Putting down roots

Siohbhan Mulligan, Campus Carrier Features Editor

plants (resized).jpg
Lesli Marchese | CAMPUS CARRIER

New inhabitants have moved into the windowsills, countertops and desks of many of Berry’s residence halls: potted plants. A surge in the popularity of growing indoor plants has led many Berry students to develop green thumbs, whether they opt to keep low-maintenance cacti as decorations, plant herbs to add some fresh ingredients to that cup of instant ramen, or even grow fruits and vegetables to add to their meals. Some students are trying their hand at gardening for the first time. For others, it’s a continuation of a lifelong hobby.

Junior Emily Cornell grew up gardening with her father and brothers, so for her it’s been a natural transition to fill her room with twenty-odd plants of different shapes and sizes.

“I love to be outside and I hate to be crammed inside,” Cornell said. Keeping plenty of plants brings some of the outdoors in and makes her living space more pleasant. Additionally, Cornell is an RA, and her plants have provided a good talking point with several of her residents. While she keeps ferns and succulents – popular choices for residence halls due to their low maintenance – she grew carrots last year and has also attempted to grow lettuce.

Even if growing crops seems ambitious, it can be relatively simple to keep a few pots with common herbs for cooking, such as basil, parsley, mint or thyme. Khari Nickolai, a junior, said that this is how she began growing plants, and although she and her roommates have some ornamental plants as well, she tends to keep hers for a purpose.

“It’s easier and probably cheaper, since you’re a college student, to have your own basil plant [or] parsley plant,” said Nickolai, “But also we know how it’s raised.” The increased concern over the chemicals that can be used on store-bought herbs may lead some students to take an interest in growing their own.

For students uninterested in growing herbs, ornamental plants may provide some benefits. A 1988 study by NASA found that plants could be efficient air filters in enclosed spaces, whether in a spacecraft or residence hall. Every 24 hours, these plants may remove up to 87% of a class of air contaminants called volatile organic compounds by converting them into food near the roots. While these compounds rarely appear in high enough concentrations to cause serious ill effects, moderate exposure to common compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene or trichloroethylene could cause headaches, dizziness and respiratory irritation similar to what one may experience with a cold or the common flu.

Plants also create more humidity as water moves from the roots through the plant, eventually evaporating through the leaves in a process known as transpiration. While added humidity may sound unpleasant during the hot Georgia summer, studies by the Agricultural University of Norway and the Dutch Product Board for Horticulture found that this may help relieve the colds, coughs, headaches and sore throats that flu season brings.

Some may find the wide array of plants available for purchase intimidating if they are new to indoor gardening. While size is typically a limiting factor, there are still questions of what purpose a plant should serve and how difficult its maintenance will be. Senior Emily McLendon said that lack of knowledge could cause problems for interested students.

“I think a lot of people get really excited about having plants in their dorm, and they just go buy a plant and put it in their dorm. But they don’t really do any research about the plant [and] they don’t have a lot of prior knowledge about it,” said McLendon. “My biggest advice would be to make sure you understand the care that goes into taking care of that plant, because not all plants can be grown in a dorm room.”

Nonetheless, she and Emily Cornell encouraged students to grow plants and see if they like it.

“I think that in college, so much of academics and social life is uncontrollable,” said Cornell. “We can’t anticipate all of it. But I think growing plants is an easy way to know that you have control over something.”

Leave a Reply