Plant Parenthood: Starting a Green Family

Some of Gallatin junior Mercer Malakoff’s succulents line her window at Broome Residence Hall. The googly eyes in the background come from Popup Florist, a flower and plant shop where Malakoff works.

A pop of color in the concrete jungle, plants are the new pets, aesthetic dorm decorations and semi-sentient additions to our college families. Following a recent rise in popularity, cat ladies have made way for the new and improved plant ladies, a trend budding at NYU and beyond, according to the Wall Street Journal and Refinery 29.

A step below pets and human children, plants have found a place in the homes of aesthetic young adults. Sure, NYU students might not live on their own just yet, but dorm life isn’t going to stop them from starting a family of green children.

The plant bug bit Steinhardt sophomore Maria-Jose Soto in her first year at NYU — prior to coming to the city, she wasn’t all that interested.

“My grandpa was really big into plants, the family usually had a garden and it was super cute,” Soto said, “but I couldn’t take care of a plant to save my life.”

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In her first year, Soto lived near the Union Square Greenmarket, where she bought two succulents, figuring she couldn’t kill a succulent. From there, the addiction snowballed. Her first-year roommate, CAS sophomore Michelle Xu, also picked up a couple of succulents, and the duo were quickly hooked on the aesthetic. Soto now has four plants she calls her children but is saving up for a larger one she wants.

After being recently introduced to them, Xu has found herself equally invested in raising succulent babies. For her, plants are alluring because they are easy to take care of, especially as a busy student.

“I never thought I would be good at maintaining them because I always killed them in high school,” Xu said. “I kept eventually getting more plants and I was surprised at how they’re all alive and growing.”

On the other hand, Gallatin junior Mercer Malakoff has always been a little obsessed with plants. Her great grandmother was a florist, and back home in Dallas, her family had always kept plants around their home. Malakoff decided to dot her dorm with plants to bring some greenery to her city life.

“The first thing I did, even before I moved into my [first-year] dorm, was I got two plants and moved them on my windowsill,” Malakoff said. “I cannot go into a store and not be like, I have to get a plant.”

Malakoff has noticed the rise in popularity of plants and plant parents. She says a few years after she started collecting plants, she noticed plants on everything, from phone cases to posters. Then people would buy and kill the plants, because they didn’t know how to take care of them. Though she welcomes new plant caretakers with open arms, she has a small warning.

“I think it’s good that people are getting plants and having them in their homes, I just think it’s important to remember that they’re alive,” Malakoff said.

 

Kaitlyn Wang
When her plants grow too big, as some inevitably do, Malakoff will repot them. Although she sometimes gives them away, other times she keeps them. It’s one reason she’s accumulated so many plants. By her own estimation, there are about 25 to 27 plants in her dorm.
Kaitlyn Wang
Five more of Malakoff’s plants soak up the sun on her windowsill.
Katie Peurrung
CAS sophomore Michelle Xu poses with her prayer plant, one of her six total, in her dorm room in Palladium Residence Hall.
Kaitlyn Wang
Some of Xu’s plants, including a money tree in the background, on the windowsill in her room. Plants are easy to take care of, she says, especially when you’re a busy student.
Kaitlyn Wang
LS sophomore Lila Jacobs, who is Xu’s roommate, holds her rubber tree named Rita. Jacobs has had houseplants since she was little, but moving to New York has made them especially important to her. “I live in New Hampshire, where I’m constantly surrounded by nature,” Jacobs said. “And then I moved here and I was like, there’s no nature anywhere, I need to make my own.”
Kaitlyn Wang
Jacobs waters her plant, which she does every so often. “It’s nice to have something to take care of, to have something depending on you, because a lot of stuff isn’t depending on you when you’re just a student,” she said.
Kaitlyn Wang
One of Steinhardt sophomore Maria-Jose Soto’s plants sits on her table at University Hall. Soto has four plants total, and says that she got more attached to them as they began growing. “When you see life prospering inside your residence hall, it makes you feel happy,” Soto said.

 

Kaitlyn Wang
Soto names all of her plants. This particular neon plant is named Leon, because it rhymes. One of her others, a zz plant, is called Jay-zz, after the rapper. Soto’s two succulents are named Coco and Mario.

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