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A budding hobby

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Woodbury Middle School seventh grader Nick Plank used to want to be a weatherman when he grew up, but that all changed when he went to visit his cousins in Florida.

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"When we went down to Florida they could name all the plants on the streets and that made me angry because I couldn't," he said. "So, I started studying about plants."

Now, Plank has nearly 40 tropical plants growing inside his house and outside in his yard - banana trees, a mini pineapple plant, a lemon plant, a canna lily, Hawaiian ti plant, elephant ear plants and a castor bean plant, which is said to be the most poisonous plant in the world.

"I just wanted to identify them and grow them," Plank said, "and make it look like Florida.

"I like banana trees the best because the nice large foliage is really pretty."

Plank buys his plants from a variety of places including Home Depot, Gertens Greenhouses & Garden Center, in Inver Grove Heights, and Amazon.

In addition to his tropical plants, Plank also has an organic vegetable garden at the Dodge Nature Center, which grows watermelon, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash and pumpkin.

Caring for his plants

A typical day for Plank includes misting his many plants for five to 10 minutes every day, fertilizing them every week and rotating the potted plants to get sun on all sides.

"They basically just need fertilizer, water and a place to grow," he said. "I actually don't find them hard to care for."

Plank said he spends about 15 to 20 hours per week caring for his plants.

"It's kind of like a job," he said.

Since most of his plants are tropical, the ones outside can't continue to grow all year round in the Minnesota winters.

So, what Plank has to do is cut down the plants to the bulb, rinse them, dry them and store them until the next planting season.

He said most of his plants will last for years.

"My favorite part of gardening is enjoying the plants," he said. "You don't have to talk to the plants and get nervous; all you have to do is watch them grow and enjoy them."

Plank said he hopes to stay involved with gardening and plants in the future.

In fact, Plank is hoping to join 4-H next year and to one day open his own plant shop in Florida.

"The future holds bigger and better plants," he said.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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