Root Bound…

Photo by Mary Dessein
My jade plant is blooming. My jade tree rather, as it is bigger than either of my children were when they started second grade. I’ve had the plant for close to thirty years. Seventeen years ago, it was in a three inch diameter ceramic planter, a swan to be exact. Now it is busting out of a foot tall, eighteen inch diameter pot.

I believe it is root bound. When other plants I have started blooming after years of not, I was told it was because they were now root bound. Really? In looking at articles on root bound plants, it is reportedly a negative thing for the plant and ought to be rectified.

Yet, my jade tree is blooming elegant little white flowers at least once a year, starting about five years ago.

My sansevieria (snake’s tongue or snake plant), which I got off a clearance table at the drug store in a tiny square starter pot sixteen years ago and is now hundreds of times larger, filling a foot tall, twelve inch diameter pot, currently blooms a couple times a year that I know of. Some times the stalk of blossoms is inside the forest of leaves and I don’t see it until much later. Both of my asparagus ferns, sprengeri and densiflorus, which are not ferns nor asparaguses, bloom with wee white flowers and tiny berries. After decades of no blooming.

My hoya. Oh my gosh, the hoya carnosa blooms three or four times a year. Lovely dangling clusters of blossoms whose lush fragrance fills my home.

This root bound concept and it’s physicality. Root bound could mean I don’t venture out or try new things, don’t go new places, or experiment with new ideas. It also could be where I am now: having been many places and done quite a bit over the last twenty-five years, and then having lived a quiet, low activity life in 2017, my root bound-ness was solidifying to allow me to bloom.

I had several gigs in the last three months, challenging me to expand my repertoire, and spend time with my performance pieces of music and storytelling.

And myself.
The quiet time, seeming inertia compared to my previous level of daily and weekly activity, was a puzzlement to me. Then my jade tree blossoms sprung out and began to open, reminding me how I felt enervated by the gigs, by interacting with the people involved, and the preparation time.
That quiet time was as if I had become root bound: I nested, wrote daily in my Artist’s Way journal, stayed up late and slept late, dialed back on my real estate activity and ventures, read novels, and even took an occasional nap. I did all the life stuff of paying bills, doing my podcast, going to various meetings and all, yet I was quiet.
That quiet time was me becoming more stable in this chapter of my life. More confident in who I am. More sure of my talents. Forming healthy detachments. Resolving ambiguities about what I want now, what gives my life quality, and what nurtures me.

What nurtures me and forming healthy detachments are two things that have eluded me during my life prior to now – I learned as a child not to do those two things. The belief presented was “always take care of others, it is selfish to care of yourself.”

Yet when two friends, I thought to be close friends, walked away from me without a word, healthy detachment lessons appeared. I felt the loss of the friendship yet have been able to move away from having to fix the problem; the problem which I was unaware of and is not mine. And to be able to see these people on occasion and be present in that moment with them, carrying no negative baggage forward.
My two children are now young adults with life partners they have chosen; one lives thousands of miles away from me. Healthy detachment. I am still deeply connected to them, yet have no responsibility to fix their problems and challenges. I listen, and offer advice when asked.

Nurturing myself. My, oh my. Maybe it is not selfish to prioritize what I need and want, perhaps it is even the best choice I can make. Yes, there are endless needs of millions of people in the world as well as there are starving children in China (which is what I was told as a child every time I did not eat every single morsel on my dinner plate. Both my parents having been raised in the Great Depression, I get where their reasoning was coming from; I am also pretty sure that statement has unintentionally caused many an eating disorder by overriding kids’ natural self-regulation and limits.) However, my job at this time is to take care of me. I donate each month to multiple causes, as well as volunteer. Laugh-out-loud! I am still justifying nurturing myself and not being selfish!

Four years ago on a landmark birthday of mine, my drunkard’s bottle cactus (hatiora) exploded in small yellow blossoms; the plant looked like it was covered in a beaded hairnet. It had not bloomed in the previous twenty-plus years since my sister gave me a tiny fingerling of a start off her plant. It is now a thousand times larger. And in a pot it is nearly growing up and out of, the pot is about a quarter the size of the cactus. Its hundreds of tiny branches hang elegantly several inches. Nowadays, my drunkard’s bottle cactus blooms each year around my birthday.

There is a lot to be said for being root bound.


  • Allison Cox

    February 16, 2018 at 1:30 am Reply

    Blooming lovely! And did I miss your birthday? I will send you a photo I was saving for you.

  • robin dachenhausen

    February 16, 2018 at 1:33 am Reply

    the blooms on your plants can have another meaning: leave well enough alone. we don’t always have to fix what’s doing just fine. how can we help others when we dont even feel comfortable careing for ourselves? why does self care have to be viewed as selfish? you can’t care for others if you your self are in need.

    • Mary Dessein

      February 17, 2018 at 12:22 am Reply

      Indeed, the self-care balance. Thank you, Robin.

  • Shirley

    February 16, 2018 at 2:00 am Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Mary… Resonates for sure. Love to you ????

    • Mary Dessein

      February 17, 2018 at 12:22 am Reply

      Blessings upon you, Shirley~~ And love to you.

  • Meg philp

    February 16, 2018 at 2:19 am Reply

    Good to look at you plants closely with you. Great descriptions. Long may the flourish!

    • Mary Dessein

      February 17, 2018 at 12:23 am Reply

      Thank you, Meg. You know a bit about flowers and plants. Best to you~

  • Donna M. Rudiger

    February 16, 2018 at 7:57 pm Reply

    Excellent metaphor! Taking care of you is always the first priority! Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Mary Dessein

      February 17, 2018 at 12:25 am Reply

      You’re welcome, thanks for appreciating. This being vulnerable is amazing and strengthening.

  • Lynda Condon

    February 18, 2018 at 12:07 am Reply

    Flowers have lots of meanings for me: a sign of new life, something beautiful to just sit back and enjoy, sometimes they beckon me to look closer, or I may miss the more insignificant blooms. They remind me to be grateful and your story made me think about all those “hort terms” I haven’t used in a while, so I loved the challenge you brought me! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Mary Dessein

      February 18, 2018 at 6:52 pm Reply

      Thank you, Lynda. Flowers do have so many meanings and characteristics.

  • Terra Lea Dennis

    February 18, 2018 at 12:47 am Reply

    Lovely. The beauty of blooming while root bound—— it is a choice for us isn’t it? Choosing joy today, thank you!!

  • Colleen Wolf

    February 18, 2018 at 1:13 am Reply

    I love this Mary! You are a very talented writer. I could really relate to your feelings. And….I too was raised to clean my plate and take care of others first. What a healthy perspective you have given me here.

    • Mary Dessein

      February 18, 2018 at 6:53 pm Reply

      How good to hear, Colleen. Thank you. We Aquarians!

  • Joy Ross

    February 18, 2018 at 7:04 am Reply

    Well said………………and so needed to be read!! What a gift you are!!

    • Mary Dessein

      February 18, 2018 at 6:55 pm Reply

      I am looking at your card, your gift to me, “You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it come true,” Richard Bach. Thank you, Joy~

  • Jennifer Ferris

    February 21, 2018 at 10:49 pm Reply

    Our jade plant of 40 years has never bloomed! Maybe it should start reading your wonderful blog.

  • Beverly Allen

    February 24, 2018 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Thanks Mary. A fun new way to look at the choices we make for our days.

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