Are you a mass murderer? Is your dorm room scattered with the fallen leaves of tens, if not hundreds, of poor deceased houseplants? (Kind of like the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, with plants?!) If so, don’t despair… and don’t give up!
A few good plants can make even the most unkempt of student hovels look that much classier – a bonus if you get any late-night visitors. (Lucky you.)
Plus, houseplants have been proven to improve concentration. Great if you have a big exam coming up.
Your problem might not just be that you’re lazy on the upkeep. Maybe the plants just aren’t the right fit for your house. Plus you’re a student. And you’re probably super busy. I mean, that Jagermeister isn’t going to drink itself, is it?
Fear not, here are 11 plants so hardy they make Tom Hardy look like Tiny Thumb. They should be able to withstand a nuclear bomb, let alone a negligent student owner.
Zanzibar gem (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Hailing from the arid regions of East Africa, the Zanzibar Gem knows a little something about staying alive in tough conditions. Which makes it ideal for even the most uncared for dorm rooms. It thrives in a variety of lighting conditions and, because the plant is drought-tolerant, it can last a loooooong time between waterings. Unlike most college kids. They get thirsty pretty quickly.
Plus, it has great air-purifying qualities for the indoor environment. Handy for taking the edge off those questionable socks that you forgot to give mom during last month’s laundry run.
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
As the name suggests, this plant is pretty solid… and really hard to kill! It can withstand extreme changes in lighting conditions and has no issues with deep shade. Useful if you forget to open the curtains for a month…
In fact, this plant prefers things to be a little dark. It also has no problem in going a long stretch without a drink. (Just make sure you don’t overwater it, which can lead to root rot – the plant equivalent of a hangover.)
With long, dark and sword-like leaves the Cast Iron Plant is beautiful and robust. A variegated – i.e., fancy – version of the plant is available with white stripes. If raising a Seven Nation Army in your dorm room appeals to you.
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
Missing your rubber ducky from home? Then look no further than the rubber plant! It’s tall and dark, with big and glossy almond-shaped leaves. Quite a looker, in fact.
You’ll need to water it once a week during summer and only once a fortnight during winter. Totally doable, right? (Or just get your roommate to do it for you!)
As long as your room isn’t too dark, this plant will live a long time. Probably longer than your first college relationship, in fact. Big sea, so many fish…
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Argh, spiders! Don’t worry, Spider Plants don’t attract spiders. They are so called because of how they look – all spidery and whatnot.
Indoor gardeners love this friendly neighbourhood spider plant because they absorb indirect light and only need watering once a week. With the right care, they’ll even sport delicate white flowers. How kind.
The spidery-like roots grow pretty quickly, so you’ll need to repot them every few years. Apart from that, the Spider Plant requires very little upkeep.
Oh, and another thing – these plants usually have a little baby attached. Once one of these smaller plants forms roots, just cut them loose and you’ll have a new plant. Imagine how sweet you’ll look when you give the cute guy/girl in your Philosophy class a plant that you’ve grown yourself. Top sensitivity points for that one!
Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
This beautiful little number has the best name of all the plants on this list. So-called because Devil’s Ivy is virtually impossible to kill and thrives even when kept in the dark. It’s basically the T-1000 of plants. (What do you mean, you don’t know what the T-1000 is? Honestly, students these days! Stop whatever you’re doing and go watch Terminator 2, now. This list can wait.)
Finished watching? Good wasn’t it. They don’t make films like that anymore. Let’s crack on.
Anywho, Devil’s Ivy can put up with very low lighting conditions and really infrequent watering. It’s pretty much the ideal plant for forgetful gardeners or complete beginners.
Oh, and its fondness for drooping like a leafy waterfall means it looks really cool on bookshelves or on top of a wardrobe. As the hipster of houseplants, it goes particularly well with exposed brick.
Aloe (Aloe vera)
Aloe is an amazing plant – not just because of its ability to stay alive no matter how much you neglect it. It’s also very useful as a skin moisturizer, a balm for sunburn and a soothing agent for minor cuts and abrasions. What’s more, aloe can also help with hair loss, which is a benefit if you have a condition like alopecia.
Aloe needs very little water – but it does like a healthy dose of bright, indirect sunlight. Keep it near a window but not on the windowsill, if that makes sense. The best thing about aloe? It’ll grow for years and years in the same container. Woohoo!
Picture this: You’ve been out playing ultimate frisbee with your bros and you got a bit too much sun. So you pop home, chop off an aloe leaf and get some sweet relief. Niiiiiice. (Psst: I also have it on good authority that aloe provides relief for other itchy skin conditions that you may pick up at college. You know, the ones you don’t want your mom to find out about.)
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutated)
The Chinese Evergreen is a tough cookie. (The best fortune ones are.) It will happily put up with most dorm room conditions, it quite enjoys low or indirect sunlight and it prefers life on the dry side. Like your chem lab partner. Snoresville!
Buyer’s tip: Choose carefully – there’s plenty of variegated leaf varieties, so you’ll be able to find some very pretty plants out there! Make sure you get one you like – you’ll be looking at it for a long time.
Aftercare tip: Allow the soil to sit completely dry for a few days before re-watering again. You can feel free to go about your business in the meantime – a watched plant never… well, does much.
Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)
We couldn’t write a list of hard-to-kill plants without the good old Yucca, could we? Hailing from the hot and arid areas of South America, the sturdy Yucca requires very little watering in winter months.
In fact, much like the Cast Iron Plant, the most likely way to kill the Yucca is through too much watering and root rot. (Potting the plant in free-draining compost will help you avoid this. Huzzah!)
Other than that? Make sure your Yucca gets lots of indirect sunlight and it’ll repay you by staying alive (thanks BeeGees, now you’re stuck in my head). It’ll keep your student digs looking beautiful for your entire college stay. It might even keep going if you decide to do a post-grad – although you’ll probably need to leave the student bar once in a while for that.
Guiana chestnut (Pachira aquatica)
The Guiana Chestnut is a very interesting house plant indeed. Tall and elegant, they are often sold with an attractive braided trunk. Kind of like Kim Kardashian.
Known across East Asia as the Money Plant, the Guiana Chestnut is associated with bringing good fortune to businesses. In Japan, Vietnam or Korea they can often be seen sitting in the corner of a shop with an auspicious red ribbon wrapped around its trunk. Very festive indeed.
This plant can tolerate heavy watering and prefers a little indirect sunlight. It can also be grown as a bonsai – but you need a lot of Mr Miyagi style patience for that. Something most college kids are not necessarily the most famous for.
Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria)
Also known as the Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is so called because of its sharp, pointed leaves and its longevity. Originating in Ethiopia, a fairly dry country, Sansevieria is pretty tough to kill. It’s both tolerant of low light and requires very little watering. It can last the entire winter on as little as one or two waterings.
Not only is Mother-in-Law’s tongue a beautifully decorative plant, it will also do a stellar job in cleaning your stale dorm room air and controlling humidity. So hardy are the leaves of the Sansevieria that in some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, they use these leaves to weave into baskets. Bad-ass.
Some of the variegated forms are a little more difficult to grow… but they make up for that by being soooo pretty! Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is probably the most attractive plant on the list and would add a touch of class to any student dive.
Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
The jade plant is a consistent favourite with indoor gardeners. Why? Well, for one, it’s pretty damn attractive.
On top of that, it’s really hard to kill. (That said, getting it looking its glossy best does require plenty of sunlight, so pick a nice bright spot for it to sit in.)
After that, it’s all about finding the right balance of water. Too much, and there’s a risk of root rot. Too little, and the cute leaves might begin to drop. But don’t let that scare you off. It’s a hard plant to kill and a great plant for part-time student gardeners to look after.
Of course, no plant is completely indestructible. Even these 11 incredibly hardy and tough-to-kill plants need a little TLC from time to time. However, if you’re very busy or very forgetful but still want a dorm room full of foliage, choosing one of these will increase your odds of success. Good luck!