Custodian Leah Kietzman Nurtures Variety of Plants, Keeps Minnesota Winters Green

Custodian Leah Kietzman Nurtures Variety of Plants, Keeps Minnesota Winters Green

By Tehya Wachuta, Feature Editor originally published in Issue 4, Volume 30 of The University Register on Friday, November 3, 2017

Winter can be difficult for a variety of reasons — driving difficulties, slippery sidewalks, temperatures nearing that of a cryogenic chamber — but for some, merely the lack of color can be distressing. UMM custodian Leah Kietzman has introduced a variety of plants to campus to bring some life to an otherwise monochrome landscape.

Kietzman first started working at UMM in 2013 in the food service department, then became a custodian in 2014. Both Kietzman’s mother and father were custodians on campus as well.

“I knew from both my parents that this is work I can do and the pay and benefits are good,” Kietzman said. “I really enjoy the community feel that this campus provides. My coworkers, professors, and office staff are all great people. The students are also very nice and generally respectful and friendly.”

Kietzman’s passion for plants also came from her parents.

“Both of my parents have a green thumb and I received most of my starter plants from cuttings of things they had.”

Kietzman started bringing her own plants to campus because UMM offered a suitable environment for them to thrive.

“The first plant that I brought to the university was my big jade tree, located on the top floor of Humanities, because my apartment at the time did not provide proper light for it to grow. It did very well here over that first winter,” she said. “When I moved into my house, my plant collection grew and I started to bring more [to campus]. [I also decided to bring plants to campus] because I do not have proper light for them all to grow, and because I have cats that like to dig them up. I was in the P.E. center at the time and received compliments about the plants from the older people that walk on the track in the winter. This year, since I switched buildings, I decided to bring everything to the Humanities and Camden buildings so I can keep close watch on them.”

Kietzman has brought a myriad of plants to campus, including a jade tree, aloe vera plants, gerbera daisies, a hibiscus, straw flowers, dahlias, and a variety of succulents. She tends to them all and keeps them green, which she believes has a positive effect on those who see them.

“I think [the plants have] a positive effect on the [campus] atmosphere, especially in the cold Minnesota winters,” she said. “I know it makes me smile when I see them growing and flowering as the wind blows outside. [They’re] a little green in contrast to the brown and white.”

For students with an interest in plants or gardening, Kietzman recommends a visit to the greenhouses on campus.

“It is awesome to see all the different varieties of plants that the greenhouse has to offer,” Kietzman said. “I recommend that all [students] go check it out.”

Kietzman is also willing to give cuttings of her plants to those who ask for them, but students should remember to be respectful of the plants and to allow her to cut the plants herself. Kietzman can be contacted at