Apartment Jungles: A Look at MCAD's Plant Community | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Apartment Jungles: A Look at MCAD's Plant Community

By Riley Wright on November 22, 2021
Apartment Jungle illustration by Riley Wright

Dracaena Marginata and Majesty Palm, Croton, Monstera, Peporonia…

These names weave in place like a spell, but the true enchantment comes from urban jungles, taking roots right within our own windows. Greenery inspires, educates, and warms living spaces suitable for artists and our MCAD community certainly fosters an adoration for indoor vegetation. Students both on and off campus are cultivating apartment jungles everyday in the midst of our evolving, citified environment. 

Having a little greenery tucked in your apartment certainly does wonders for physical, mental, and even spiritual health. Plants improve air quality within the home by releasing water vapor, making it a natural humidifier to aid with respiratory health. Likewise, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen to further enhance the air quality, which is sometimes compromised by our urban environment. 

According to Katelynn Van Dusseldorp ’23, plants promote better oxygen within their home, and they like to exercise a plant’s health benefits by spreading the joy with their friends. Katelynn says, “ [The plants]  really brighten up my home and just overall make me really happy! I love giving friends little propagated babies so they can have plants too!”

An apartment jungle also yields comforts for our minds and souls as it can strengthen mental health. Gardening and plant care serves as a form of self-care and a moment in their wellness routine for many students. It is beautiful to witness the ways our plants take care of us inversely.   

Madi Rousseau ’22 treats her plants as friends and says, “I built their care into my morning and night routine. It's a nice hobby and helps me practice mindfulness. I talk to them like they are my friends and thank them for showing me new leaves and steady growth.” Madi also uses their plants to promote self-care reminders. “[The plants] remind me that it's okay to grow slow. I always want to just hit everything I do at a sprint, be good at everything first try. Watching them pop out leaves every 3 weeks is reassuring to me.”


photo of plants by Madi RousseauPhotographs courtesy of Madi Rousseau

photo of plants by Madi Rousseau

Many of our MCAD gardeners have seeds of wisdom for anyone interested in starting their own apartment jungle. Beginner’s plant recommendations as well as tips to keep your head up from the students can help you in unlocking your own green-growing potential and  the benefits above.

Gen Monslow ’24, nurturer to over 35 plants, says, “Start with one of the golden trio! Either ZZ plant, Snake Plant or Pothos (Personally I like pothos more because they vine and trail everywhere). Also if a plant dies, that's okay! It's all a learning experience, and yes it's very sad when it happens, but that's life so it's best to learn from your experience and move on and maybe try again in the future.”

Likewise, Madi recommends, “If you have an affinity to over-love something, don't start with succulents. Get yourself an ivy, like pothos! That was my biggest mistake starting out. I actually thought I couldn't grow anything because I'd kill my succulents so often. Also, watch plant videos. I recommend the channel Planterina for good info!”

Photo of plants by Gen MonslowPhotographs courtesy of Gen Monslow

Photo of plants by Gen Monslow

The students are not our only plantsmen and green-keepers around, as nature lurks in the creaks and crevices of MCAD’s campus. The looming trees on the lawn provide beautiful shade and serenity for students on campus, and the picnic tables that reside beneath them prove a popular hangout spot. Likewise, the library boasts 45 plants and are intended to have a calming effect and make the students more comfortable in the space. 

Eva Hyvarinen has been a caretaker for the MCAD Library plants since 1989 and knows much about the variety of plants and their caretaking routine. If you see her in the library, make sure to thank her for caring for and conserving our own campus jungle!

Eva notes, “I like trying to keep [the plants] happy. They look nice when they feel good.”

The Library’s second annual Plant Yourself event just occurred this past month in which several students, including myself, were able to add another plant to their own home dwelling wilderness. The library sources a variety of low-maintenance, non-toxic plants to gift the winners from Bachman’s local greenhouse. 

Amy Naughton Becker of the MCAD library staff says, “We know how much students love and value the plants in the Library and we wanted to spread the joy!  Plants have a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing and the start of fall is a good time to promote that.  Hopefully, we will be able to do this every fall.  After the fatigue of enduring the pandemic, we are letting faculty and staff enter the drawing as well because everybody could use a win right now.”

Plant Yourself 20192019 Plant Yourself winners, photographs courtesy of the Library

Plant Yourself 2019