A Basic Guide to Plant Parenthood

There’s a popular green trend that’s taking over Instagram feeds and windowsills everywhere. It’s plants, of course! Becoming a plant parent is catching on especially well with college students. Plants can be a good alternative if you’re living in a dorm or apartment that doesn’t allow pets. For the busy student, taking care of a plant is less stressful than looking after other living things. Plus, plants increase the level of oxygen and remove toxins from your living space.

So, you’re sold on the idea of raising a plant. You may be asking yourself some questions. What’s the next step? Which plant do you get? How do you keep it alive? Here’s a basic rundown on what it means to be a good plant parent.

Do some research.

Before you head to the nearest nursery, read up on what kind of plants will be best for your environment and schedule. If you’re interested in a certain kind of plant, find out how much maintenance and what kind of light it needs. Some of the most popular plants for students are succulents and cacti. They don’t need to be watered often, so they’re perfect if you’re usually busy. They’re super cute, too!

If your room is shady and you’re worried your leafy friend won’t get enough sunlight, try a bamboo palm or spider plant. Living in fluorescent lighting? Jade plants and anthuriums thrive in bright indoor light. For those with a windowsill, herbs are a neat take on plant parenthood. Rosemary, sage and thyme are woody herbs that don’t require a lot of water. You can even pick them to use in your cooking.

The other factor to familiarize yourself with before you go plant shopping is the price. Succulents like aloe vera usually cost $10-$15, but other popular plants like anthuriums and ferns can run closer to $30. While you might be taken aback by this, you have to remember that you’re paying for a living thing. Strapped for cash and still want a plant to take home? Check and see if your college’s greenhouse or biological science department is having a sale. You can usually find plants there for cheaper than in a big nursery. If not, succulents are a cheap option that’s very trendy.

Remember their basic needs.

If your plant child starts to look a little droopy, don’t freak out. Make sure it has enough light, water and space. Try moving it from a bright spot in your window to a shady shelf or vice versa. You can also try changing up the kind of light your plant gets. If you normally keep it in the sunlight, try placing it under a lamp instead, and see if you notice any change.

One common mistake plant parents make is watering their plant every day. First, make sure you know if your plant’s soil is supposed to be kept moist or if it’s supposed to dry out between waterings. Set a timer for the same time every day, but when it goes off, don’t actually water your plant(s). Instead, poke your finger in the soil to see if it needs to be moistened. This will keep you from overwatering your plant, which can be just as bad as under-watering it. Remember to water into the soil, not the leaves, and pour the water all over the soil, not just in one place.

If your plant is looking big and strong one day but then falling over itself the next, it might need to be repotted. Make sure your plant has the right amount of water before you repot it. Turn the plant in its old pot on its side, gently wiggle it out and then transfer it to a new pot with fresh soil in the bottom. The change of repotting can cause something called “transplant shock,” so don’t be surprised if your plant child gets a little worse before it gets better.

Plants sometimes need food, too. If you’ve checked all the basic needs, this is the next step to take. You can buy indoor fertilizer for about $5 on Amazon or pick it up at your nearest Walmart. Feed your plants roughly every two weeks, and they should stay in great shape!

Personalize your plants.

This is crucial if you’re going to be a plant parent. When you personalize your plants, you feel more motivated to take care of them. Give your plant children names!

Another way to personalize your plant is to put them in a cute planter. You can find chic or novelty planters at Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Target. If those are a little out of your price range, decorate your plant’s pot with paint, stickers and even googly eyes!

My first plant was a coleus that I named Judy and housed in a cute planter shaped like a teacup. Watering her and checking her soil quickly became one of the highlights of my day. It gave me something to look forward to when I got back from classes. Watching her grow over the course of the semester was awesome! When I took her home for winter break, I was proud to show my family that, as busy as I was, I had kept a plant alive all semester long.

Even if you’ve never raised a plant before or tried and failed, give plant parenthood a shot. Take a chance, get yourself a leafy little friend, and watch it grow. You just might surprise yourself and turn out to be the world’s best plant parent.