If You Want to Add Plants to Your College Dorm Room, ONLY Consider These

Pothos plant from The Sill
credit: The Sill

Heading to college? Don't leave without packing at least one plant. Plants can ease the transition from home to dorm room in a variety of ways. Experts agree that sharing your life with a plant has some of the same benefits as having a pet: plant owners feel less alone, more optimistic, and better able to deal with stress. Plus, plants are so pretty to look at! And don't forget that plants can also clear out toxins from the air.

But you'll want to pick your plant carefully. Dorm rooms aren't large enough for big potted palms and, let's be honest, you aren't likely to dedicate a lot of college time to plant care. The best houseplants for dorm living are those that make a statement but tolerate neglect.

Sound difficult? Not at all. We've done your plant homework for you and come up with a short list of perfect options.

Perfect Hanging Plant: Spider Plant

Hanging plants, including a spider plant
credit: Caroline Burke

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are just plain cool. It's partly their graceful, green-and-white striped fronds that spread out from a common center. (See the middle plant in the above photo.) But that's not all. These plants grow baby plantlets at the end of the long, flexible flower stems. If you position a spider plant in a hanging basket, the baby spiders are suspended on graceful stems on all sides like Christmas decorations on a tree. As they develop roots, you can clip them off and pot them up for your roommates. Twice a month water keeps them green and happy.

Perfect Indestructible Plant: ZZ Plant

ZZ Plant from The Sill
credit: The Sill

If you have two brown thumbs, you'll need a "plant of steel" to survive in your dorm room. Well, we've found one for you called Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It's a tough beauty, known affectionately as the ZZ plant. Classic but trendy, the ZZ is an upright plant with glossy green leaves as big as your hand. Even if you keep the ZZ from freshman year through PhD, this slow growing plant won't outgrow its container, and it's almost indestructible. As long as it gets at least a little indirect sun and you don't overwater, the ZZ acts like a gorgeous fake plant, sitting pretty in its container.

Perfect Low-Light Plant: Snake Plant

Snake plant in basket on shelf
credit: Stephen Paul

With stiff, upright leaves in the shape of swords, snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) can be short as a duck or taller than you are, depending on the species and the maturity. These architectural plants have green-banded leaves, sometimes with a yellow border. Admiring their beauty, you'd never guess that they are rugged enough to survive and even thrive in a dorm with only occasional water. If your space is low-light, don't worry. The snake plant is perfectly happy in shade, and specimens have been known to survive for weeks stashed away in closets. Leave your snake plant out in the open where it can be admired, sweep toxins from the air, and spice up your decor.

Perfect Good-Luck Plant: Money Plant

Money Plant from The Sill
credit: The Sill

The money tree (Pachira aquatica) is rumored to bring its owner luck and prosperity, and what college student can't use a little more of each? If you don't buy that, the plant has a feng shui reputation for creating positive energy in living spaces. In any event, it's a great choice for a dorm room, requiring minimal care but adding a touch of class. The perky palmate leaves top slim green stems. You can braid those stems together for an exotic, "tropical bonsai" look. It's a low maintenance plant that does just fine in artificially lit areas.

Perfect Cascading Plant: Pothos

Pothos plant from The Sill
credit: The Sill

Does "houseplant" mean oodles of romantically trailing foliage? We've got you covered with pothos (Epipremnum aureum), arguably the easiest potted plant to own on the planet and certainly one of the most attractive. A trailing vine with leaves like green valentines, pothos doesn't get miffed if you forget to water it. This plant thrives in indirect sun or shade and sits high on NASA's list of plants that can help pull chemicals from indoor air.

Perfect Succulent Plant: Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plants from The Sill
credit: The Sill

Long-lived aloe (Aloe vera) is a no-fuss succulent that is harder to kill than to keep alive. Its spiky, upright leaves are narrow and long but puffy, because it's there that aloes stock their water. That means an aloe will sail right through final-exam weeks when you forget to tend to them. Even during less busy times, they are essentially water-and-forget in terms of maintenance. Twice a month water, no fertilizer, no pruning necessary, just excellent drainage and some sun. And rumor has it that if you break off a piece of aloe, you can use the cool aloe gel inside to sooth minor cuts and burns, including sunburn.


Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.