Sometimes, it’s best to question authority. Even if it is a plant authority. Several years ago, I wanted to fancy up my patio with several potted plants. It’s a challenge in Phoenix, as pots get very hot in summer. And plants that sit on a concrete patio get even hotter.
When the plant tag said, “Plant in full sun,” it looked like the perfect choice. It added that the plant could take a trellis, but the trellis should be kept in the full sun. The plant was a Manzanita, purchased it at a local big-box hardware store.
I planted the Manzanita in a big pot with a small trellis and put it where it got the morning sun and was shaded from the harsher sun of the afternoon.
During May and early June, the Manzanita bloomed constantly. By the end of June, the edges of the leaves were beginning to turn brown. Too much sun. I pulled the pot under the patio overhang.
Through July, the plant slowly died, from the branch tips in. It was simply too hot. Not just too much sun, but too much heat. For all the years I lived in Connecticut, there was no such thing as too much sun, but in the Southwest, too much sun and too much heat is what we call June, July and August. As far as plants go, there can be too much of a good thing.
It turns out that Manzanitas grow at 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet, which was not mentioned on the label. (Phoenix is about 1,000 feet) The big-box store probably should not have sold the plant here; I think few people buy them here and then drive them North to plant. But big box stores don’t focus on regional products, I’m surprised at how many plants I see that won’t survive our summer or our winter.
Any living thing can suffer from too much of a good thing–too much sun for plants, or too much water. For people, we can suffer from too much free time, too much work, too much anger, too much stimulation.
It’s not just a matter of balance, it’s a matter of knowing what, exactly, it takes to let you thrive. Even if others around you are thriving, they may be the high-altitude types and you aren’t. Demanding the flexibility to thrive under every condition is more than most people can deliver. But it’s up to you to figure that out, the people who surround you will assume if they find you in their lives, you will be able to thrive.
You will need to establish your own limits, and then let others know. “Grow where you are planted” might be a great proverb, but it may be wiser to plant yourself where you can thrive.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who helps people become brave enough to know what it takes to thrive. She now grows succulents on her balcony.