Idiomatic Investigation: “Bloom Where You’re Planted”

While I feel strongly that we need to be cognizant of the implications wrought by our political sphere, it’s time to return to the sunny side of life. Don’t you agree?

Over the past few years, “Bloom where you are planted” has become one of my favorite sayings. This is because up until the past decade, I never imagined a scenario in which I lived out my entire life here in my home state. I was positive that at some point, we’d be moving on. We considered it more than once, but various obligations induced us to stay put, and now we’re happy to do so. There comes a time in life when you mature and see that you have what you always wanted, and pipe dreams give way to attainable goals. We replaced speculative discontentment with determined gratitude.

My recent post, in which I shared recent vacation photos, caused this idiom to bubble up to the surface of my consciousness again. As I often do when an expression captures my attention, I began exploring the origins and meanings of this particular idiom, beyond the obvious. We have certainly learned to bloom where we are planted, for which I am grateful! I still wondered, however, who first coined this phrase and to what degree should it be embraced so that “blooming” doesn’t turn into “getting stuck”?

To get to the point, as far as I can surmise, the saying “bloom where you’re planted”, is most often attributed to Saint Francis de Sales, The Bishop of Geneva (1567-1622). The exact quote is as follows:

Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.

That’s the oldest recorded mention of this particular expression, but there are various iterations on record. One of my absolute favorite (though not an exact quote), is attributed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

He who does not serve God where he is would not serve God anywhere else.

My inarticulate restatement of that is along the lines of:

She who cannot be content where she is will not suddenly be content anywhere else.

One of the things I like to tell the restless, wandering souls who desperately believe they will find greener grass on the other side is this (and yes, I know it’s neither new nor original):

Wherever you go sweetie, there you are.

As I researched this particular idiom, Bloom Where You’re Planted, I found several sources that referenced an article written by the late, great Paul Harvey in which he used the phrase. I have looked diligently for it. My Google-fu is pretty weak, but I can usually find what I’m looking for eventually. It’s been a week and I haven’t found it, so it is with heavy heart that I forge ahead and follow this trail to completion.

Along this path, I found an article written by a man who advocated blooming where you are planted (’cause life, man!), but without making the mistake of getting stuck if you are genuinely planted outside of your natural soil. While I have contentedly -happily, even- learned to bloom where I am planted as it becomes increasingly unlikely that I’ll be going anywhere, this guy offers a different take. I think he’s fairly insightful:

So how does this translate for us? How are we to bloom where we are planted? How are we to thrive in our lives if we are living in “too shady” or “too dry” a setting? It is fair to say that we all have different versions of how we would like to live. For some, the intensity and vibrancy of a metropolitan lifestyle is essential for happiness. For others, clearly a more rural, small-town setting is where they feel more comfortable.

Is it that we are pre-wired for our spot in the “garden” of our life? Do we all have some “type” some “hard wiring”  at birth that determines where we will “bloom?” What if that were true? What then becomes of the small town, mountain-loving, rural “type” if they are “planted” in the city? Can they ever feel at peace? Can they ever truly bloom?

I don’t know where the ultimate wisdom lies. Perhaps, it really comes down to two things. Bloom where you are planted, BUT you better know who you are and understand that if you are “country” living in city, or “city” planted in the “country” you might want to make a change and get to the sunnier side of the garden.

I think he has a point, and a good one, but I still believe that it is incumbent upon each of us to find reasons to live life of joyful gratitude and cultivate fruitful relationships wherever we are.

I mean, for all we know, we could be dead tomorrow, and do we really want to expend our last moment in a state of ingratitude? Keep on the sunny side of life!

8 thoughts on “Idiomatic Investigation: “Bloom Where You’re Planted”

  1. Will S. says:

    Hi Elspeth!

    In a similar vein, I’ve always felt this humourous yet surprisingly deep ostensible Yogi-Berra-ism gets at the flip side of the coin:

    “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”

    If you live an aimless, directionless life, you are no doubt doomed to wanderlust and restlessness, always moving on, never settling down.

    I lived that way too long.

    Eventually, God got me to bloom where He planted me now, at long last. 🙂


  2. elspeth says:

    Hey Will! Praying that newlywed life is blessed and prosperous for you.

    We never wandered. I just day dreamed -pretty much all my life- about living somewhere else, right up until the moment when moving seemed feasible.

    We both had elderly dads that we didn’t want to move away from (my FIL was widowed and never remarried, so…). We turned down offers in different areas because family.

    Now, both our dads are gone and theoretically we could move on, but we’ve bloomed here now, so unless something monumental happens here we are. Of course something COULD happen in this crazy crumbling republic of ours to send us on a sojourn.


  3. Will S. says:

    Thanks Elspeth! God has been and always is good, indeed, we’ve found. 🙂

    Ah. I never wanted to wander till I graduated university.

    Then I needed to be…. elsewhere.

    And I can now see how God used that to lead me to the Reformed faith – I found the right church in a far-away city – and to my current work here, and my wife. 🙂

    And so now, happy at last to bloom where now planted by God. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. hearthie says:

    As much as this mountain rose is very tired of living in the ‘burbs, the bloom where you’re planted is good advice. Even a plant – if it will so much as sprout and take root – will bloom where it is planted though it would prefer a different location. Would it bear twice the fruit and grow twice as large elsewhere? Perhaps. But if it took root at all, it will still get on with life in the spot it started.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. elspeth says:

    Even a plant – if it will so much as sprout and take root – will bloom where it is planted though it would prefer a different location. Would it bear twice the fruit and grow twice as large elsewhere? Perhaps. But if it took root at all, it will still get on with life in the spot it started.

    I like the way you put this. To piggy back on it:

    How many of us at all -in this postmodern era- are planted in an environment where humans flourish? We’re atomized, malnourished, deracinated (your recent piece “Wilderness” hits on that beautifully).

    Nevertheless, here we are: in the burbs, surrounded by concrete, stuck in traffic, communting to church rather than walking to the same parish as everyone else in our neighborhood, LOL. Is what it is (unless you’re in a position to change it).

    What I had to learn (which my husband already knew by the way), was that even in this environments, there are still people. Image Bearers whom we can touch, and smile at, and bless. There’s still beaches, and mountains, and rivers and pockets of beauty here in the swamps of Florida. Well, no mountains here, but I can at least drive a few hours and hang out in them for a few days if I crave that.

    It’s getting harder rather than easier to just pick up and start over so we best get on with the business of living more and day dreaming less.

    But if you can transplant without killing your progress and withering your roots, then by all means…


  6. hearthie says:

    I don’t want to mess with your excellent piece, which I agree with, with quibbles about my personal situation… even though I want to relocate and expect to do so.

    Why? Because I live it. I have never sat here in this place I don’t want to be in and said, “just because it’s not perfect, I won’t bloom”. Now, I don’t spend fuss and bother on things that I’d change if I were going to stay here – but I also don’t stay my hand from good when I can do it. I do involve myself where I am.

    I can’t control when I’ll leave, and I’m responsible for all the days of my life… am I not? Doesn’t the Good Book say something about being found faithful in small things… ? Hmm. 😉


  7. elspeth says:

    You’re not quibbling. You know that I want so much for you and yours to move on to greener pastures. For all my pontificating, I should make clear that I’m not advocating staying stuck in a bad environment when you can -and in some case should- get moving.


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