BYU to replace indoor greenery with artificial plants

Elliott Miller
Live plants are on display in the Joseph Fielding Smith Building. (Elliott Miller)

A reevaluation of budget and maintenance costs influenced a decision to replace all living plants in the interiors of BYU campus buildings with artificial, silk plants. 

BYU’s physical facilities crew maintains interior plants in the majority of campus buildings. 

The deans of individual colleges will decide between two options – remove living plants and replace them with high-quality silk plants or pay for maintenance of existing live plants. This decision process began this year and is still continuing.

BYU student Elisabeth Pletsch said that in the past, Physical Facilities paid the Grounds Greenhouse crew to maintain live plants on a weekly basis in common areas on campus. She said Physical Facilities has made a financial decision to stop paying for live interior plants.

Pletsch said this decision will affect the plants in the common areas of the following buildings: Tanner Building, Richards Building, Hinckley Center, McKay Building, Grant Building, Maeser Building, Abraham Smoot Building, Museum of Art, Harris Fine Arts Center, Crabtree Building, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU Broadcasting Building and University Parkway Center.

“I am unhappy about it,” Pletsch said. “I worked for the greenhouse for three years as a student, and I have worked almost two years as a CAT-2 employee. I am passionate about plants and their ability to benefit the people on the BYU campus.”

She said Physical Facilities wants to maintain the natural look and beauty in the buildings, but she believes silk plants do not benefit campus aesthetically or monetarily.

Pletsh’s classmate Katie Gerhard has additional concerns about the plan. “My concern is that this decision was made without consideration to student opinion and without weighing the long-term consequences,” she said. “As a student, I am really disappointed in this decision and want to voice my opinion to let the student body know of this decision before it is too late.”

Gerhard said she feels this is a step backward in campus maintenance. She said plants on campus are located in common areas, with a lot of foot traffic, and she feels that real plants add a peaceful atmosphere on campus.

“Environmentally, plants provide much that is often overlooked,” Gerhard said. “Because the weather is usually cold enough most of the year, students often spend more time inside buildings studying than outside.” 

Tegwyn Ellingson, manager of Grounds Greenhouse, said one of the reasons for the switch is to prevent miscommunication and misbudgeting between the colleges, Grounds Greenhouse and Physical Facilities. 

“To prevent the colleges from running wild, we are trying to curve that by putting in artificial plants in the areas, which will then prevent Physical Facilities to maintain plants that they weren’t anticipating having to take care of,” Ellingson said.

Ellingson said this decision was made by Physical Facilities Vice President Ole Smith and others above him. Students did not have a say in this decision.

“I wish that we could keep the plants and that there could have been more discussion brought into the decision-making,” Ellingson said. “We could have worked out a better system where we could keep live plants so that the students, faculty and administration could still enjoy the benefits of a live plant in an area.”

Smith said these changes were made for “better use of sacred funding.”

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