- Phoenix High School
2021 Graduates: Jacob Soule Finds Fame as TikTok Plant Prodigy
When people ask Kalamazoo Central High School graduate Jacob Soule what he did during the COVID pandemic, he has a more interesting answer than most.
He became TikTok famous.
His Plant Prodigy account has amassed almost 500,000 followers and his short, entertaining, and informative videos about all things plants have more than 8.6 million likes.
Like many things in life, his TikTok fame grew out of a sibling rivalry.
“My brother told me that he was in a viral video that a friend had made. It got half a million views,” Soule said. “He was joking about being TikTok famous. I tried to get big on TikTok to prove him wrong. I didn’t have success at first, but after December, I got the ball rolling.”
Soule, 19, is the son of Katie and Ryan Soule. His brothers Elliot — the one in the TikTok video — and Spencer will be rising freshmen at Kalamazoo Central in the fall.
Soule, who has autism, has attended Kalamazoo Public Schools since second grade, attending Indian Prairie, KingWestwood, Hillside and Kalamazoo Central.
He has long been interested in plants. He can remember picking daisies with his grandmother. When he was in second grade he read a book that piqued his interest in carnivorous plants — and he bought his first one.
“I got a Venus flytrap and a pitcher plant, but they all died,” he said. “They’re not that tricky if you know what you’re doing — and I didn’t know what I was doing when I was 9 or 10 years old.”
Like some plant species, his interest in plants went dormant in about 2015. But, it sprang back to life in 2017 when his current collection began to grow. He currently has about 100 plants ranging from philodendron micans to desert roses and hoya to several carnivorous pitcher plants — which he now grows quite successfully.
TikTok was not his first foray into social media. He has always been interested in influencer culture, he said, and he first launched a YouTube channel after being inspired by one of his favorite YouTubers. He created an Instagram in 2019.
He tries to post one to three times a day. In his videos, he documents his own adventures as a plant owner, while also answering questions from plant parents who share videos of their droopy or browning plants. Some of the videos offer plant-related humor — such as when he stops his aunt from tossing the dregs of her wine glass into a plant pot or when he reacts with horror to atrocities such as people giving their Venus flytrap toothpaste.
He’ll occasionally address issues such as negative comments about his voice or his lack of knowledge about some things with a disarming honesty, saying that his voice makes him unique and he’s proud of having room to grow and learn more.
He said he is a little surprised by the success of his TikTok. He hopes to parlay that popularity into a business of some sort, perhaps starting an Etsy plant shop. In the fall, he plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College with hopes of eventually earning a horticulture degree from Michigan State University.
“Plants were popular before COVID. They exploded after the lockdowns,” Soule said. “Why do people like plants? That’s hard to answer. Maybe it’s because of the idea of being responsible and taking care of something — without having to put an animal or child’s life at risk. And many studies show that plants can help benefit mental health.
“Personally, I just like the idea of growing all kinds of unique plants.”