Letting It Be in the Plant Kingdom
Hands Off! Water Off!
Near dead, rotting at the base, my jade plant was soon for the compost pile. I moved it to the covered patio with most of the houseplants before I left to travel north for what I thought would be a few weeks. There, it would be easier for my daughter to water by giving everything a quick dousing with the hose. I tucked the jade plant into a corner between two large pots so it wouldn’t get too much sun.
A few weeks morphed into two-plus months, and when I returned, it was obvious that the quick spray with the hose hadn’t happened often enough. Some plants were dead; others were shriveled and begging for a drink. I hoped saturating them with water would revive them.
Several were near enough the edge of the patio that summer rains angled into the edges and kept them hydrated. Not so the ones that were on a shelf away from any encroaching moisture. The jade plant was still tucked between the two larger pots, each of which contained desert-dry soil and wilting foliage. I was shocked at the jade plant’s appearance. It was thriving. It had tripled in size; the leaves were plump and green and nowhere were any signs of plant funk. I had read that jade plants didn’t need much moisture and here was my proof.
I’m conscientious about watering, so after I had my dry epiphany, I knew the jade had to be moved away from anything I watered regularly. I placed it on a table by itself and am now conscientious about not watering it. Every week or two, I give it a good drink and some fertilizer to keep it well fed. It’s growing so well that I had to repot it.
Jade has been difficult for me to grow because for the most part, it doesn’t need me, and it doesn’t need my good intentions. It’s hard wired in me that everything—especially growing things, plants, people—must have water and have quite a bit of it. I’ve been wrong. Jade does need water, but in precious small amounts. To keep it healthy, when I’m fertilizing and watering other plants, I must leave the jade alone. The jade plant does not need me for much, so I often must step aside and simply watch it grow.
Jade brings me up short every time I have to step aside. It reminds me that not everything or everyone to which I’m connected—people, my kids, my sisters, my friends—need me and my constant efforts in their lives to water, fertilize, trim, or repot. At times, yes, I can offer a drink or a bite of food or my perspective—if I’m asked—regarding a new or different pot or placement nearer or farther from the sun.
Just as with the jade plant, I must step aside and let people be, let them grow and function on their own. When I’m needed for that drink or food or philosophy, I can sense if it’s the right time because most often I will be asked. The rest of the time, I have to let jade and people grow their own way.