Sprout & About: The CNMI’s plant-loving community

Posted on Nov 04 2021


One of the most enjoyable things about growing plants is talking about them with other plant lovers.

Yeah, that is so meta—so self-referential—but that was also the impetus behind the creation of the online Facebook group, “Sprout & About,” according to founder Hanaivy Babauta, who created the group in November last year.

“There are a lot of places online where people can buy or sell plants, but there wasn’t a specific group to just talk about plants,” she said.

And much like parents who seem unable to stop from talking on and on about their children, the 150 or so members of “Sprout & About” also love to share and talk about their “babies”—monstera deliciosa, ficus black prince, anthuriums, alocasia polly, string of hearts—among so many other plants, from hibiscus to fancy succulents.

Also, with the pandemic and people having had to stay home due to health protocols, many in the community had to embrace interactions in digital platforms. Combine that with many who also discovered the joy in gardening and “Sprout & About” became the go-to page for plant parents in the Commonwealth.

“Sprout & About really was just an offshoot of both of these unique circumstances where there was a growing community of plant lovers and the desire to talk to one another about the plants we own, the plants we want, and the little lessons we can share with each other to keep our plants happy and alive,” she said.

An online platform, now with about 150 members (and growing), members of Sprout & About talk about plants and the joy of planting, as well as trade secrets and tips on where to find supplies and how best to grow plants on island. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO.)

Babauta said the group has not had a formal gathering yet, but she expects it to happen once the pandemic starts to fade away, with possibly a community plant swap where everyone brings a plant and trades with others, or a workshop where members can have fun learning about new plants or planting techniques.

When asked why the name “Sprout & About,” Babauta said, “It was intended to be a fun and safe place to talk about the plants we love. There is nothing cuter than a sprout so that was a necessary part of it, and it encouraged people to get out and about in this community, so it fit!”

Planting helps the community

“Talking about plants is one of the most enjoyable parts of raising plants!” Babauta said. “The little community of plant lovers that have joined each have an interest in learning more about plants of all kinds and a willingness to share what plants make them happy.”

She believes her journey to being a “plant mom” is a lot like many of others in the community. “We all have a parent or grandparent who showed us the way, or someone who first gave us an insight into the beauty and joy of seeing a plant become beautiful in its growth. There’s something in this that is unifying and really gratifying to share with one another.”

As young a group Sprout & About is, many have already benefited from the “secrets” and tips that are being shared among members.

One of the exciting things that happen within the group that Babauta is most happy about is the sharing of knowledge about types of plants that can thrive here in the CNMI. “One member would post their begonia frosty or a variegated monstera and it would open new doors for another person who never considered that plant a possibility in their collection.”

In the months since Sprout & About came together, Babauta said she has met up with a few members to trade or shop for plants.

Aside from trading with each other, the group also share tips on the best places to get new plants [and even pots!]—from online finds to Sabalu market runs, from shops on island [like Wasana and Kiara’s Gardens] to literally going to the U.S. mainland to buy and bring home some new babies.

“While we don’t sell on Sprout and About, members would post where they purchased their newest plant baby, or pot that they loved, and I think the community benefits from the additional information and marketing for the great and sometimes unknown sellers in the island,” she said.

This way, they get to fulfill their share in helping grow not only plants but the local “plant” industry as well. Within their community, Sprout & About members endorse their favorite plant sellers and share information on where to get supplies, which outlets have or soil in stock, and “honest feedback” on prices and quality.

“For a lot of us, plants and gardening have always played an important role in our upbringing. There’s a tie that is developed with our parents and our grandparents who taught us the value of the environment and nature,” Babauta said. “But today, being a plant parent is also about helping one another through the difficult time this last year. Businesses were struggling and people both wanted an outlet to devote their creativity toward, but also an opportunity to make a side-income in the plant industry.”

Lucky in the CNMI

For anyone who want to become a “plant parent,” Babauta’s tip is to start with something easy.

“We are really lucky in the CNMI to have so many beautiful plants that thrive here naturally in the jungles and in our yards. Starting the plant journey with a plant that is common in the CNMI is a great way to get your feet wet,” she said.

“Plants like pothos, philodendron, or aglaonema all grow wonderfully [on] the island and are a great starting point for caring for a plant that can make your house or office a more beautiful or relaxing place to spend your time,” she added.

Babauta also advices all plant parents to simply trust the plant—something she learned through years of caring for and at times, freaking out—where she’d end up over-watering, disturbing, or baking her poor plants.

“One thing we must all learn to do is give our plants the opportunity to grow, and take a step back and trust that they will do their very best to make good with what we give them. They’ll give us signals along the way and it’s trusting in them and learning what they like that is part of the fun!”

Clearly, Babauta loves her plants, and this love radiates as she builds a community of plant-lovers like herself in the CNMI. “We should all take a step back from our busy lives and give time to the things that make us happy. It is important to be kind to one another, and that we can all share in a hobby that brings us joy in supporting one another.”

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today,” she added. “The same principle applies to houseplants, or really, any hobby or skill that is out there. Just get going and…be a kind person while you’re doing it.”

Help build the plant community in the CNMI and join Sprout & About via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/772324743498738

Want your environmental initiatives featured? Email ivamaurin@gmail.com.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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