On 40th and Ludlow, just past the busy strip of restaurants and apartment complexes, sits a garden oasis for college students to retreat into. STUMP, a tiny chain of plant stores, has opened its newest location in the heart of University City. 

Walking into STUMP with a friend one Saturday afternoon, we weren’t quite sure what the store’s deal was. “These plants are going to be ridiculously expensive,” my friend muttered to me. I didn’t disagree. The building looked quite fancy from the outside, a pristine white on the walls and an old and classy design that many Philly buildings have. “Who is even going to buy an expensive plant around here?” I wondered. Most college students do not have room in their budgets, schedules, or dorms for an extravagant plant. 

After one step inside STUMP, we realized we were wrong. The plants had an immediately calming presence. As the store operates as a nursery, the enclosed glass space feels like a greenhouse, with thick and relaxing air that smells of humidity and greenery, like a tropical escape from the harsh winter weather outside the door. 

The plants themselves come in all shapes and sizes, sitting on shelves and in little clumps on the ground. They are also reasonably priced, with a few tiny succulents—perfect for the windowsill of a dorm or apartment bedroom—selling for just three dollars.  

Photo: Anna Hochman

Two employees pottered around the store, tending to the plants and helping customers make their selections. When I told them I was interested in writing an article about the store, I was told that a good writing exercise to include would be descriptions of the individual plants, as it can be hard to describe them in individual ways. 

On the main wall of STUMP sit tree–like wooden shelves with cute pots placed in neat yet scattered rows. One plant, in a shallow bowl filled with reddish soil and small pebbles, is a pure and deep green cactus, with a few branches standing tall. It almost looks like it could be featured in a dinosaur cartoon, with spikes and droopy leaves extending out of the pot. 

The plant to its left sits in a crisp white vase, with shining green leaves in perfect teardrop shapes exploding in exciting formations. On the shelf above these two sits a slightly muted and dark green plant, with long vines of thin leaves expanding over the shelf, almost like a waterfall. 

STUMP has eight stores: two in Philly, one in Georgia, one in Wisconsin, and four in Ohio. This University City location opened over the summer, about six years after the brand’s 2015 founding in Columbus, Ohio. The store’s website emphasizes how each store serves a unique community. Within these communities, the brand  “sincerely love[s] building people’s confidence to bring nature into their homes and lifestyles,” they write. Through their prioritization of “one–on–one customer service and plant education,” they help to support customers as they learn to choose and take care of plants. 

STUMP also noted that many of their customers buy their first plants at their stores, which certainly will be true for many of the college students shopping at the University City location. With the store’s clear care for both plants and customers, students will be sure to keep coming back.