A Beginner's Guide to Plant Care for College Students

I’ve spent the past eight months invested in the rigorous process of self-actualization. In the process of peeling back each layer of my being, I’ve found myself observing some societal discourse. In particular, I believe there has been a separation between man and the natural world. As it appears, most people have lost themselves in the work-life whirlwind, traipsing themselves through this concrete jungle that was once earth.

Within the past year, I’ve noticed a trend of succulents and other “desert plants” flooding mainstream media. With that said, people, myself included, take on plants without understanding the rules and intricacies of each. As a novice botanist, I’ve developed a personal philosophy: plants are more than home decor — they are little lives with health, mental and emotional benefits.

Why you should garden

According to an article by CNN, numerous gardeners have attested to a spiritual bond that develops between themselves and the soil.

“Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world, a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things we've lost in our busy, dirt-free lives,” explains Anne Harding.

Gardening provides multiple physical health benefits as well — it eases stress, relaxes muscles and elevates mood.

Choosing your plants

As a college student living in an apartment on the second floor, a full-scale garden isn’t plausible, but potted household plants and herbs are.

Suggested plants

   •    Spider plant

   •    Snake plant

   •    Aloe vera

   •    Heart-shaped philodendron

   •    Ivy

   •    Boston ferns

   •    Golden pothos

   •    English Ivy

The majority of the plants listed above thrive in temperatures ranging from 50-70 degrees and prefer indirect sunlight. Generally, my houseplants have a watering cycle of every two to four days depending on relative humidity and temperature, but the topsoil should be completely dry between watering. I house mine close to windows so they can directly get their nutrients from sunlight. For additional nutrients, you can purchase plant food. Please check with your local forest nymph if you are unsure about appropriate amounts.

Succulents

Contrary to popular belief, I've found succulents to be a difficult plant to maintain. It is best to water them by completely soaking the roots at night, as they store their water in their leaves. Also be sure that in between watering, the soil completely dries. Regardless if it takes two days for the succulent to absorb all the water or two weeks. During the colder months, remove the succulents away from windows or else they will freeze.

Materials

Purchasing the incorrect soil is detrimental to plant growth and health. When I first began the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I was unaware of the varieties of soil. Seedlings prefer a special potting mix full of nutrients to firmly root them. Cacti and succulents prefer fast drying formulas because they are accustomed to arid climates. Potting soil is composed of 25 percent vermiculite, which aerates the soil and as a result doesn’t hold moisture as well. An easy fix is to mix the potting soil with dirt.

You should purchase planters large enough so the roots can spread comfortably.

Tips to keep them alive

When potting your houseplant or herbs, remember to instill proper drainage. This can be done by layering rocks at the base of your planter or with a hole at the bottom.

Avoid over-watering. Believe it or not, overwatering causes more plant deaths than under watering. You’re not giving your plants enough time to absorb the water and as a result, the roots are drowning. Signs of overwatering are depicted by the leaves being yellow and wilted.

         Remedy: Reposition the plant so the roots have more room to breathe.

On the other hand, avoid under-watering. As temperatures begin to climb, so do evaporation rates. Signs of dehydration are when the plant looks dry and feels crunchy.

          Remedy: Plants should get at least one inch of water a week.

When tending to your babes, remember to cultivate a specific water schedule for each plant. As the season progresses, your plant might require more attention because of the heat. There is no more humbling of an experience than watching a plant grow under my care. Have fun and happy growing!