No green thumb? No problem: A simple guide to dorm-friendly indoor plants

By Jordan Wehlage

Moving into a dorm room or apartment on campus can be both an exciting and daunting experience. Your new living space will be a blank canvas for you to decorate and personalize to your liking. According to Min-sun Lee et al. in the journal of Physiological Anthropology, caring for a houseplant or two is an excellent way to freshen up your air quality and even improve your mental health, but keeping them alive can be a struggle for a busy college student.

Jakob Katchem, a senior business major, reminisced on his experience owning plants in his first dorm room at CI. “It was fun because it was something to remember, like watering them once a week. You can visually see how it’s doing and help it.” He recalled finding plants at local nurseries that were labeled “easy maintenance” and remembered thinking, “That’s something that I can do while I live on campus.”

Knowing which plants are dorm-friendly and simple to care for, however, can be a difficult and upsetting process of trial-and-error. To combat the challenges of indoor plant ownership, we have compiled a guide to a variety of indoor plants that are low-maintenance, require relatively infrequent watering and are approved for hesitant or inexperienced plant owners.

  • Air plants – Tillandsia xerographica

Air plants are unique in that they do not require soil to grow. In fact, air plants can be found in small sizes which grow in glass containers that can be hung from a wall or placed on a tabletop. To water, simply spray the plants down weekly or biweekly depending on whether the plant seems to be wilting. Air plants can be grown in anything from full sun to partial shade.

  • AloeAloe vera

Aloe plants thrive in well-lit windowsills and only require watering once or twice a month, making them the ideal low-maintenance plant for sunny Southern California. They are highly drought tolerant and their sap can even be used to soothe sunburns after a long day at the beach!

  • Aluminum plant – Pilea cadierei

Native to Vietnam, these unique plants get their name from the silver splashes of coloration on their green leaves. Aluminum plants enjoy weekly watering and partial shade. These plants also do well in humidity, so consider misting them often or placing their pot on top of a small tray of wet pebbles.

  • Baby rubber plantPeperomia obtusifolia

The small, rounded leaves of this plant have a shiny appearance and a rubbery-feeling texture that gives it its common name. These plants thrive in partial shade with some indirect light and enjoy frequent misting in addition to regular watering when the top layer of soil is dry to the touch.

  • Century plantAgave univittata

This small succulent grows well in brightly lit spaces and only needs to be watered every 10 to 14 days. It can be prone to root rot, so water only when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Handle a century plant with care, as they do grow some sharp spines on the sides of their foliage.

  • Golden pothos and Neon pothosEpipremnum aureum and Epipremnum aureum ‘Neon’

Also known as the Devil’s ivy, these leafy vines grow well in hanging baskets or can be trained to grow up a column when supported. They only need watering about once weekly and do well in partial shade with some indirect light. Pothos plants are known for being incredibly easy to propagate by placing stem cuttings into water.

  • Inch plantTradescantia zebrina

Named for the striped appearance of its leaves, this plant can grow in anything from full sun to partial shade, making it suitable to any area of your new living space. Inch plants like to trail, making them best suited to grow in hanging baskets, but they can also be placed near the edge of a table or desk. Water about once a week or when the top inch of soil feels dry.

  • Philodendron Philodendron brasil

Similar in appearance to the pothos, the philodendron, also called the heart leaf philodendron, prefers to grow in a hanging basket but can also be grown on a tabletop surface. It grows well in partial shade with weekly watering and should be watered less frequently in the winter to prevent yellowing of its leaves.

  • Snake plantSansevieria trifasciata

Snake plants are known for being nearly impossible to kill. They can stay alive in even minimal light and are extremely drought tolerant. They should only be watered every 10 to 14 days to avoid over-saturation of the roots. Snake plants are popular in modern interior design for their unique vertical appearance and also come in a striking dark green variety known as the Moonlight Sansevieria.

  • ZZ Plant – Zamioculcas zamiifolia

This plant boasts a unique, whimsical appearance with long branches that support many small, rounded leaves. It does well in partial to full shade and enjoys watering every seven to 10 days. Exercise caution if children or pets will be in your living space; the leaves of the ZZ plant can irritate human skin if touched excessively and can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.

Decorating a new living space is an excellent opportunity to try your hand at a new skill. Tending to indoor plants and watching them grow under your care can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Bring a breath of fresh air into the new school year and take home a plant today!

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