Plant sales have blossomed during the pandemic, but Shannon Post’s fondness for flora took root years ago when she got her first apartment in San Francisco. “My aunt took me to a garden store and I bought a hoya that never flowered,” she laughs. But her curiosity around climbers, creepers, and cacti did.
Today, as coordinator of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Project Green Reach, Post, CAS/MA ’10, helps thousands of youngsters across the borough cultivate their own green thumbs. The program introduces students from 40 underserved elementary and middle schools to such topics as biodiversity and botany. The kids get their hands dirty—dissecting cacti, growing carrots, or creating terrariums—and join Post on a tour of the garden, which is home to more than 12,000 plant species.
“Some of the kids have experience with plants—their grandma has a garden, or they’ll recognize tropical or desert plants from their home countries—and others have never touched soil before,” says Post, a certified horticulturist and documentary filmmaker. “Living in the city, it’s so important to connect with nature, and I love getting the kids engaged with that.”
After she leaves her 52-acre office, Post returns home to her own little urban jungle: the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her partner, two dogs, and more than 40 plants. “I like to care for them, and I learn so much from them—but they don’t demand a thing from me,” she says with a smile. Talk about the perfect roommates.
Here’s the dirt on post’s 10 favorite houseplants:
Peace lily: This low-maintenance plant cleans the air and is easy to propagate. At first, I was nervous about cutting through the rhizomes [underground stems that grow horizontally], but then I started ripping them apart. I realized that most plants are going to be fine, you don’t have to baby them.
Burro’s tail: I tend to knock off this succulent’s delicate leaves, but then I just throw them in a pot and grow more. I like how the burro’s tail drapes over the pot and snakes around it.
Rubber tree: I love the dark color and the hard leaves. I read that they respond well to pruning, so I’m running an experiment: growing one into a tall tree and the other into a bush.
Jade plant: I have both the round and the tubular leaf varieties. They’re easy to grow and propagate and don’t take up a lot of room, so you can keep them in a little pot. And they last for years.
Pencil cactus: This succulent is architectural and structurally very interesting. It’s tall and lanky, and new growth is bright and beautiful. I found this one on a stoop. That’s one of the great things about Brooklyn: people leave plants out for free.
Haworthia: I’ve tried to grow other succulents, but this one, with its dark green color, does best indoors. It has a cool little shape and fun bumpy texture.
Pilea: At first, I was frustrated with this one because I wanted it to grow nice and tidy and it was snaking all over the place. But I’ve learned to love it. And the offsets, which look like little lily pads, make a great gift.
Aloe vera: I love teaching with aloe because a lot of kids have connections to the plant and its medicinal uses. I went on vacation once and it looked a little sad when I got home; I gave it a new pot with more room, and it gave me five offsets that I shared with friends. It refuses to die.
Scallions: I like to take a few inches off the end of grocery store scallions and keep them in water, so I always have fresh herbs. They’ll grow for more than a month as long as you refresh the water. I also grow a variety of herbs in the summer: basil, thyme, parsley, mint.
Marble queen pothos: This hardy plant was one of my first. It’s growing across my mantle away from the window to find something to scale to get more sunlight—just as it would in the rainforest.