by Sara Kuebbing
I will share an embarrassing secret with Plant Love Stories. One of my favorite movies is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. My love for this RomCom is in part nostalgic; my college roommates and I watched this film too many times to admit in writing. It is in part because I adore Kate Hudson; she is charming and funny and beautiful. And, it is in part because you sometimes just need a movie with a "silly premise and predictable script" (Critics' Consensus at Rotten Tomatoes.com).
Most important to this story, however, is that How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days gave the world the term "love fern." For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the film, it revolves around a classic comedic plot device: the mix-up. The protagonist (Kate Hudson) spends most of the film attempting to sabotage her new relationship as research for her upcoming "How To…" column. Conversely, her new beau, (Matthew McConaughey) is attempting to make Hudson fall in love with him to demonstrate to his colleagues that he is a master of romance.
The Love Fern signifies one of Hudson's ploys to sink the relationship. On Day Three, Hudson introduces The Love Fern as an undying symbol of their love. By Day Seven the Love Fern is no more. Hudson's theatrical despair about the death of her Love Fern has been resurrected and is now immortal through many, many internet memes and its own entry in Urban Dictionary.
Even in the best of circumstances, caring for an indoor fern is total nonsense. They require too much pampering: frequent watering, the perfect temperature, ample humidity, no drafts, the perfect light. Thus, the perfect plot plant in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but not for someone looking for low-maintenance household greenery.
I started collecting houseplants in college. Instead of buying plants from a garden center, I poached my plants from unsupervised locations around campus. I surreptitiously clipped a tendril from a massive Pothos sitting in the college dining hall, dubbed him George, and grew him for months in a plastic water bottle. I clandestinely detached sprouting spiderettes from the mama Spider Plant in my dorm's lobby. I secretly dug up a few pups from a large aloe sitting in the windowsill of my classroom. I found it intriguing that with just a little water and some soil these small pieces of a plant could grow into their own respectably-sized house plant.
My favorite house plant acquisition thus far is my Love Jade. While visiting my (then) boyfriend, who was attending graduate school many states away, I plucked a single leaf from an enormous Jade plant from the school's library. Embracing the hilarity of the idea of the Love Fern, I christened the single leaf our Love Jade, shoved the leaf into an empty yogurt container with the dregs of a bag of potting soil, and thought it would be a long-shot if this single leaf could survive the month. That single leaf did not only survive, it thrived. As my boyfriend, and now husband, and I relocated our households, our Love Jade traveled with us. It survived trunks and back seats during interstate moves from Vermont to Connecticut, back north to Vermont, south to Tennessee, north again to Connecticut, and just last week, westward to Pennsylvania. It has been repotted countless times from its first modest plastic home to its current decorative purple-glazed ceramic pot.
My Love Jade, as well as many of my other poached plants, are still with me today. My aloe sits at my desk. My spider plant in my bathroom. My Pothos on top of my fridge in my kitchen. Our Jade in our entry hallway. They have adopted friends, like an African violet I flew from Georgia to Vermont because my father orphaned it before his cross-country move to Oregon. I have Christmas cacti and Amaryllis that my Argentine friends left behind when they moved home. My plants are no Love Ferns. They are hardy. They can go weeks without water. They can withstand a little chewing from obstinate cats. They now will live through grubby baby fingers ripping their leaves. Some are a bit haggard looking, with gangly vines and chewed leaf tips, but that that just adds to their character.
Each plant in my menagerie has its own Origin Story. Each plant reminds me of people or places from my past. But, unlike some nostalgia, I get to move my plants with me wherever I go. They also let me share the love with others. Many of my pilfered plants have donated pups or spiderettes or tendrils or leaves to family and friends wishing to start their own collection. Please let me know if you would like to find your own "love plant", I would be eager to share the love.
Sara "sassafras" Kuebbing is a 2016 Smith Fellow and co-founder of Plant Love Stories. She recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA and is looking for a friend who would like to swap some house plants.