Karli Simkins and Lauren Croft, seniors studying horticulture, offer insight to students on caring for their plants purchased at the greenhouse on campus.
Three groups of plants often available at the greenhouse are succulents, air plants and foliage. Simkins and Croft said students tend to purchase succulents as a beginners plant because they require less attention than most potted house plants.
Succulents tend to be thicker stemmed and have fleshier leaves to retain water due to their natural environment — the desert.
“The scientific name for some of the succulents we have here are called Echeveria and have similar characteristics as anemones and cacti,” Simkins said.
Another type of plant that is slowly garnering attention is the air plant.
“They’re a specific family of plants that don’t require soil to get their nutrients or water,” Croft said. “Most of the time, they don’t even have roots. They actually have a way to pull water and nutrients from the air.”
The air plant is another low maintenance plant that the managers recommend for students who want something aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain.
“There are so many cool ways to decorate with them,” Croft said. “You can use fishing line and hang them from various places in your house, attach them on magnets with floral glue, or put them in a pot with or without soil.”
However, air plants often do struggle in Idaho since it is not a very humid climate, Croft said. To combat the dry element, Croft suggests that air plants be placed in bathroom windows where the humidity from showers can keep plants healthy and happy.
While succulents tend to require the least amount of work compared to air plants, Simkins said the most common error is overwatering.
“People get so excited about their plants, so they water it a lot, but it actually ends up killing it,” Simkins said.
With watering being one of the frequent questions, Simkins said students who purchase succulents or cacti should check the soil, about an inch deep, to see if it’s dry or wet as a rule of thumb.
“If the soil is wet, don’t water it. If the soil is dry, then water it,” Simkins said.
If succulents are under-watered, it can cause the plant soil compact and turn hydrophobic, meaning the soil repels the water.
When this happens, Simkins said to gently lift the plants out of the pot and soak in water for about 15 minutes to allow the soil to loosen and roots to receive nutrients. This also goes for air plants who are dehydrated.
“Just keep trying. Each plant is different, each with different needs and preferred amounts of water or sunlight,” Simkins said.
With many DIY activities and plant sales available, both Croft and Simkins are eager to help students try their hand at a ‘green-thumb’ and encourage students to not give up when it comes to keeping a plant alive.
“If students have questions, they can message us through our Facebook page called BYU-Idaho Horticulture plant shop,” Croft said. “We also post about our upcoming DIY events and plant sales.”
For further information on products and services, check their BYU-Idaho webpage.