As they line the windowsills in cute pots, absorbing the sun and growing a little bit every day, they make first-year students feel more at home at UNC.
Each student independently interviewed used the same word to describe having plants in their rooms: “homey."
Anyone who has lived in a dorm room knows surface space is limited, but first-year dental hygiene student Carmen Li decided to sacrifice part of her space to her plants.
The plants line the shelf above Li’s desk in small brown pots. Twine bows around a few of the pots gives the scene a cohesive feel. On the desk below the shelf, a Marimo moss ball happily rests in a small glass bowl, obviously well cared for in the perfectly clear water.
“It adds a certain touch to the room,” said Li. “It makes it feel more homey. You’re more connected with nature.”
Other items on Li’s desk also point to her love of plants: two small leaf bookmarks and a Bulbasaur figurine, which is a grass-type Pokémon known for its connection to plants.
“They’re little small forms of life,” Li said. “They make me happy, and I like to take care of them.”
First-year global studies major Alli Whitenack said plants have always been a part of her life. She remembers her mom designating a corner of the yard just for the kids in the family to experience growing their own plants. Every time she goes home, her mom tells her all about the plants she has been growing lately.
Currently, a lemon tree is growing in Whitenack’s house. She said her mom bought it on a whim, and that it actually produces lemons.
The plants in Whitenack’s room are also an attempt to fill the void left by leaving pets behind.
“I had a lot of pets growing up," Whitenack said. “So not being able to have pets makes me sad, so I supplement that with plants.”
One of the plants on Whitenack’s windowsill isn’t in a pot. It’s an air plant, and the only one of Whitenack’s plants with a name. Whitenack believes that you can’t force a name onto a plant, that it must come naturally — and so far, “Anna” the air plant is the only one.
The name is an inside joke with a friend. Whitenack and her friend both bought air plants at the same time, and now whenever they talk on the phone, they discuss how their plants are doing and how much they’ve grown.
It’s another connection to home.
First-year Rachel Augustine shares her love of plants with her roommate, Jennifer Allen.
Augustine and Allen sat on chairs under Augustine’s lofted bed, laughing and sharing stories about plants and being at home.
“My house at home is off in the woods,” Allen said. “We had seven acres; we couldn’t see our neighbors through all the trees.”
The plants Allen and Augustine scattered across their room are hardly a forest, but it’s enough to remind Allen of home.
Augustine said her favorite plant is one that her eighth-grade science teacher gave her when she graduated middle school. Her teacher planted a sprout from one of her own plants, and Augustine has been taking care of it ever since.
“I’ve always enjoyed plants, but I never really did much with them (until now),” Augustine said. “I like having them around. I think indoors, they’re especially good for de-stressing.”