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  • Melissa

A Look Ahead: To Repot or Not?


Early in the quarantine phase of the pandemic, I decided I needed a new hobby. I wanted something that could take my attention away from the doom and gloom of it all, but that also brought some additional life and light into my day to day. Houseplants beat out several other strong contenders, thanks in part to their forgiving nature. If I was going to start something new, without any knowledge of how to have success in that space (read, not killing an innocent plant), I needed a bit of reassurance that I wasn’t setting myself up for complete failure from the jump.

I started with some hearty plants — a ZZ plant fondly named Phillip and a snake plant named Frank — after some light research. From what I gathered, these two plants could withstand a horrendous level of neglect and still thrive. Sign me up! Now, it was not my intention to neglect them. Of course not. But, even when you’re home for days and weeks and months on end, we as humans forget or ignore or avoid tasks from time to time, for reasons big and small.

Fortunately, much to my surprise, I fairly quickly created a mental schedule for watering, pruning, and generally caring for these two plants. Over the first two months, they grew enough that I felt confident expanding my plant parenthood to other, less hearty plants.

It didn’t take long for my confidence to wane. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I had some lessons to learn about creating the right space for Phillip, Frank, and the rest of the crew.

Making Room for Growth

I had no idea repotting plants was a thing. The two I started with came from a boutique nursery halfway across the country. They were mature and seemingly comfortable and growing in their original planter. When I started adding others to the plant collection, I noticed that some would thrive like the firsts, but others would wilt and dry out no matter how hard I tried to keep them alive. I invested in moisture meters, timers, humidifiers, and fertilizer, and none seemed to matter. I thought for sure I was simply not on top of things enough to keep several plants alive at once.

The reality, though, was that some of my new additions needed a change of scenery.

I have come to find out that repotting is more than just finding a cute planter to house your new leafy friend. Some plants outgrow their space over time. They can’t grow in a cramped space, and repotting provides the needed opportunity to expand to their fullest potential in a new, bigger pot. Makes perfect sense.

Other plants are fine on the growth front for years, but the nutrients in their soil simply aren’t cutting it anymore. Adding some fertilizer can help, but in most cases, a complete cleanout and repot into fresh, nourishing soil is the only real remedy. Also makes perfect sense!

Nevertheless, when I first realized repotting was a common houseplant task, I was hesitant. It felt like overkill. You want me to remove this living thing from its home, shake it out to get the old crusty and dusty soil off, then put it into a new, unfamiliar pot that’s slightly too big? That seems ridiculous, despite the benefits we just acknowledged. I was — and honestly, still am — hesitant because I don’t want to hurt the plant or accidentally cause its demise in the process.

I didn’t recognize that the core of the plant — the root — wasn’t being removed or damaged in that repotting. That stayed the same; only the environment changed. What’s needed for growth and development is and has been there the whole time, inherently, but that sometimes isn’t enough. A move to a bigger, cleaner house is the only way for that opportunity to come to fruition. That isn’t something to be hesitant about, at least with plants.

It is something to embrace.

Getting to the Roots

While the lesson of making room for new growth seems small in scope from a houseplant perspective, I’ve been thinking about how that applies to each of us as humans in such a profound way.

Without the right environment — one that includes the right amount of space and the right blend of support and nourishment — growth personally or professionally isn’t a given. It could certainly happen, based on factors outside of our control, like pure luck or happenstance. However, having the ideal environment for growth is just as important as having the desire and plan for that growth. We can’t thrive in dingy soil or a pot that’s too small. We can live comfortably in those conditions for a while, but repotting is a must when push comes to shove.

For some, that may mean repotting on the career front. Are you in a work environment that feels like you have room to expand and grow the way you want? If not, what steps can you take to get to that point? Maybe it’s evaluating what’s out there that can feed our soul while also feeding our bank account. Or are we in the best position to start that consulting firm we’ve talked about for the last few years? If the answer is “no” or “I’m unsure,” consider what repotting looks like in those areas for you.

From a financial standpoint (we would not be us if we didn’t bring this full circle to financial wellbeing), maybe repotting looks a little different. It could mean taking inventory of our financial surroundings — bank accounts, investments, and debts — to see if there is room for development. Are we doing what we can to fill or deplete those all-important financial buckets, or are we resting in the certainty and safety of our too-small pot?

Are we thinking too small in terms of what we can achieve in our financial life, or are we scared of what that next level might entail? Which areas could we spend more time cultivating or pruning in our financial lives to get to a different, better point? Is there more education or knowledge needed to get to that place? Asking and answering these questions is a healthy place to start. Sharing those thoughts, concerns, or ideas for repotting your financial life with a trusted advisor is a helpful next step for some.

A Nourished New Year

I have been thinking about all of this as we wrap up another year. I’ve never been one to focus intently on resolutions around this time, but some themes have cropped up as I plan and prepare for a new season. For the last several years, growth has been on the docket for me, personally and professionally. However, it wasn’t until this recent moment of reflection that I realized my houseplant journey offers several nuggets of wisdom for other facets of life as well.

As the new year comes barreling toward us, my attention is on which areas of my life and work need to be repotted, so I am in the best position to achieve what I want not only for myself but for our clients, partners, and colleagues in the financial guidance industry. And while I wouldn’t normally go into such detail about my aim for the coming year, several conversations I’ve had recently seem to indicate repotting in a sense is worth exploring further.

I’d love to hear where you think repotting may come into play in the coming year. I have no doubt many are comfortable where they are, like my OG plants who don’t need to be repotted any time soon. However, this may be a great place to start for those who feel inclined but not prepared or supported for growth.

For the curious, both Frank and Phillip are still living their best houseplant lives. Here’s to more of that in 2023.


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