Student Life

‘I Basically Sleep in a Jungle’: Students Have Deep Roots as Plant Parents

Light snowfall, cold breezes and colorful leaves mean only one thing: fall is here. But while most are stuck waiting until April for the lush green foliage to come back, some students just need to look at their own windowsill. 

When Clara Barton, a 20-year-old sophomore, was gifted a small blueberry bush in middle school, she fell in love with taking care of it. From there, she kept growing her collection, and love, of houseplants.

“Now, I have more [plants] than I can count,” the environmental science and statistics major said. “I basically sleep in a jungle.”

A small herb garden with Thai basil and mint, as well as wildflowers, succulents and tomatoes are just some of the plants that call her Fordham dorm home. 

Barton’s love for beautiful botany eventually culminated in a summer job at a plant farm in her home state of Missouri where she helped oversee “hundreds, if not thousands” of cultivars in a greenhouse. 

“I’d come to work every morning, spend hours watering tons of plants and identifying issues they might have,” Barton said. “It was a big operation and there’s always new [plants] coming in.”

Barton said working in a greenhouse changed the way she started taking care of her own plants, steering away from the cookie-cutter and into the mindset of a tried and true horticulturist. 

“I was exposed to a big variety of the different ways people take care of plants,” Barton said. “I have a keener eye with my plants at home now.”

But years of experience aren’t needed to start taking care of a plant — or 20. 

Loyola junior Emily Wirtz was a plant novice when she got her first plant, a succulent, in 2019. Intended to bring some life to her decrepit dorm in Campion Hall — the oldest residence hall on campus — it died after “one too many visitors kicked it.”

Rising from the ashes of the fallen succulent are the more than 20 plants she loves and cares for in her apartment. Snake plants and Zanzibar gems take up any space with adequate sunlight, while Pothos vines hang from the ceiling of her room.

While the sheer volume of plants may be overwhelming to some — especially those without a green thumb — Wirtz said being a full-time plant parent and student aren’t incompatible.

“Plants are pretty low commitment and I think that’s how a lot of people get into it,” Wirtz, 20, said. “The more you grow the easier it gets, and it’s not time-consuming.”

The political science and global studies double major said she also uses apps to help keep track of each plant’s water and fertilizer schedule, as well as social media like TikTok and Instagram to get tips and tricks from “plant influencers.”

One group of Loyola students, enamored with their voraciously growing spider plant and ghost succulent, turned their love of plants into a small business.

The collective, which goes by @jazzhouseplants on Instagram and Facebook, sells baby plants and cuttings for $5 apiece, already potted and ready for a loving home. 

“[The plants] just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Carinne Jarvis, 21, said. “There were so many on the windowsill, and someone pitched [the business idea] at dinner and it went off from there.”

Jarvis, as well as her three roommates, take care of the more than 36 plants growing in the group’s apartment — watering, cutting and propagating to sell and deliver to students.

Since the group started this summer, they’ve sold about 20 plants to students seeking to spice up their space.

“A plant brightens the room, especially during the pandemic when we couldn’t go out as much or now that it’s colder,” the senior biology major said. “It’s no substitute but it’s nice to take care of something.”

Barton echoed that statement, saying no matter one’s personality type or lighting situation, there’s a plant for everyone. 

“Start easy, plants aren’t as difficult to get into as they seem,” Barton said. “I recommend everyone should take care of a plant at least once — you learn a lot by taking care of something else.”

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