NYU’s Plant Fanatics and the Roses, Buds, and Thorns of Indoor Gardening

Two plant enthusiasts explain why they own plants and how they care for them while living in the urban jungle.

People who don’t own plants are all the same, but the same can’t be said for all plant lovers. Even New York is full of plant owners, each with their own tips for indoor gardening. Owning plants in the city can seem daunting, but CAS senior Seb Goodwin-Groen and Tisch senior Kaysha Pressley offered their tips on indoor gardening and showed that, like Kermit and his green thumb, he’s pretty. “easy to be green”.

Goodwin-Groen is used to being surrounded by plants, especially those that are edible. His vegetable journey began in his childhood, when his family grew a small home vegetable crop in their backyard. In his apartment, he now grows his own tomatoes, eggplants, beans and mint. He also dreams of adding dragon fruit to the list.

While it can be handy to keep your vegetable plants on the kitchen windowsill, Goodwin-Groen cautioned that these plants could be the toughest of them all.

“The problem with edible things is that they just need to be wet all the time and New York is a very hot city,” Goodwin-Groen said. “I’ve had 10 different mint plants in the last year and none of them survived.”

Through trial and error, Goodwin-Groen was able to figure out the best way to keep her plants alive. His biggest advice? Keep an eye on the soil of your plants.

“How your soil dries out is so important,” he said. “Most people I see starting to garden don’t know why their plants are dying and the reason is always because the soil is wet, unless you’ve done something really weird. When the plants start to look unhealthy and you don’t see any insects on [them], it is because the roots are rotting. I’ve probably killed at least 25 plants this way. So you should have at least two things: normal potting soil and then something like moss, something looser or lighter.

Sebastian Goodwin Groen uses the natural light in his apartment to grow his plants. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

On the other hand, Pressley’s interest in gardening grew during the pandemic, proving to be a perfect indoor hobby – one that led her to work at The threshold. In recent years, one of the things she appreciates most about plants is their ability to ventilate stuffy rooms.

“I love plants because I feel like my air is filtered when I walk into my bedroom,” Pressley said. “One of the best air-filtering plants most definitely would be the snake plant because it does photosynthesis in the dark.”

The usefulness of plants is not their only attractive aspect. Their aesthetic influence on a piece can be powerful, and both Goodwin-Groen’s and Pressley’s pieces were dominated by the color green. Goodwin-Groen also suggested that plants have a higher value than normal home decorations.

“Growth is fun for me. I don’t buy plants that I don’t think will grow visibly,” Goodwin-Groen said. “I love smelling them and watching them grow and eating them, and those are things you could never do to a painting. So it’s not just art; they do things for you.

Aside from their aesthetic value, houseplants are also the most empathetic housemates.

“During one of my severe breakups, a lot of my plants died,” Pressley said. “Sometimes I feel like they understand me. So when I’m in a rut, they’re in a rut too.

Although they both agreed that New York’s climate is not the most ideal for a wide variety of plants, neither Goodwin-Groen nor Pressley see this as a hindrance.

“There are options for everyone. As long as you have a window, you’re fine,” Pressley said. “And if your apartment doesn’t have a lot of light, your two options would be a snake plant or a zz plant – Zanzibar [Gem] – as they can do well in very low light. These are also very beginner friendly in general, regardless of the lighting situation.

For Goodwin-Groen, being able to grow plants in the city is only a matter of time.

“If you can brush your teeth every day, you can also water your plant or just watch it while brushing your teeth,” Goodwin-Groen said. “You have daily things that you do and they don’t take very long. It only takes me half an hour a day to take care of 73 plants.

Some might say you need to keep your enemies close, but in the case of plants, you need to keep them as far away from your flora as possible. Goodwin-Groen and Pressley said the pest problem is the ultimate test for any plant lover.

Fungal nuts are like fruit flies, but they’re not really attracted to your fruit — they’re more attracted to the soil,” Pressley said. “Fungal nuts will lay their eggs there, then they will hatch; they don’t really have a long lifespan – one or two weeks – but they are annoying because once they start getting into your soil and reproducing, it’s just a mess and you have them everywhere. That’s why anytime you buy plants from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you really need to inspect them in the store before you bring them home. You can actually sometimes see the babies of the fungal nuts crawling through the ground.

While Pressley shared both how to look for insects and how to deal with them – his advice is insecticides and neem oil mixed with dish soap and water – Goodwin-Groen came to the defense of some little critters.

“The other fun thing is springtails, little arthropods,” Goodwin-Groen said. “If you keep your soil moist, you can put in springtails – they will eat fungus and dead plant parts. There are also people who get ladybugs because they eat other insects, but I have so many plants that they come on their own.

If you want to develop your green thumb at NYU, you might be in luck. Some residences are free distribution of plants, and you can always find a devil’s ivy, anthurium, or succulent at the Union Square Farmer’s Market or your local Trader Joe’s. As the weather gets colder, houseplants might be what you need to survive in the urban jungle.

“It’s just nicer when there’s a little green patch in the room,” Goodwin-Groen said. “I see plants as a daily source of a little happiness.”

Contact Polina Belova at [email protected]