Artful Neglect

In our home school room, a collection of African violets in little terra cotta pots sits in a row on one of our desks. I love everything about these pretty plants, from their compact growing habit to their nearly constant blooms in many hues, from pastels to jewel tones.

purple violet full



But, beautiful though they are, they can be a bit tricky to maintain and picky about their environment. For instance, they prefer a sunny window, but not too sunny or hot; direct sun can yellow their leaves.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t water them too much. A wilted African violet is usually one that is overwatered, not underwatered; I water mine only about once every 7 to 10 days, when the top layer of soil is very dry.

The list of requirements goes on: no drastic day-to-night temperature changes, no water on their fuzzy leaves. Keep them in small pots. Don’t keep spent blooms. Feed regularly. Repot only when absolutely necessary. (They remind me a little of our very particular cat, Miss Potter.)

Through trial and error and lots of googling, I’ve finally discovered what strategy works best with these plants: a sort of artful neglect. Or neglect by design, maybe. Meet their main requirements and then leave them alone. I never move them from their position about 12 inches from our school room windows. I only water and feed them when absolutely necessary, and I only disturb them by pinching flowers or trimming yellowed leaves at that time. And they thrive! I seem to have several in bloom at all times, contributing to the cheerful atmosphere of the room in which we spend many hours each day.

white violet

While artful neglect may work as a strategy for raising African violets, it obviously won’t work for people. And how glad I am that God doesn’t treat us that way, watering us only when we are parched or cutting away at us when we are injured or dying, spiritually speaking. Even when we act as persnickety as those African violets, outlining our needs to God or dictating the parts of our life in which he may participate, he knows far better than we do what is best for us.

He’s the ultimate Master Gardener, after all. Pruning? Yes, he does that. More than once, he’s caused me to (rather unwillingly, at times) cull something in my life that was uselessly weighing me down.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. – John 15:2

Repotting? For sure, he does that. He’s gotten me out of my comfort zone and into new situations countless times in which I have been forced to grow and change and adjust. Ugh. For me, seasons of change are, at the least, annoying, and at the most, downright scary.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Watering? Definitely. He may seem to do a bit of overwatering at times, leading me or my family into situations that seem overwhelming, trials during which we can’t imagine the outcome. But in the end, we are able to soak up all that water and gain the nourishment we need to grow stronger and more lovely in his sight.

It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. – Ezekiel 17:8

Are you fond of any particular house plant? How has God worked in your life to help you grow? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to my lovely daughter for the photos on this post. You may read her blog here:

13 thoughts on “Artful Neglect”

  1. Love this! I have African violets that I am trying to get to flower too and I must say, I couldn’t agree with you more when you said – “Through trial and error and lots of googling, I’ve finally discovered what strategy works best with these plants: a sort of artful neglect.” Haha, thanks for sharing and God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love African violets. I have two that were given to me over ten years ago and they are huge and blooming beautifully! They are just my kind of houseplant… and now I understand why… “artful neglect”! Love that. But you are so right. Artful neglect doesn’t work with people. 🙂 Beautiful and inspiring application, Meredith! I always find a a gem of encouragement here! I love your blog…

    And in fact, although I don’t know if you accept blog awards (It’s okay if you don’t), I wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can find more details at

    Congratulations, ❤ and hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorite flowers. You have inspired me to go get a couple. My fifth grade teacher had one entire side of our classroom filled with African violets. She would tend them while we would work quietly or when we would read aloud our history lesson. I’m not sure why but it created a beautiful relaxed atmosphere in the class. I think of her every time I see an African Violet. I guess she is a part of me. Thanks for helping me remember that this morning:))

    Liked by 1 person

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