6 House Plant Tips For Your Personal and Spiritual Growth
House plants. If you know me, you knew it was only a matter of time before I wrote an article about them.
Up until a couple of years ago, I had never owned a single plant. Today, I’m writing an article on what I’ve learned from them and the parallels those lessons have with our personal and spiritual lives. Clearly, a lot has changed.
My First Few Plants
When I moved to Maryland my moving rule was that if it didn’t fit in my car, I didn’t bring it with me. This made relocating very easy, but became problematic when I moved into my own apartment and had no furniture! My first furniture shopping trip quickly brought me to the realization that furniture is expensive – but, I found that house plants were not.
Naturally, instead of purchasing more pressing items like a bed or sofa, I went to the local nursery, Homestead Gardens, and picked up a few plants to help my apartment feel more homey until I could save up a bit for furniture.
This was the beginning of my love of house plants. Much to my surprise, those few plants have now long outlasted the furniture I put in that first apartment and they are now part of my 36-member plant family in our 800 square-foot new apartment.
Why Do I Love House Plants?
I love the aesthetics, I love the way they smell and the discipline it takes to care for them. I love having a bit of nature inside (especially here in Maryland where everything is dead half the year) and I love watching the amazing ways they grow.
Most interestingly, I’ve come to think it was no coincidence God placed the first man in a garden and instructed him to care for and tend to it. Through keeping and tending to plants of my own, I’ve discovered some great parallels between caring for the natural world and spiritual and personal growth – and that’s what I want to share with you today: six tips to help your houseplants grow that can be applied to your spiritual and personal lives as well.
1. The Size of Your Pot Matters
When you buy a new plant, it typically doesn’t come in a nice pot. It usually comes in a cheap and flimsy plastic container with holes in the bottom that most likely (and hopefully) doesn’t go with your interior design style. I’ve found that this is where the fun begins – picking a pot for your plant! I’ve seen all sorts of creative ideas; from re-purposing old purses and baskets to hide the plastic containers, to beautiful old pottery and kitchen vases, as well as color-coordinated sets. Whatever your style, make sure to have fun and be creative with your choices – but keep the following key tip in mind to make sure it’s the right one.
When potting your plant for the first time, or repotting it when it outgrows the pot it’s in, you should only move the plant into a pot that is approximately 2” wider and deeper than the one it’s in. This is because although plants do need a larger pot to continue growing and can often die without the extra space, if the pot is too big, they can drown or develop root rot from moisture in the soil that never gets absorbed.
As humans it’s important to continue growing and improving; it is one of the key factors to our happiness and satisfaction.
Like plants, when we outgrow our current place, we need to find a new opportunity or goal to challenge us or else we become stagnant and unhealthy. But what happens if we bite off an opportunity or challenge too large? Have you ever taken a job you were too underqualified for, accepted responsibility for something you didn’t have the time to handle, or set a goal that was a little too ambitious? If so, you most likely felt like you were “drowning” and became overly stressed by the opportunity rather than motivated by it. You weren’t in the right sized pot!
When choosing your next endeavor or setting your next goal, make sure it stretches you, but is also attainable.
If you read through the miracles of Jesus in the book of John, you’ll notice an interesting pattern. Before almost every miracle He performs, Jesus asks the people present to take a small step of faith. Then, and only then, does Jesus do a miracle – which ultimately instills more faith and confidence in the believers.
By God’s grace, He continues to model this out in our lives. He gives us tiny steps of obedience to take in serving and loving those around us, and uses those steps to grow our faith. God doesn’t ask us to quit our jobs tomorrow, liquidate all our assets and give to the poor, and spend 10 hours a day in the Word – He simply asks us to pursue righteousness.
So for your next spiritual growth spurt, pick something that gets you uncomfortable but is also a manageable next step.
2. The Soil You Choose Matters
Once you pick a pot, there are a few things you need to do before putting your plant inside. First, you want to make sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom – yes, you can make do without one, but as my wife would say, “why make things harder when you don’t have to?” Then, you should lay a foundation of rocks to drain any excess water away from the roots, followed by some horticultural charcoal that will help keep bacteria and mold away, and then a blend of soil that is conducive to your specific plant-type.
Your plant may survive and even grow, if you don’t pay attention to the environment it’s planted in, but it will do best if you do some research first to set it up in an environment that allows it to thrive.
Your surroundings directly impact your success.
Have you ever tried to follow a diet with a fridge full of beer and a pantry full of snacks? It doesn’t go well. Or maybe you’re in a career type or work culture that doesn’t fit your personality? I work in an open concept office so I sit next to a bunch of people with no walls between us – this would be rough for Karla, but I love it!
The point is, if you are struggling to reach a goal of yours, look at where you are planted. Are you in an environment that is conducive to your personal growth, or are you surrounded by distractions and things that are slowing you down?
Do your best to plant yourself in the best environment for you!
The same personal growth tips can be applied to your spiritual life, but I want to add something here that I think is extremely important – your church and your community.
Are you planted and building roots in a local body of believers, under the teaching of a gospel-centered pastor, and regularly vulnerable and transparent with other believers? This is key to our spiritual growth!
The soil, or the community you are a part of will lead to either stagnation or amazing growth and joy.
3. Don’t Over-Correct Your Mistakes
Let’s be honest, all plant parents (and normal parents, I’m sure) make mistakes. We over water, we underwater, we give our plants too much light or not enough, we deprive them of the humidity they need, or spray them too much. But it’s usually not the mistakes that kill our plants, rather, our over-correcting of those mistakes!
For example, if you have been over-watering your plant (which is more likely than you under-watering it), let it dry out for a few extra days and then go back to your normal watering schedule – don’t just not water it for 3 months. Or, if your plant doesn’t seem to be getting enough light, move it closer to a window but don’t put it directly in the sun. The old leaves may die off from our initial mistakes, but new growth will start once the right conditions are provided!
Have you ever set off to do something you haven’t done in a long time? Maybe you decided you want to start reading, journaling, getting up early, or run a marathon.
These goals we set for ourselves are great, but they are typically over-corrections to flaws in our current lifestyles and we can’t expect ourselves to go from zero to one hundred the same way we can’t run a marathon in a couple of weeks if we’ve never run one mile before. It takes time!
So set goals for yourself and dream big, but start small, set achievable goals and build a consistent routine rather than trying to do a 180 in your life overnight. Not only will you have more fun that way, you’ll also be more likely to achieve your goals.
The first thing that comes to mind here is practicing spiritual disciplines.
As believers, God impresses on our hearts the desire to spend more time with Him, whether it be by reading His Word, talking and listening to Him in prayer, or any other spiritual disciplines.
However, jumping to reading the whole Bible in a month or spending an hour in prayer each day if you haven’t been spending any time reading or in prayer to begin with, isn’t realistic and will set you up for disappointment.
Instead, start small, build consistent habits, and build a routine that connects you with the Lord regularly – this leads to spiritual growth.
4. Sometimes Pruning is Ok, Other Times it’s Not
Plants grow toward the light. If your plant is not set up in a place that gets light on all sides, you may notice that your plant will begin to grow lopsided. If this happens, you may want to trim back that growth to improve the overall aesthetics. Feel free to, but you shouldn’t cut away more than 15% of a plant at one time. To catch the lopsided issue before it starts, I recommend rotating your plant 45-90 degrees once a month.
Again, while the occasional pruning is fine, I urge you to not cut off damaged leaves. If a plant has new growth coming in healthily, there is no need. In fact, those old leaves, even with their spots, help absorb light and fuel new growth!
Don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned from past experiences, and don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned through failure with others! We are all human and we all make mistakes so there’s no need to pretend otherwise.
The correlation to our spiritual lives here is transparency and vulnerability.
We have all gone through hardships, we have all been hurt and made mistakes that have left physical and emotional scars. But when we look at those scars we can see and talk about one of two things; the wound or the Healer.
As believers, we have a beautiful ability to share our testimonies and how God has worked in our lives to save us from our sinful ways, or allowed them to hurt us as a way to bring us back to His arms. This reminds us that wounds are not the end of a journey; some leave scars but the next leaf, or page of our story, still has amazing growth.
5. Words have Power, Name Your Plants
If you have a tendency to forget your plants, this tip is for you.
Each one of my plants has a name, a unique, specific name. For example, my two snake plants are Nag and Nagaina (the two snakes from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi), my rubber tree is Helen (the secret identity of elastic girl from The Incredibles) and my monstera is Mike (named after Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.).
While it may seem somewhat silly, I encourage you to do the same thing! Giving your plant a name immediately creates a deeper level of care within our hearts. It’s crazy, but the best way to increase your awareness of and level of care for your plants is to name them.
Words have amazing power. There are dozens of books, podcasts, and motivational videos that discuss the importance of words of affirmation.
Writing down your goals, saying them out loud, giving them a name that others know – it makes you accountable. Thinking about doing something? Post it on social media! Tell the world (or maybe a couple close friends) what it is you want to accomplish – you may find it helps you to stick with it.
We are so quick to forget. It is part of our nature and a result of our sin. Rather than remembering and dwelling on all the good things we have been given, we forget and focus on the storm we are in or the hardships we have endured.
I’d encourage you to start writing out and naming the blessings God has given you. Not only the blessings but also the work He has done to bring you from where you were to where you are today.
When we have written stories, blessings, and reminders of God’s goodness, it instills confidence and motivates us to press into God in times of hardship rather than relying on our own abilities. Reminder after reminder, this creates a beautiful habit that is fundamental to spiritual growth – relying on God and His faithfulness.
6. How to Pick Your Next House Plant
If there are celebrities in the plant world, they would be the Fiddle Leaf Fig, the Monstera Deliciosa, and the Bird of Paradise. There are others, but if you scroll through any plant social media accounts, you will undoubtedly find these plants.
I actually have all three of them (two fiddles in fact), but one of the main reasons plants die is because the space we have in our homes is not conducive to their growth. Both Fiddle Lead Figs and Birds of Paradise need a lot of light, and if you don’t have big south- or east-facing windows, they probably won’t do very well in your home.
When picking a plant, most people pick the plant they want and then find a place to put it, but you should actually do it in the opposite order! Look at your home, find a place you want to put a plant and then ask yourself the important questions – should this be a big or a small plant, and how much and what kind of light does this spot get? Limit your plant options to the kinds that would thrive in that space, and then go buy one.
While a Google search can usually help you determine what plants would work in your home, there are other great resources such as the Sill, which I use a lot! They have multiple plant stores in New York and California, but also sell online. They have high-quality plants and their website has a ton of information on what each plant needs and it allows you to filter their plants based on a variety of criteria.
I have a heart murmur, I lost a fight to a tree when I was 6, and my parents are both significantly under six feet tall. Physical-contact sports where size matters were not in the cards for me – that’s one of the main reasons my parents put me in tennis. It was a sport I could thrive and excel in given my nature.
This same idea can be applied to all aspects of our lives – in the same way we can’t change a plant’s needs, we can’t change ourselves. But we can change our environments! When deciding your career, your side hustle, or your relationships, ask yourself if it’s an environment that would make you thrive or if it’s not the right fit.
Find a place that is ideal for you.
This one is less of a tip, and more of a reminder of the good news that you are loved and cared for by the God of the universe. He made you, named you, and placed you where you are today with all the care and love He possesses, “so that [we] would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27).
I don’t know what you are going through, maybe you are in a season of growth, or of struggle, maybe you feel like your roots are rotting – wherever you are and whatever you’re going through, it can be used for growth, and you have been allowed to go through it that you may love and know more deeply the Lord your God who gave His life for intimate relationship with you.
You were chosen.
Share Your Growth!
Our desire is to build a community that supports and encourages each other in both our personal and spiritual endeavors.
Part of this article talks about the fact that “Words have Power” and making our intentions known to those around us does too! If this article has helped, encouraged, or motivated you to take action – whether spiritually, personally, or in up-ing your plant game, we’d love to know about it!
Tag us on Instagram @kalisinwonderland with the tip that helped you! We’d also love to read your thoughts and comments in the section below so don’t be shy!