Despite the importance often placed on forming new friends in college, one particular group of companions may be getting overlooked: those of the green variety.
Columbus is home to a multitude of plant shops, many of which are easily accessible by COTA or car and are frequented by college students. From Oakland Nurseries to Strader’s Garden Centers to STUMP, Ohio State students looking to spruce up the shoeboxes they will soon call home and find a bit of nature in the middle of a city have no shortage of options.
Shawn Schilling was a student himself when he began working at Oakland Nurseries in Columbus. Now a general manager at the location, he said the workplace was a natural fit for him.
“I worked here while I was in school, I’ve been here for over 16 years at this point,” Schilling said. “It was just something that fell into my lap, so to speak, something that I truly enjoyed and felt passionate about, and as time progressed, it just became a more and more natural fit for me.”
Another former student-turned-plant-aficionado, Sebastian Muñoz, lead shopkeeper at STUMP German Village, said his plant addiction of seven years first developed while he was a student at Capital University. Although his interest in plants led to an eventual career at his old stomping grounds, Muñoz said he firmly believes plants are for everyone, regardless of how much time students are able to spend on their photosynthesizing friends.
“There’s lots to juggle in people’s lives, and plants are nice to add into the mix, but sometimes it doesn’t have to encompass your entire life like it has for me,” Muñoz said.
Although making one’s way to a plant shop is hardly challenging given the variety in Columbus, figuring out which plants are best for a given lifestyle out of a plethora of options can present problems. Trish Miller, head of plant purchasing for Strader’s Garden Centers, said even with potentially minimal space and lighting in a dorm room, there are plenty of options for students.
Miller said Pothos plants are particularly popular and easy to propagate for those who may want more plants without the hefty price tags. She said plants from the Dracaena family, such as snake plants or lucky bamboo, are also great options for rooms with less natural light.
Muñoz said ZZ plants are also well-loved, low-maintenance options and added that plants from the group Peperomia are an underappreciated fit for students with slightly more natural lighting in their dorms.
“The key, to me, is finding the right plant for the right place,” Miller said. “You don’t want to start out with something that belongs in really high light if you have a dark corner that you’re trying to find a plant for.”
Once the right plant is found, having it in a dorm or living space can be just what a student needs –– especially in a concrete jungle. Miller, who has been working with plants since she graduated with a degree in horticulture from Michigan State, said her preferred method of unwinding involves taking a walk in the woods around her house. Although OSU students may have vastly different surroundings, Miller said the idea is the same.
“Having a little green oasis –– even if it’s three little plants on the top of your desk –– you have a little responsibility, you have something you have to take care of,” Miller said. “And, you know, it just helps me to be around green stuff.”
Schilling said having plants in a living space can appeal to natural instincts because they foster a sense of responsibility in their keepers and are good for mental health.
Plants teach patience and allow for the creation of memories as they grow alongside their owners, Muñoz said.
“My first plants came from freshman year, and I look at them now, and I’m like, ‘Wow, you were as big as my thumb when you started, and now you’re as big as my whole arm,’” Muñoz said. “So yeah, you kind of create memories, you learn something about yourself, you learn how to communicate, and that really just scratches the surface.”
STUMP , Strader’s and Oakland Nurseries each have multiple locations in and around the Columbus area. More information on hours of operation, locations and services, such as in-store potting at STUMP, can be found on their websites.