In my last blog (found here), I reflected on how plants have shaped and impacted my USC experience. Plant care really helped me stay accountable for my own self-care and health in college, and I would love to help you all begin (or expand!) your plant child collection for your upcoming years. To get started, I’ve compiled a list of basic tips that helped me curate my green space.
1. Finding Your Green Queens
For my first plants, I bought easy to care for varieties like succulents and cacti from stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. I’ve found that they have pretty well priced plants that are in good health. My succulents and cacti have been very easy to care for since they only need to be watered about once a month (essentially just when their soil is completely dry). Also, being located in Los Angeles makes succulents/cacti the PERFECT USC student plant. If you want to get an especially cute little guy, I love checking out the USC Village Trader Joe’s for their seasonal plant varieties. Buying grown plants, however, can be a pretty expensive investment which is why I have gotten into the habit of growing plants from seeds. Growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables from seeds may take a while, but I have found that it makes me even more connected to my plants. Also, nothing is better than eating the produce from your own lettuce or basil plant. At the start of my freshman year, I planted some wild strawberry seeds in a cute self-watering cat planter (check it out here – highly recommend!). These strawberries grew quite quickly and even produced berries in my dorm room! They were very small, but incredibly sweet and a cute little addition to my small room. Most recently, I have started trading cuttings of my plants for my friends’ cuttings which has helped me expand my collection significantly and get to know my friends in a whole other way. Obtaining cuttings is not too hard and only requires some scissors and a live plant. Just make sure to google some specifics on the plant(s) you’re interested in before trying it out!
2. Getting Creative with Potting Solutions
Another fun part of the plant growing process is obtaining cute and fun pots for your plants. In the beginning, I bought fancy planters for each and every one of my little friends, but this can get pretty pricey if you keep expanding your collection. Now, I source most of my plants from old containers for food/drinks/etc. All you need to do is add a small drainage hole at the bottom using a screw. I’ve even spruced some of them up with some paint to help liven up my planters a bit more. Additionally, I frequently use Facebook groups like “Free and For Sale: USC” to find old planters (and even plants) from graduating students. Beyond plants, Facebook groups like these are great ways to find free/affordable dorm and school supplies.
3. Making Your Schedule
A lot of people tell me that they could never own plants because they “don’t have a green thumb.” Personally, however, I think a green thumb is a complete myth. Plant care really just comes down to doing your research and following through with a plan. As an engineer, I conduct research on each plant to see how much light and how much water they need in their life. I then use the Apple “Reminders” app to set up a regularly recurring schedule of watering/misting to help keep my plants thriving. You can also use a physical calendar or Google calendar to keep your schedule consistent. I’ve found that by doing this, I can keep my plants healthy without worrying too much about if they need more/less water or a check up.
4. Adjusting Care
Since every environment is different, you need to be open to changing your plant care routine to help ensure they thrive. I do this pretty simply by just checking my plants leaves each time I get a reminder to water them. If they look less than optimal (yellowing or browning), I look up what may be the issue. From some more research, I simply just change the reminder on my phone to make my care routine better for the plant. For example, my air plants have been really temperamental since moving to Los Angeles. In Colorado, I had these plants near my bathroom, so they were naturally more humid. However, at USC I had to keep my plants on my work desk. Consequently, I’ve found that they get a lot more dry here. Overtime I’ve tweaked my watering routine to help ensure their best health. My air plants even propagated their own little babies that I have been able to give to some of my friends!
All in all, I think plants are a great way to ground your busy college schedule. Engineering can be a lot sometimes, but my plants help remind me to keep with my routine.