6 Perfect Houseplants for Dorm Rooms

houseplants around a window in a small dorm desk

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

From boosting focus and cleaning the air to improving wellness in general, these easy indoor plants are a great addition to dorm decor.

Dorm buildings are not always the most inspired of places. They are a wonderful rite of passage, but it's kind of a big leap. from the comforts of home to a cramped room that often tends toward the institutional.

But adding some houseplants can make a world of difference. As my daughter moved into her dorm last week, I was delighted to see a pop-up plant shop in the quad of her school. What a great idea! Plants soften the edges, bring some life in, and offer great physical and emotional benefits. For example:

  • Studies have concluded that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress.
  • Research has found that studying in the presence of plants can have a dramatic effect. Being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity – and can increase memory retention up to 20 percent.
  • NASA did a lot of research on how plants remove toxins from the air; many more studies since then have confirmed it.
  • Other research has found that houseplants decrease the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.

So where to start? Obviously, the average college student is not going to want a complicated plant-care routine. These choices are all packed with benefits, but also easy to care for.

1. Succulents

girl in dorm rooms studies with four succulent plants next to her

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Succulents may be the most obvious choice, and for good reason. They are low-maintenance and undeniably adorable. They do need light; they love a windowsill and can stand to be rotated – but don't need to be watered very often and are generally happy campers. Two choices that come to mind are jade plant and aloe vera, which can help remove toxins from the air.

2. ZZ plant

ZZ plant in window while hand reaches for book

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

I don't know of a more resilient plant than Zamioculcas zamiifolia, the ZZ plant. It manages to remain stoic regardless of conditions, including lack of natural light, low humidity, and drought (as in, forgetting to water). Costa Farms notes that it can grow in bright, medium, or low light – and allow the soil to dry between waterings. "Too much water is about the only way to kill this indoor plant."

3. Cast iron plant

hand places cast iron plant in terracotta pot on desk

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Also known as the "ballroom plant," Aspidistra elatior are practically indestructible. They can handle a wide range of temperatures, don't require a humid atmosphere, they can be grown in low light, and can tolerate less than regular watering.

4. Lucky bamboo

lucky bamboo plant in window next to books while person reads

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Lucky bamboo isn't really bamboo, but I'd like to think that is does bring luck – and what college student doesn't want a bit of good fortune? What I love about lucky bamboo is that it can live in either soil or water. If you choose to grow it in water, you don't have to worry it you are watering it too much or not enough – you just have to make sure there's water in its container. (That said, the water should be changed once a week or so, but that's not too tough.) Wiki How has a good tutorial here.

5. Bromeliad

woman studies in bed next to bromeliad plant on table

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

There are thousands of different species of bromeliads – and some will be easier to care for than others. Depending on the species, they may be slightly fussier than some of the other options here, they have a super power: They devour indoor air pollution. In a study looking at houseplants that remove indoor toxins, the researchers found that the bromeliad plant was great at removing six of the eight volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that they were measuring; taking up more than 80 percent of each over a 12-hour sampling period.

6. Spider plant

bright green spider plant on desk with books and clock

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

I love spider plants. They were my first houseplant when I was a young girl, and they are really just wonderful little troopers. They were one of the best performers in NASA's air filtering research, and I find that the little "spiderettes" that they shoot out like fireworks are one of the cutest tricks in the plant kingdom. Spider plants are great for a dorm room for the air-filtering bit, but also for the easy propagation – the spiderettes plantlets can be easily planted, giving a cash-strapped student a roomful of plants for the price of one.

These are just a few of many; for other ideas, see related stories below.