Water the Roots

What I learned from roses (and my therapy)

Terrence Litwiller
6 min readSep 22, 2020


Photo by Author

I’ve had roses for many years, but this honestly, embarrassingly, didn’t really sink in until very recently. Roses don’t get healthy by watering the plants, the leaves, and the blooms — they get and stay healthy by watering the roots.

I would go out early in the morning, get the hose ready, and turn it to the correct dial. I would get some level of pride or satisfaction in then misting the hose water onto the plants… making sure I got the leaves and blooms covered with a safe blanket of freshwater to start their day. I was their self-assigned hero, their caregiver.

It’s the leaves and the blooms that make a rose a rose right? That’s what we see… so our natural inclination is to believe that this is also what we should water and where we should nurture.

But it isn’t true.

For your roses to be healthy, you must water the roots. And that’s not very glamorous, and not nearly as rewarding I admit. But it’s what works.

The attractive bloom, that which seemingly makes a rose a rose, is not the source of the plant's health, but the result of it.

I also realized that in order to support the growth and health of the plant and the specific parts that I desired to see thrive, I also must be willing to cut away all those branches that are detrimental. This is pruning.

I am not the caretaker and protector of every leaf and every branch just because they happen to grow on my plant, nor even every bloom — I am the caretaker of the vision, the end result.

Therefore I must choose.

Branches that drain: Within the bush, there are branches that simply do not support the vision that I am the steward of maintaining. They are either heading the wrong direction or sometimes just simply dead weight that drains and steals from the branches I am really tending to. For the blooms to be the best they can be, these branches must be identified and cut off. For the first years of my gardening, I assumed I was the caretaker of every single branch — but it’s simply not true.

Boundaries: One of my roses sits right next to the front steps of our house. To protect the natural use of the steps and the family and…



Terrence Litwiller

new writer… old soul… memoirs and reflections from the journey to find my true heart and purpose and to live a life of significance