- RACHEL MCGRATH
S o you've moved into your dorm, or apartment that you likely share with four or five of your friends. You've smoothed out the wrinkles on your IKEA duvet, tacked up your overpriced pop-culture poster and stocked your fridge with water.
You look around your new kingdom with pride and new-found independence. This is your space baby, you're a grown-up now with grown-up things. But it doesn't feel grown-up, does it? Something's missing: Houseplants.
Ol' trusty of the plant world. These fast and vine-y growers (see above) are common at most nurseries and they come in a ton of varieties. Pothos are common because they're wildly simple to care for. They require moderate light, so they're great for a darker dorm and it's quite forgiving if you miss a watering here and there.
Like the Pothos, Philodendrons are a genus that comes in all shapes and sizes. The coveted Monstera Deliciosia is part of this grouping, but there's so much more. Leaves with holes in 'em, leaves in the shape of hearts, leaves that are the size of your arm! There are a whole lotta Philodendrons out there that'll capture your heart. They need similar care as the Pothos but often require more watering.
3 Spider Plant
These plants were very trendy in the '70s when the macramé movement was in full swing. They're an often overlooked but very reliable plant. A happy spider will put off "babies" that you can pull out, re-root and watch your plant collection double before your eyes.
I'm grouping all succulents and cacti into one group for simplicity's sake. In reality there are thousands of species out there, but their care is almost universal. A bright, sunny windowsill is ideal for these desert natives to thrive. An easy way to tell that your succulent isn't getting enough light is when it "stretches" towards the light and becomes leggy. (A note for all plants in windows, make sure you spin them! A 180 degree turn every week or so to keep them growing straight up.)
Sometimes called a spiderwort but you'll also see them labeled as "wandering jew," which isn't the wokest of nomenclature. The anti-Semite who named these was inspired by their long trailing vines and ability to quickly root in new soil. Like the spider plant, Tradescantia clippings can help you double your collection with ease.
The true set it and forget it plant. Sanseverias, or snake plants, are often toted as the low-light loving plant, but this is a misguided observation. Snakes can survive just fine in lower light conditions, like a basement apartment or a windowless office, but they won't thrive in it. That being said, they get by in low-light just fine and require little to no watering. In fact, overwatering is the number one killer of these guys (and majority of houseplants in general) so water sparingly.
A FEW TIPS
Money is tight for students so please don't feel like you have to break the bank to start your indoor jungle. Buddy up with another plant person and see if they will swap clippings with you. If you have one big plant, try taking a few clippings and put them in water to get them to root and start another plant. There are also a ton of local swap and trade groups online.
Finally, sometimes your plant will die, but that doesn't mean you should give up—it's all about experimenting and adding life to your space. If it helps take your mind off your studies and your other day-to-day stresses, then the plants have done their job.