It’s a stressful time for everyone right now.
Zoom classes, weekly testing, face masks, hand sanitizer, you have one class in-person on Monday but then on Wednesday it’s over Zoom, and your other classes are the opposite so you showed up to an in-person class when it was actually the Zoom day. You have to print something at the library, but you haven’t gotten your test results back yet, so you have to ask a friend to print something out. Your WiFi connection sucks so your professor sounds lik- thi- a- the tim-. You sneeze and now the inside of your mask is all yucky and you have to wear it for the rest of the class which JUST STARTED.
It’s a weird, headache-inducing time for everyone.
As if college wasn’t stressful enough, we are all going through it during a pandemic.
I believe that with everything going on it’s important to find something that brings you a little bit of peace and calmness in the middle of your hectic day.
So I introduce to you: houseplants (or in the case of this article, dorm plants)
As a plant connoisseur myself, I will tell you about all the health benefits that come with having houseplants, what houseplants are the best for your dorm room and a few tips and tricks I use to keep them alive and thriving.
Let’s start with the health benefits that come with having plants around you in a room.
An article by Bioadvanced titled ‘5 Benefits of Houseplants’ explains how plants help you breathe easier.
When a plant undergoes photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to create food for themselves, it takes in the carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. This conversion inside a plant increases oxygen levels in rooms. Plants also release moisture vapor from the water that they take in when you water them. This causes the air around them to increase in humidity which can “decrease the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.”
Plants also help the air by removing toxins from it.
“Plants remove toxins from air – up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research,” explained the Bioadvanced article. “VOCs include substances like formaldehyde (present in rugs, vinyl, cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint)… Modern climate-controlled, air-tight buildings trap VOCs inside. The NASA research discovered that plants purify that trapped air by pulling contaminants into soil, where root zone microorganisms convert VOCs into food for the plant.”
Plants have also been proven to increase a person’s ability to focus on tasks. The Bioadvanced article discussed that a study at The Royal College of Agriculture in England found that students were 70 percent more attentive in classrooms that had one or more plants in them.
So now that you know some of the health benefits that come with having houseplants, let’s get to the fun part.
Which houseplant is right for your dorm?
Let’s start with the low light dorm rooms because they are the trickiest. You can tell if you live in a low light dorm room by observing how much light comes into your room during a day with no clouds in the sky. If you get sun rays in your room for an hour or less during the entire day then you most likely have a low light room. These rooms often have north-facing windows or are in an area with a lot of trees that shade the building.
Now I know what you must be thinking: plants need light so what can I possibly put in a room that gets almost no light at all. The answer is: surprisingly a lot.
The plants I would recommend, especially if you are a beginner, are a Golden Pothos, also referred to as Devil’s Ivy, or a Snake Plant, also referred to as Mother-in-Laws-Tongue. Both these plants thrive on neglect and love low light rooms. You only need to water them once every 10 to 15 days and they are both beautiful plants.
The Golden Pothos is a vining plant, meaning as it grows it creates long vines filled with green leaves. Because they are vining, you can either hang them on your wall with a strong command hook or put it on the edge of the top shelf of your desk or on top of your dresser. There are also a few variations Pothos come in, including Marble Queen Pothos, Neon Pothos and Jessenia Pothos to name a few. However, I find that the Golden Pothos is the easiest to find and cheapest to buy.
The Snake Plant could almost be considered the opposite of a Golden Pothos because, instead of vining, it has tall, sturdy leaves that grow up into the air. These plants are a gorgeous mid-tone green with dark green stripes running horizontally up each leaf. Some variations have yellow along the sides of each leaf or are a solid, light green color. Snake Plants do exceptionally well in low light rooms and can be bought in small or large sizes. I would recommend putting them on your desk or, if you get a larger one, somewhere on the floor.
Other low light room plants that you can research more on your own include Peace Lilies, if you want something that has flowers, Ponytail Palms, if you want something funky looking, Peperomias, if you want a lot of variations of the same plant and ZZ Plants, if you want something that you will never be able to kill.
Now let’s talk about bright light rooms. (Don’t worry I didn’t forget about medium light rooms, I’m just saving it for later).
Bright light dorm rooms have south-facing windows and are usually the rooms that are constantly lit up by direct sun rays. You wake up to the sun in your eyes and when you are studying for that test in your six o’clock class, you forgot about the sun that is still in your eyes.
These rooms are great, especially if you are a beginner, because you can venture into the succulents and cacti territory. The majority of succulents and cacti require bright and direct light for at least eight hours of the day which is why people in medium to low light rooms might have a tricky time with them. (However, if you do live in these types of rooms and want to give a succulent or cactus a shot I would recommend buying a plant light).
Some beautiful and easy succulents you can try are Aloe Vera, Donkey’s Tail and anything in the Crassula species. All of these require bright light but are drought tolerant, meaning you can forget about them for a week or two and they won’t die on you.
Aloe Vera is most likely the easiest to find out of all three of these and the gel inside the big leaves has some great health benefits for your skin and hair. I would recommend putting all of these plants in a window sill or on your desk if you have a spot that always stays in the sun. Because the plants are drought tolerant, you only need to water them once every two weeks or whenever the top inch of soil dries out.
Now we can move onto the medium light rooms. A medium light dorm room has an east or west-facing window and normally has sun rays shining into it either in the morning, sunrise to 11 a.m., or in the afternoon, 1 p.m. to sunset. These rooms hold a lot of options because you can really put any of the plants listed above in a medium light room and find success. The succulents may not show as much growth as they would in a bright light room, however they will survive. Pothos and Snake Plants will thrive in a medium light room as well even though they can survive in low light conditions. In a medium light room, the world is your oyster when it comes to plants.
The only thing to look out for is making sure that the plants are in good spots where they are getting the amount of sunlight needed. If you have a succulent in a medium-light room, chances are it would need to be in the windowsill and a Pothos may burn if you put it in the windowsill.
Now that we know what plants go in what rooms, I will wrap this up by giving you some quick tips and tricks on taking care of plants.
My first tip is to either create a schedule for watering, for example every Friday you water your plants or download an app on your phone that keeps track of when to water your plants for you. Consistency and making sure you are not over or under watering your plant is key and is the reason many new plant owners fail.
Most plants will give you a sign if they are being over watered or under watered. For example, succulents will begin to shrivel and look like raisins if they need water. Leafy plants like a Pothos will become droopy if they are in need of water.
Finally, my last piece of advice is that plants can be tricky and don’t get discouraged if one dies on you.
It’s all trial and error.
Claire Boughton can be contacted at