What I Learned from a Small Plant with a Big Personality


I am not a plant person. At least, that is what I thought. I have always wanted to be a plant person. I like the idea of gardens and have more than once ripped out the weeds in front of my house and sprinkled wildflower seed packets or sunflower seeds with visions of a beautiful garden by July. I have only ever gotten some random black-eyed susans and the weeds I’d hoped wouldn’t come back. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on with my life. Would I like to be a plant person? I guess. Plant people have time and money to invest in fancy plants and mowers and people to come help them make decisions about full sunflowers and shaded perennials. (It took me three tries to even spell perennials.) I have killed whole succulent gardens.

I have two kids, a job and a year left in seminary. I guess I just cannot be a plant person. 

Then my friend started researching plants. She started small with a spider plant in a pink pot that supposedly would take care of itself. It did. She graduated to some kind of plant that flowered every once in a while. Pretty soon she was part of a plant subscription service that was sending her plants that were a little more advanced every month. Before I knew it, she was telling me how much her big plant in the corner likes a shower every once in a while. It did look very healthy, but how do you know what a plant likes every once in a while? 

On our way home from a highly emotional errand that neither of us much wanted to do, she asked if I had time to stop at the plant store. I smiled and said sure, even though I did not really understand what we were going to find that would make either of us feel better. Well, I found a teddy bear vine, a plant that looks like a bunch of baby bananas that occasionally flowers, and a little plant with red lines all the way through it. The vines needed me to sit them in front of a window and not water them too often. (Once every other week was just fine.) I thought I could handle that, but the little red one made me nervous. It needed a little more care. 

First, it had mites, so I had to keep it away from the other plants. This was not going to be a problem, as I didn’t have that many others. Then it needed sun, but not too much. It needed water, but not too much. It needed air, but not too much. It felt like a lot. Could I really care for this thing?

My friend just smiled as she put the plant in my cart. Oh, don’t worry friend, she told me. This little lady lets you know when she needs something.

It is a plant, I thought. How could that possibly be true? 

I started Scarlet (yes, she has a name) out outside. I live in Georgia. That was too much sun. I found out three days later when I looked at her on my way to my car. She was white where she should have been pink, and she was slumped over in her little pot. I sent a picture to my friend and told her I wasn’t a plant person. 

Hang on, she said. Just put her inside and give her some water. So, I put Scarlet inside and gave her some water. When I returned from grocery shopping she was standing tall again, her white veins regaining their color. I put her on top of the TV and gave her her space. 

A week later she was the right color, but slumped over the pot again. This time I knew enough to not think she was dead. I put her little pot by the window sill and stuck my finger in her soil. It didn’t feel dry. When I got back from my day and there she was waiting for me, perked right up again. I have since discovered that Scarlet likes the windowsill by the sink and I need to water her about once a week. She also likes it when I talk to her and the girls are around in the kitchen. I can just tell. Don’t tell the other vines and the spider plant I adopted after it almost died in a preschool classroom from too much touching, but Scarlet is my favorite. 

I like her because of just how dramatic she is. True to her name and her geography, she is a true Southern Lady! She faints when she is in distress and she totally expects someone to take care of her. She is not shy about telling you what she needs, and when she gets it, she radiates warmth. I sat looking at her one day, smiling, thinking about how my plants have personalities and this one’s personality was big. 

Right there the Lord smiled upon me. I have spent most of my adult life unlearning the lie that asking for what I need makes no one like me, that my big personality and dramatic flair are totally annoying, that I need to be less of what God created me to be in order to be loved by those around me. But I love Scarlet BECAUSE of all those things, not in spite of them. I love Scarlet for her dramatic flare and her ability to bounce back. I have heard people say the same about me. Those things aren’t flaws. Those things are features. Scarlet and I are just exactly who we are made to be. 

I still can’t turn my weeds into a wildflower garden, and I have never once desired to shower with my plants. But I have been reminded of God’s plans for me through a tiny and very demanding plant named Scarlet who resides at my kitchen windowsill. I guess that makes me a plant person.