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Savvy students spruce up dorms with succulents

Photo by Helen Dudley

Photo by Helen Dudley

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In the middle of a bustling city, in the dreary weather, healthy plant life is few and far between. Yet, a peek in the window of many shops, cafes and homes will reveal a miniature jungle of thriving greenery.

Recent years have seen a growing trend of decorating living spaces with small indoor plants. The plant trend has especially found enormous popularity among college students. Many of whom are decorating their own living spaces for the first time and take inspiration from Pinterest.

“I think it makes the dorm feel more homey,” Kat Christian, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said about why she thinks the trend has persisted. Christian and her roommate have a total of 15 plants in their dorm room.

The types of plants grown in dorms, apartments, and houses vary from succulents to ferns to air plants, grown in pots, terrariums, recycled containers and more. These petite plants, which are perfect for decorating an indoor windowsill, can be bought at popular, specialized shops (like Mod Gen) in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, as well as large supercenters like Wal-Mart.

Of all plants, succulents and cacti are especially popular dorm decor due to their low maintenance, relatively low cost and aesthetic appeal. Roommates Caitlin Graeber and Meghan Conroy, sophomores in the College of Engineering and Business Administration, respectively, find that succulents are easier to care for than other plants. “We water them every two weeks, and it’s like a ritual that we have,” Graeber said. “We get all of our plants, and we water them with our Brita.”

Christian has a plant-watering routine as well. “We water the succulents with an ice cube every Friday, and the air plant we stick in a bowl of water,” she said.

Mitchell Oddo, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, recommends that for those looking to add some life to their dorm room with plants, don’t forget to water them and make sure to keep them on the windowsill where they can get adequate sunlight. Special soil for succulents can also be bought at any gardening store. Plants can be overwatered as much as they can be under-watered, so it is important to know the type of plant and its needs.

Despite effort put toward caring “sometimes they just die,” Oddo said. Not all plants will thrive in a dorm room, and a lot of being a successful plant owner comes from learning from experience.

With a dying succulent, however, there can still be hope through propagation. Propagating a succulent is a fairly simple process: Just trim off the healthy leaves and cuttings of a plant, allow them to dry out for a few days and then set them on top of shallow soil. Regular watering allows cutting to sprout roots, from which eventually a new succulent plant can grow.

In general, the addition of life to a dorm room or apartment throughout all seasons can help uplift students’ spirits and provide a sort of therapeutic outlet as students get to take care of something and watch it grow.

“Plants are just fun to have around,” Graeber said. “We’re outdoorsy people, so it’s nice to have a little bit of the outdoors inside the dorms. It’s not as stale in our dorm room. We have some life in here.”

By caring for them on a regular basis and watching them grow, many students sometimes grow attached to their plants.

“It’s the second best thing to having a pet,” Oddo said.

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