this episode, I was sitting at my dining room table, where I could easily see them in the corner of the room with the sun shining through the leaves. Even a few new leaves are unfurling, and what I think is a new baby plant coming up through the soil. And almost every day, I happily touched the little water droplets at the end of the leaves.

Let’s look at the life lessons here—I found twelve!

  1. Do your best with the skills and knowledge you have in any moment and in any situation.
  2. Be willing to play, try something new, and make a mess.
  3. Know that sometimes you’ll unintentionally cause damage.
  4. It’s natural to beat yourself up when you realize how you could have done something better.
  5. Give yourself compassion so you can quiet your inner critic and forgive yourself.
  6. The sooner you can let go of your expectations and be ok with any outcome, the better you’ll feel.
  7. Be willing to ask for help.
  8. Repot yourself as you grow…doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul and moving into a new home, it could be finding simple ways to refresh something in your surroundings to give yourself more space literally or figuratively.
  9. Don’t be afraid to dig deep but find the way of least resistance instead of forcing something.
  10. Water yourself.
  11. Enjoy some sunshine.
  12. Trust. Trust in yourself to do your best. Trust in others to do their best.

“If flowers can teach themselves how to bloom after winter passes, so can you.” 

– Noor Shirazie, Poet

🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #042 here.

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