As a botanical grad student I love to have plants around the house. I love to see them, to take photographs and share them on social media. I really enjoy showing off my plants; the more bizarre, the better. I can speak about the species natural range of distribution, and even predict how it is going to be affected by climate change. I know what kind of water they need, what nutrients, where is the best place in the house and why. However, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of horticulture, if I am honest, I don’t care! Surprisingly, I am not the only one in that situation; it seems a common pattern among botanical graduate students. We are the worst people at taking care of plants. I am not sure if it is because we are busy, because we already take care of the Amazon in our research or because we don’t have kids -having kids is highly correlated with plant caring ability.
Having plants is worse than having a pet; if you have a dog you just walk, clean and feed it, but plants require an individualistic treatment and dedication. This one needs a certain kind of water, that other one another kind, this one here can be flooded but the other one only needs to be sprayed. It can get worse if you have orchids. I know of people waking up earlier in the morning to move the plants around the house. A dog is simpler; if it doesn’t move, it is ill, but plants require constant examination for diseases, nutrient deficiencies or water stress. I am in grad school and so I do not have time for that.
That is why I make sure I always have someone around who does it for me. My mother keeps my collection of plants that I built during my undergraduate studies (althought she is now claiming them as her own!). Now that I have completed my first few months of grad school, I am hoping to look for a roommate like my mother who has enough free time (and a green thumb) to care for the new accumulation of plants that I have unintentionally started.
So what will happen with my plants next? What dark future awaits for the unfortunate plants of grad students? We are nomads. We move from one house to another one because it is cheaper, we move from one country to another because we have to do research, we travel for a week to a symposium. The true sufferers of that are our plants; they will inevitably be abandoned or dead.
We were not allowed to have dogs when we were kids because of our lack of commitment with walking, cleaning and feeding them, but now we can´t even have plants.