The Journal's guide to student-friendly houseplants

How to tend plants even the most careless student can keep alive

Having plants in your student house can brighten up your living space.
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In my first year at Queen’s, my friend gave me a plastic plant for my birthday because I couldn’t “kill this one.” I entered first year with three houseplants, and since then, my collection has grown to almost a dozen. I’ve probably killed half as many. 
 
Having plants in your residence room or student house can bring much-needed life into your personal space. Whether a row of succulents on your windowsill or a leafy houseplant in your living room, any greenery can make your house more like home. But as a busy university student, it can be hard enough to take care of yourself, let alone a plant. This is especially true when you need to worry about variables like humidity levels, fertilizer type, and proper water drainage. 
 
Luckily, there are a few plants that can survive just about anything. If you choose wisely when selecting your new houseplant, you won’t have to go through the devastating experience of a plant funeral like I have. 
 
The cast-iron plant 
 
The cast-iron plant is aptly named for its resilience. It stays strong in the face of even the most neglectful student. 
 
For this long, leafy plant, you’ll want to let the soil dry out between watering times. This means you’ll end up watering it about once a week in the warmer months and every two weeks once the frost sets in. 
 
A good spot for this plant is close to (but not right next to) a bright window. It won’t do well with direct sunlight. 
 
Echeveria succulents
 
A dorm-friendly option is any succulent of the Echeveria variety. These are the classic round succulents normally found in a desert climate. 
 
The small cactus relatives will thrive on a sunny windowsill with minimal watering and are best for forgetful students who don’t have much time to dedicate to plant care. If you do decide to get one, just make sure to avoid getting the waxy leaves wet when you’re watering it.
 
Devil’s ivy 
 
If your room lacks natural light, you can still bring some green into your space with devil’s ivy. Devil’s ivy is almost impossible to kill, as it thrives in extremely low-light conditions. 
 
While this plant does like being watered once a week, it won’t mind if you miss a week or two. 
 
Swiss cheese plant
 
If you’ve scrolled through Instagram recently, you’ve probably seen the tropical-looking leaves of the Swiss cheese plant, or the Monstera deliciosa. Known for its modern look and often included in recent fashion, retail, and social media photos, this trendy plant even has its own Instagram hashtag: #MonsteraMonday. 
 
This plant would make a great statement piece in your kitchen or living room: it grows to be large and enjoys dappled sunlight like it would receive on a forest floor.
 
If you decide to purchase one, set an alert on your phone to remind you to water it every week in the summer and every two weeks in the winter so that the soil dries out between watering times. This plant would also appreciate a nice misting once in a while.
 
The spider plant
 
The spider plant is a personal favourite of mine because of how easy it is to care for and propagate.
 
It’s a leafy plant with lots of grass-like shoots, famous for its babies. When your plant is happy and healthy, it will produce small, miniature versions of itself that you can break off and re-pot, creating an army of spider plants in no time.
 
Keep this one in moderate lighting conditions, and make sure you let the soil dry between watering times. It doesn’t mind a humid environment, like a bathroom with natural lighting.
 
Tricolour rubber plant
 
The tricolour rubber plant, with green, pink, and cream coloured leaves, is an adaptable plant that combines hearty foliage with Queen’s spirit.
 
This multi-coloured leafy houseplant will survive even the most forgetful student. If you lose track of your watering schedule during exams, it’s no big deal.
 
However, it does like a good drink, so try to remember to water it once a week during the warmer months and keep it a little dryer in the winter. Be careful of overdoing it with your watering can.
 
Set your new friend on your desk in some indirect sunlight and watch it grow. If you need a study break, you can give it a mist and wipe off its leaves to make it happy.
 

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