Whether you’re a sucker for free succulents or a professional propagator, you may have seen more and more USC students collect and nurture plants. These potted friends are the perfect way to bring some green into your dorm or apartment, get a routine and even make some money on the side.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, and some are easier to care for than others, not every plant is as high maintenance as you think. However, there is a learning curve when caring for a plant.
Every plant is different, and not many people know that. Some require low light, lots of water and attention, and others can go days or weeks without a look in their direction. You may kill a couple of plants at first, but don't let it discourage you.
That succulent you grabbed from that student organization you had no interest in joining is not the only option for a first plant.
Emma Jackson, a fourth-year marine science student will outright tell people to stay away from desert plants like succulents and cacti.
“They are so challenging because all you want to do is water them and they never want water,” Jackson said. “I typically recommend starting with a pothos.”
Pothos plants are viny and easy to take care of since they’re still able to grow in a pot of soil or water with low light.
Others view succulents as a great first plant like Sara Bryant, a first-year nursing student, despite pothos being her favorite. Both succulents and pothos are great low-maintenance plants that add vibrant color to your beige dorm walls.
Plants are more than decoration too. They’re natural reminders to take care of yourself and friends with personalities.
“Plants, yes, very dramatic,” Alana Dea, fourth-year public health student said. “They have their own personality, even if that’s probably not true."
Dea isn’t the only one to experience some dramatic plants either. Bryant said she had a particularly moody croton plant.
“A couple of them have ‘attitudes,’ like if you don’t water them, you can literally see how their leaves fall … and then when you water them, they perk back up,” Bryant said.
Plants do more than sit there. While they may not be a theatre-kid type dramatic when owners call their houseplants moody or dramatic, the way they hold themselves changes. They’re good at reminding you when they’re being neglected, and in that, are good at reminding you to not neglect yourself.
“If my plants start getting droopy, I’m not taking care of them. So it’s usually when I’m not taking care of myself either,” Jackson said.
For such dramatic friends, plants are at least good at checking in. They can also be lucrative.
For fifth-year biology student Clayton Bellinger, plants and their quirks are part of his job as a researcher on evolutionary genetics. Bellinger also trades rare plants on eBay.
“There are sellers all over the country that specialize in different kinds of plants,” Bellinger said.
Bellinger’s collection is vast and more diverse than your average college student’s. He's been collecting seeds and propagating samples from hikes or purchases from eBay for about seven years now. Today he grows many different kinds — filling his apartment and dominating the windowsills.
“I’ve had many comments say that it looks like a Rainforest Cafe,” Bellinger said.
Bellinger is just one of many examples of possibilities of how plants can add vibrance to your average college apartment. At a certain point, houseplants don't just add some color — they completely change the mood of your space. Plants are the best way to take a bland space and turn it into a livable Rainforest Cafe, if you're into that.
Advanced research is not the only way to turn a profit on your green thumb. Jackson and Dea have found success adding to their collection and putting cash in their pocket through local Facebook groups.
“I’m in a bunch of Facebook groups where we trade them and then sometimes I'll sell them to people. It’s me and a bunch of grandmas all the time — it’s amazing,” Jackson said.
For some, plants may strictly be decorative, but many have formed hobbies and even careers out of their love for plants. Either way, you should own plants for their natural reminders to take care of yourself and the relationships you can form with them and the people with a similar interest, in and out of the research labs and grandma Facebook groups.