How my plants make me feel

​Why do students love plants so much? Here is an analysis from two plant moms.

In the past few months, while living in Gothenburg to study at Chalmers, we have visited different places such as libraries, friend’s homes, bus stations (the ones that are indoors), coffee shops and so on. And we’ve noticed that they all have something in common. Plants!! They come in all sizes and shapes here. One can even find palms in many places, which is odd because they are usually huge trees located outdoors. All this visual investigation led us to wonder, what do plants have that make people like them so much?

As students, we spend most of our time indoors while we study, work on assignments and relax drinking a cup of tea with our friends when the day is over. Moreover, this year we’ve been forced to spend even more time inside of our homes due to the global pandemic that has been present since the better part of last year.
All the time we spend tucked away in our apartments can give us stress-related psychological and physiological disorders. This, added to the fact that our household items release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to lower indoor air quality and can also cause us several physical ailments, making staying indoors even harder.

Plants are wonderful organisms. Apart from being beautiful, they may play a green, cost-effective, and eco-friendly key part in our battle against the dangers of staying inside. Several studies have focused their efforts in making this happen and, to this day, more than 60 plants have been found to clean up dangerous volatile chemicals. That goes without mentioning all the psychological benefits they bring us just by being pretty and letting us look at them. We truly don‘t deserve plants.

After analyzing this topic, we decided to put on our perspectives in this blog from the perspective of a new and not so new plant mom. There are a lot of ways one can “adopt” plants, it can be either from the flower shop, the supermarkets, having a repotted one from a friend, or even planting it yourself. Since “adopting” them is very common here in Gothenburg, this is how we have felt while having them.

New plant mom point of view (Nathaly)
Based on all of the reasons above, I decided to become a plant mom as well. You’d be amazed on how many flower shops there are around the city. So, I started my journey on having backup. I asked one of my classmates, from the master’s in Biomedical Engineering, if she wanted to come with me to buy a little plant for my apartment. Once we set the date, I was so excited about which plant I would be bringing home later. Since I know little to nothing about plants, I wanted to make sure I would give it a good life. 

I asked the sales person to show me the plants that had these characteristics.
1. Easy to maintain.
2. Survives the cold weather.
3. Improves the air quality.

Apparently, the plants that are more suitable to have here, in Sweden, are the “green ones”. It is a little hard to describe for someone new to this world of plants! The flowery kind of plants won’t survive that long here and, certainly, not in unexperienced hands (like mine).
After finding the ones that fit my requirements, I got a crush on one of them. I am not gonna lie, the decision was tough but, once I located the beautiful green leaves this plant has, I was in love. It is perfect for me, since it requires just a small amount of sunlight (perfect for the dark months) and to be watered only once a week (perfect for my bad memory). 
I’ve been told and read (from non-official sources) that plants react well when they are loved and talked to with a tender voice. I’m excited to see how it grows and, hopefully, make a change of pot soon to allow it to be even bigger and more beautiful. It certainly makes me very happy to see it every morning. I also enjoy looking for the perfect spot for my plant to receive a bit of sun and talking to it from time to time. You know, just to remind it how pretty it looks and how happy it makes me. It does not only make my apartment look livelier, but also gives me a beautiful responsibility. It is something I can take care of, something I can distract my mind with.

Not so new plant mom point of view (Abril)
As a Biotechnology Engineer, I have had the opportunity to study the way plants work on the inside and all the marvelous things they can help us accomplish. However, I, someone who knows what the xylem and the phloem do, someone who is a plant mom’s daughter (as in plants are my sisters, I am not a plant (I think)), had an awful hand with plants. I couldn’t keep them alive for the life of me. 

When the pandemic struck, I spent several months in lockdown in my parents’ home in Mexico, helping my mom to take care (or at least trying to) of her walnut trees, orchards, devil’s ivies and the rest of the huge plant collection she takes care of. It truly became something to enjoy and a much-needed addition to my routine in those weird months. When I came to Sweden, I bought a basil plant (which you can find in the grocery stores here). As store-bought spice plants are not always in the best potting conditions, it started to wither down in the next months. So, I got a new pot and some soil and repotted all the different stems. It seemed like it wasn’t going to make it, but a month later it’s looking healthy and strong. This clicked something in my mind and now I have seven more plants and I’m using my technical knowledge to give each one what they need such as soil additaments depending on their health, strategic pruning so they grow tall and strong, etc. As of now I have rescued a dill pot and an orchid that I found abandoned apart from the basil. After seeing my mom grow emotional attachments to her plants for months, now I can say I get it. 

As Sweden has long dark periods and plants need an average of 16 daily hours to keep their physiological processes going, I make sure they get the light they need by shining a growing light on them (which can easily be found online) for as long as they need. Added to this, most plants that are sold locally are easy to care for as the climate benefits their growth. It is, then, a slippery slope towards over shopping for plants but to be honest (as long as the plants are healthy, and they make me feel healthy) I don’t really mind. I also make sure to go on a Google deep dive of the cares and needs a certain plant has before I buy it to make sure I have enough means at home to keep it as happy as it makes me.

Even though the millennial and zoomer stereotypes accurately describe us as plant lovers, everyone’s journey towards becoming one is different, as you can see in our case. With us, the starting point was moving to Gothenburg and spending a lot of time at home. If you’re already a plant parent, what was your journey?

Page manager Published: Mon 15 Feb 2021.