I have a houseplant named Florence. She’s a poinsettia. My mother gave her to me last Christmas. I’ve moved 6 times since last Christmas, and each time Florence has moved with me. She just had her first birthday on Christmas Day, celebrating in grand style by showing off her brand new red leaves.
Poinsettias are fascinating plants. Many of us buy them at Christmas time and then discard them before Easter, but I can’t kill things that are still alive and breathing. Not even bugs. I let them live until God takes them home. So Florence will be with me for as long as she keeps breathing.
I didn’t know much about poinsettias until I got Florence. As you may or may not know, poinsettias are native to Mexico, so they’re not big fans of the Canadian climate. Florence would die if I planted her outside, even in the summertime. She was born in a pot and she’ll die in a pot.
Plants can teach you many things about life. I’ve moved so often over the past several decades that I’ve never bothered to get any plants. It wasn’t practical for me to have them. The few plants I did get were given to me by my mother, maybe in a subconscious attempt on her part to get me to stay in one place for more than a few months. So when Florence was deposited on my doorstep last Christmas, my first impulse was to give her away. I’m glad I didn’t. Here’s what she’s taught me so far.
Plants have friends. When I first moved out to the country, I rented a furnished house that came with a live potted cactus. It was just a little wee thing that I called Shorty. I set Florence down next to Shorty, and over the next few months, the strangest thing happened: They started growing towards each other. I had set them in front of an east-facing window, but instead of growing towards the window, they grew towards each other until their leaves were touching. At one point, I turned the plants around so that their “backs” were towards each other, but their leaves on that side started doing the same thing. They were friends.
Unfortunately, I had to leave Shorty behind when we moved to where we are now, but that was a life lesson for Florence, I guess. She’ll make other friends someday, and she’ll see Shorty again when she gets to Heaven.
Plants need down-time. Poinsettias are primarily green plants when they are thriving. They only turn red during their down-time, which is the cooler and darker months of the year. The red color of their leaves indicates an absence of chlorophyll. In the cooler darker months, poinsettias shut down most of their chlorophyll production in order to survive as a plant. The lack of chlorophyll results in the brilliant red leaves that are the plant’s calling card. So what we’ve come to associate poinsettias with (brilliant red leaves) is actually a sign of their partial hibernation in survival mode. Poinsettias turn red for much the same reason as trees turn red in the fall.
To get Florence to turn red for her first birthday (December 25), I had to give her her own bedroom and put her to bed at sundown every day, starting in October. She needed total rest and darkness for at least 12 hours out of 24, followed by indirect sunlight only, so I gave her the northeast-facing bedroom. She seems to like it there. I’ve been rewarded for my diligence with a burst of red bracts just in time for Christmas.
Plants do not like to move. They are rooted for a reason. Every time I move Florence, she weeps white liquid and her leaves completely droop. I guess that’s her stress response to rapid changes in lighting, humidity, air pressure, etc. As soon as I set her down someplace that isn’t moving, the weeping stops and her leaves slowly return to their normal position. Florence doesn’t even like a breeze. I set her outside a few times in the spring, on warm days with the lightest of breezes, but she completely drooped then, too. She is decidedly a houseplant.
I was a reluctant plant-mother, but I’ve grown into my role nicely. Poinsettias are a relatively low maintenance plant-child. The only other time I had a plant was when my mother gave me one to put into a hanging pot outside of a house I was renting one summer in downtown Halifax, nearly 10 years ago. I didn’t have a place to hang the plant, so I would set it down on the doorstep each morning and take it into the house each evening (I didn’t want it to get stolen). I called the plant “Flower”, and that was that. Once you name them, they’re yours for life.
Unlike Florence, who is growing upwards, Flower was a spreading plant. It was her nature to spread out. Within a year, she’d outgrown three pots, and by the time I moved her to her final resting place, I had to move her in a wagon on the back of a pick-up truck (lol). I had bought the wagon specifically for her.
Flower’s in Heaven now. Shortly after her first birthday, I planted her in a location that she did not take to, and she died soon afterwards. I guess, like Florence, Flower was a houseplant at heart, too. I know for sure she’s in Heaven and flourishing, and I’ll see her again when I get there.
God surrounds us with living things that we can share our time on Earth with. Each of these things we can have a relationship with and learn from. We can show them good stewardship and treat them as we would want to be treated, if we were them. If God puts them into our hands in some way, he wants us to look after them, so we have to look after them. They’ll look after us, too. Then, when it’s their time to go home, God will take them, but we’ll see them again when we get there.
I have lots of treasures in Heaven. Jesus says that Heaven is where we should be storing our treasures, so that’s where I’m storing mine. Flower’s in Heaven with Pumpkin (my pet cat) and Priscilla (my pet fly), and someday Florence will be there, too, waiting for me. They’ve all shared their life with me, as I’ve shared my life with them, some for a short time, and some for a longer time. In Heaven, we’ll be together forever. That’s the joy of it. And that’s a big part of what draws me home.