Dorm Room Plant Ideas: Choosing Plants For Dorm Rooms

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

College life can be rough. You spend half your days inside the classroom and often the other half in the library or inside studying. Yet, the stressed student can benefit from the relaxing effects of plants in their dorm room. Plants provide easy dorm room décor, help freshen the air, and liven up dreary spaces. Many industrial housing situations are in big concrete buildings with limited light, so choosing the right dorm room plants is essential.

Let’s look at some nearly foolproof plants for dorm rooms that are easy to care for and hard to kill.

Plants for Dorm Rooms

Choose plants that match the surrounding conditions. If you are in a cold, dank basement devoid of much sunlight there are still options for you. Plants suitable for low light situations may include:

  • Snake plant (mother-in-law’s tongue)
  • Philodendron
  • Grape ivy
  • Lucky bamboo
  • ZZ Plant

Plants that come from rainforests are ideal choices, since the dim light is similar to the dappled sun they receive as understory plants. The space with average light has more choices for dorm room plants.

Dorm room plants that thrive in moderate lighting include:

  • Ferns
  • Ivies
  • African daisies
  • Cacti and other succulents

Warmer rooms with southern to western exposure will play host to some flowering plants as well as cactus and herbs.

Dorm Room Plant Ideas

In addition to lighting, spacing is an important consideration. Some varieties of climbing philodendron can get up to the ceiling in just a year or two. Any plant that gets too big to be moved in such a short amount of time should be taken off the list of possible dorm room décor.

Plants add elegance and simple comfortable touches, but dorm room décor should be functional. If you spend time and energy keeping your plants healthy, it will be an unfortunate graduation present to have to leave them behind.

Some dorm room plant ideas include a mixed herb pot that can be used to add life to hot pot or microwaved meals. You can also plant aquatic plants in an aquarium or keep small moisture loving plants in a glass terrarium.

To keep high light plants healthy in low light industrial buildings, use a plant light or florescent bulb in place of the incandescent light bulb in a regular lamp. Take your ferns and humidity loving plants to the shower with you once a week to soak up the steam and ambient moisture.

Basic Care for Dorm Room Plants

  • Ensure that the container you keep your plant in has numerous drainage holes.
  • Use a good quality houseplant soil mixture and follow the watering instructions for your variety of plant.
  • Most pot-bound plants benefit from a liquid fertilizer in spring and then twice per month until winter. Dilute it to half strength to prevent burning the roots.
  • Pinch off areas that are unhealthy and watch for pests and disease.

Indoor plants will purify your air and enrich your living space, even if they are tiny and temporary!

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Read more about General Houseplant Care

Dorm Room Plant Care Tips

Spring is technically here, but most of us across the country aren't quite seeing it yet. With rain on the west coast and another snow storm expected for much of the east, if you're not quite feeling like the season of blooming flowers, warmer temperatures, and increasing sunshine is upon us, you can't really be blamed. Luckily, there are a number of easy ways to brighten up your space 'til spring really finally, well, springs. And while you could completely redecorate in vibrant colors, perhaps the simplest way of kickstarting the new season in your space is adding an indoor plant or two (added bonus: very Insta-friendly).

Teen Vogue asked Justin Mast, founder of the newly launched company Bloomscape, about the best plants for a tiny dorm room — plus how to take care of them. Not only will your plants cheer you up while you wait for everything outside to green up, they also help filter air in your room, plus, studies suggest that interaction with indoor plants actually may help your stress levels (ideal when your room is also your study spot). Read on for Justin's tips about what greenery to pick when shopping for your dorm. You can buy any of these plants fully grown, potted, and ready to ship from Bloomscape or find them at your local garden or landscaping store.

Choose a couple smaller plants for a night stand or dresser near a window:

Ponytail Palm: fun, hardy, and thrives in bright light
Light Requirements: Does best in bright direct light, but is tolerant of lower light conditions
Water Requirements: Prefers to be kept in semi-dry conditions, so let the soil dry out completely between waterings
Removes toxins from the air

Golden Pothos: very easy vining plant with heart-shaped leaves
Light Requirements: Tolerates low light, but will grow well in medium to bright indirect light as well
Water Requirements: Keep the soil moist, water when the top inch of soil is dry
Removes Formaldehyde, Xylene, and Benzene from the air

For a layered look, mix larger plants on the floor with smaller plants placed on stools, boxes, or in a plant stand:

Monstera: trendy, tropical, and easy to care for
Light Requirements: Bright indirect light, but can tolerate low light as well
Water Requirements: Somewhat drought tolerant, water just enough to keep the soil from drying out
Removes Formaldehyde and other VOCs from the air

Rubber Tree: adaptable with large, burgundy leaves
Light Requirements: Tolerates low light, but will do best in bright indirect light
Water Requirements: Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil becomes dry
Removes Formaldehyde from air

Rattlesnake Plant: small, pattern plant that does well in low-light
Light Requirements: Great low light plant, but will do best in medium indirect light
Water Requirements: Keep the soil consistently moist—not too dry and not too wet
Removes toxins from the air

Add some green to your desk to help boost your mood and improve your memory! Place a small plant on top of a stack of books along with a larger, full plant to create a lush space:

Dracaena Lemon Lime: very easy plant with bright green, striped leaves
Light Requirements: Tolerates low light, but will thrive in medium to bright indirect light
Water Requirements: Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry
Removes VOCs from the air

Hedgehog Aloe: low-maintenance succulent
Light Requirements: Bright light, will do best in a sunny window
Water Requirements: Needs very little water, only water once in a while when it is completely dry
Removes toxins from the air

The 5 Best Plants to Keep in Your Dorm Room

From air-freshening bamboo palms to multipurpose aloe vera, these are the most low-maintenance, student-friendly plants you can get.

By Devon Hodge, Western Washington University

College x August 15, 2017

The 5 Best Plants to Keep in Your Dorm Room

From air-freshening bamboo palms to multipurpose aloe vera, these are the most low-maintenance, student-friendly plants you can get.

By Devon Hodge, Western Washington University

When students move away from home to college for the first time, it can be a time of increased tension and worry. Homesickness, academic anxiety and an increase in responsibilities can all lead to college students feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. If you’re a college student that faces these challenges, one way to combat some of that tension and stress is to keep plants in your dorm room.

Having plants in your living space can help increase productivity, lift your mood and even help you get a better night’s sleep. That’s because house plants take in excess carbon dioxide in the air and produce life-giving oxygen. Keeping potted house plants in your dorm will freshen your air while adding a splash of natural color to your living space.

With that in mind, here is a list of five of the most dorm-friendly, low-maintenance decorative plants that you can buy.

1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is on top of this list because it is one of the most useful, low-maintenance and multipurpose house plant you can buy. In fact, aloe vera has been shown to help heal or diminish the symptoms of a variety of skin-related ailments, from sunburns and scratches to mosquito bites and dry skin.

If you break off a tendril from your aloe vera plant and squeeze it, a thick, viscous and clear gel will come out of the severed end of the tendril. If you rub this natural gel onto any small, shallow scrapes and cuts, burns (sunburns or surface-level heat burns) and/or insect bites, the plant’s natural healing potential will help burns fade, scratches heal and insect bites stop itching.

Aloe vera plant (Image via Old Farmer’s Almanac)

2. Succulents

Aloe vera is a succulent, but because of its special properties and uses, it gets its own spot on the list. Other succulents, such as the California sunset, the ghost plant and the barrel cactus don’t have as many of the potential health benefits of aloe vera, although they still do a fantastic job of freshening the air and adding some natural beauty to your room.

Like aloe vera, most succulents are also very low-maintenance. All you have to do to keep your succulent happy and healthy is too keep it in a relativity sunny place (by a window or under a skylight are the best places) and water them once a week in the spring, summer and fall, and once or twice a month during the colder winter months. When you water your succulents, make sure to give them a lot of water at once to mimic the weather conditions of the deserts where these plants naturally grow.

California sunset succulent (Image via Etsy)

Another wonderful thing about succulents is that they come in all kinds of colors and shapes. There are spiky green ones, rose-shaped red, yellow and purple ones, as well as, rubbery, round-leafed ones that can grow in tiny containers or miniature hanging pots. Actually, succulents will grow in just about any kind of pot or cup, making them very easy to transport and keep as indoor plants.

3. Bamboo Palm

The bamboo palm is best known as one of the very best natural air purifiers around. This pretty, fronded palm plant filters out several potentially damaging chemicals in the air, including the formaldehyde fumes that often come out of new furniture. If you’ve bought a bunch of new furniture for your dorm room and want to take some of that “new couch” smell out of the air, buying a bamboo palm is a great way to do so.

Bamboo palm (Image via Emory and Henry College)

Unlike succulents, bamboo palms thrive in the shade and don’t need nearly as much sunlight to stay healthy. In fact, bamboo palms prefer to stay out of direct sunlight, meaning that you can keep your potted bamboo palm anywhere in your dorm room. This palm can grow anywhere from one-to-twenty feet in height and one-to-ten feet in width. This means that you may have to do some clipping maintenance every once in a while to keep your palm from growing too big, but apart from that, these plants are very easy to take care for. Water them often (but not too often, since constantly wet soil can lead to root rot) and clip away dead brown fronds whenever you get the chance. If you do these simple things, your air-filtering, fronded friend should do just fine.

4. Spider Plant

Just like the bamboo palm, spider plants are great for filtering out certain fumes and chemicals in the air. Apart from cleaning your air, these plants are great for many other reasons. For one, they’re very interesting to look at, with long draping white and green fronds that spread out from a common center for two, they’re very low-maintenance and can live happily in small pots.

When taking care of your spider plant, it’s important to make sure the soil in the plant’s pot can drain. If you put your spider plant in a pot with proper drainage, you greatly decrease the chances that your plant will develop root rot. Spider plants also enjoy lower temperatures, so keep them in shady, comfortably cool (but not too cold!) spaces.

Spider plant (Image via Gardening Know How)

Another thing to consider when buying a spider plant is that most cats are strangely attracted to these common house plants. Although spider plants aren’t known to be toxic to cats, you should still watch your cat carefully around your plant, and make sure to act if your pet ingests any of the plant’s leaves. Occasionally, cats will react poorly to eating the leaves of the spider plant, so keep this in mind if you own a cat.

5. Orchids

Orchids naturally grow in tropical regions, so they prefer a warm or temperate climate. Orchids are the only plant on this list that are known for their incredible flowers, which, when in full bloom, can be breathtaking. These flowers come in a variety of different colors, from light pink to the more classic bright white.

Orchids (Image via My First Orchid)

To care for your orchid plant, first make sure that they’re living in moist but well-drained soil always. Too much moisture is bad for orchids, but too little can lead to wilting. Some of the best soils to grow orchids in are fir bark soil, potting soil with sand or cork and a mix of charcoal and peat moss. For optimal health, keep your orchid near a window or source of filtered sunlight. Because they are tropical plants, orchids like sunlight, but not extreme, desert-like heat.

If you take proper care of your orchid, it will produce beautiful flowers and be a wonderful addition to any dorm room.

The Pitt News

A house plant sits on a college student’s desk.

By Charlie Taylor, Culture Editor
July 22, 2020

Plants were meant to be in the great outdoors, not some stuffy dorm room — but if you’re looking for a companion, a new hobby or even just a little greenery for your room, a low-maintenance house plant can be a great option.

Drew Clouse has worked at City Grows — an organic garden shop in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood that caters to people living in small spaces — for five years and is currently the shop’s social media manager. A 2013 Pitt grad, they know first-year dorms like Litchfield Towers don’t always provide ideal living conditions for house plants. Still, they said the right plant with the right care can not only thrive in a dorm room, but help its owner thrive as well.

“You can have something to take care of and something outside of schoolwork that you can be like, ‘Here’s this thing I need to make sure I’m on top of,’” Clouse said.

Choose the right plant

Not every plant is well-suited for college life. Clouse recommends snake plants, ZZ plants and pothos because they require minimal sunlight and watering. They said owners should only water them every week and a half to every few weeks, which means these plants will last long enough without water for you to go home on breaks and not worry about them.

“If you water them right before [winter] break and then get them when you come back, they should be pretty okay,” Clouse said. “Pothos need a little more water, but they can definitely bounce back.”

If you have some experience and are open to more of a commitment, Clouse suggests ferns, air plants and calatheas, but cautioned that those plants sometimes pose a challenge for beginners.

“They need a bit more upkeep, so depending on the person, I don’t know if I’d immediately recommend them,” Clouse said.

According to Clouse, each of the plants they recommended can thrive in indirect sunlight, which is essential for plants kept in a room with one small window. Since they don’t need sunny conditions, they can easily stay on a shelf or nightstand — as long as they still get some light.

“Pretty much all of them you can stick wherever in a dorm,” Clouse said. “Obviously, the closer to the window in general the better, but they don’t need to be directly on the windowsill.”

Although succulents may look cute and don’t require frequent watering to stay alive, Clouse warned against purchasing one for a dorm. Because desert plants need direct sunlight, rooms with one small window tend to be too dim to support them.

“You can theoretically get away with that in a dorm, but it really depends on the dorm room and how much light you get in through the window,” Clouse said. “You need a really bright window.”

Nobody’s a perfect plant parent — sometimes we overwater or underwater and end up with plants that look a little worse for wear. Clouse said owners can generally tell what they’re doing wrong by how the leaves look. Yellowing leaves usually indicate the plant is getting too much water, while browning, crispy leaves indicate it’s getting too little.

Clouse also said every plant is different, and to really know what it needs requires research. When your snake plant or fern seems a little off, they said Google is often the way to go.

“A lot of [learning upkeep] is doing research online, because some plants show different symptoms depending on what’s wrong,” Clouse said.

Choose One Item to Inspire the Room

Freling suggests starting with the bedding or an area rug, as those two spots are prime visual real estate in a dorm room. Whether it's a beloved comforter making the journey to school or a brand new rug, one focal point item will help kickstart decorating. Opt for a rug that camouflages dirt and wear and is easy to spot clean. Bedding should also be low maintenance.

Plan ahead: Furniture and floor dimensions will help you determine what size rug to purchase. An indoor-outdoor rug is an easy-care option but might not be as comfortable on hard tile, so consider your dorm's flooring material, too.

12 Ways to Maximize a Tiny Dorm Room—Without Blowing Your Budget

And all for less than the cost of a college textbook.

When you envision going off to college, filled with curiosity and a thirst for a new chapter, you probably don’t think about the micro room that’ll be your new home for the next two semesters. (And that you will probably be sharing with another person.) As you start unpacking, that 10-by-10 can feel more like a cluttered closet than a studio. Before you freak out, remember this: dorm space savers can go a long way towards maximizing dorm space.

With a little savvy and creativity, you can fit everything you need (and want!) in the tiny room. We’ve compiled the best space-saving dorm ideas from decorators and organizers to help you turn that boring box into a cozy nest (that looks pretty great, too).

Want to have coffee while you fire off a term paper, but also need a place to keep your extra set of towels or blankets? The key to small space decorating is finding pieces that do double duty, says James Wheeler of Atlanta-based J. Wheeler Designs. He recommends a lift-top coffee table for its functionality as both a workspace and a storage unit. It can even serve as an actual dinner table.

Deborah Gussoff, certified professional organizer and owner of In Order, Inc., loves the versatile storage options of magazine files. Their vertical format is great for small spaces. If your desk hutch has a bookshelf on top, line up a few of them to hide odds and ends. Gussoff also recommends putting one by the door for an easy place to drop keys and other small items that would otherwise clutter the room.

For many new college students, dorm life comes with a big dose of clothing insecurity—which is why it’s comforting to bring as many options as possible. But how do you fit years of carefully curated outfits into that tiny closet? One dorm space saver hack is to hang a closet rod to instantly double the capacity, then add ultra slim hangers to maximize the number of items that can easily fit in the space. Just like that, you don’t have to part with your parents and your beloved overalls at the same time.

A typical dorm room bed takes up nearly seven feet of horizontal space. Just imagine how much you can fit under there if you lift the bed only four or five inches off the ground! Abbe Fenimore, owner of Studio Ten 25, a Dallas-based interior design firm and ecommerce site, recommends these tech-friendly risers that moonlight as additional outlets and USB chargers as one of her go-to space saving dorm ideas.

Speaking of under bed storage, once you’ve stowed away extra towels, out-of-season clothes, and dirty laundry, you’ll still have plenty of room for a rolling cart or drawer under the bed. This way the important things (aka emergency junk food) are always within reach. Lauren Gores Ireland, creative director at lifestyle blog You & Lu, recommends a plastic container for its easy cleaning properties because something will (inevitably) spill.

Sure, you could fit plenty of footwear into a lightweight organizer. But where’s the fun in that? Gores suggests you get creative and use it as a hold-all for rolled T-shirts, clutches, and even umbrellas. It’s an easy way to free up valuable drawers and maximize dorm space.

Taking “double duty” to the next level, ottomans add ideal storage space and double as seating. Fenimore suggests sliding them under the desk or stacking in a corner when not in use to save floor space. You can even top one with a similarly sized tray and use it as a bedside table to save even more dorm space.

Creating different zones in a room makes it feel bigger and more organized, Wheeler says. A tiered shelving unit doubles as a room divider that also provides extra storage without blocking the light from coming through. For antisocial folks or those not overly fond of their roommates, simply fill the cubes with books or fabric bins to create some much needed separation.

To maximize dorm space, using the right combination of command hooks can open up a lot of opportunities—beyond simply mounting decor. For example, attach command hooks to the ceiling and use them to hang a curtain around the bed to create a private nook. Or, add a go-to spot to hang your backpack, clearing up your (probably messy) floor.

Getting the top bunk means being far away from all essentials. And who wants to climb down every time you need headphones, a tissue, or a snack? A slim footboard caddy is a great space saving dorm idea.

To maximize dorm space, you probably don’t want a clunky laundry bag taking up your floor or closet. Instead, choose this laundry basket you can stack and fold up when you’re not using it. Win-win!

For a colorful way to organize a variety of everyday items—think pencils, makeup, hairbrush, papers—this colorful find is one of the easiest space saving dorm ideas. Sit in the corner, move it around as you need it to get ready in front of the mirror, and then push it back to its resting spot when you’re finished.

Watch the video: Plant Styling Secrets: Small Spaces!

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