OPINION | Every student needs a plant in their dorm room

When I lived in the dorms my freshman year, I was occasionally desperate for companionship. I spent long days cooped up in my room without ever seeing the light of day and hardly had any connection with my roommates. I look back on that time and wish I had a plant to be my friend.

There was once a time I couldn’t keep a plant alive. I overwatered many a succulent in high school and eventually gave up on keeping houseplants all together. The thought of buying a plant never crossed my mind after I went to college.

Then, last summer, my sister — an avid plant mom to at least 10 different species — dragged me to The Living Room, an adorable plant store just up the street from my family home. I left with my first real houseplant, a young Zanzibar Gem (or “zz plant”). I named him Zeke and took him home, fearing he would end up as fertilizer faster than he could photosynthesize.

Zeke is alive and well six months later, and I have since adopted a monstera, named Mila. I keep a close eye on my plants, tracking their every sprout and droop. Mothering plants gives me a sense of adulthood that no amount of schoolwork and grocery shopping can.

Dorm living often left me feeling lonely and isolated. I recall the temptation to adopt a helpless aquatic creature (which I resisted), but a plant would have been much happier in my dorm than a beta fish trapped in a bowl small enough to fit on my desk. Plants are much more sustainable companions for college students than pets.

Plants are incredibly powerful silent regulators. Research referenced by Time magazine suggests that plants improve focus, increase productivity and even help heal sicknesses. A plant can encourage your study habits without you even knowing it.

The demands of college can often be stressful, but plants help lift some of the burden of student life. According to the National Library of Medicine, indoor plants reduce stress and ease anxiety and depression. As a college student with depression and anxiety, I appreciate the work my plants are doing to uplift my mental state.

Plants improve air quality. As we learned in fourth grade science class, plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release clean, fresh oxygen. Plants also work to remove toxic chemicals from the air, which may come in handy in a room well-loved by former student residents.

Plants are far less expensive to care for than pets. A plant and pot purchase may run you around $50 — depending on species and size — but that is just a one-time purchase for a lifetime of happiness. Water is readily available and liquid fertilizer runs cheap.

With the right tools, plants are easy to maintain. I use an app called Planta to keep track of my plants’ needs. Planta provides detailed care instructions catered to your plant’s species and environment.

Planta tells me when to water, fertilize, mist and clean my plants. The app keeps track of my plant’s growth progress and has a doctor feature to help cure plant sicknesses. Planta sends push notifications to remind me of care tasks, ensuring my plants do not go neglected.

Plant parenting is a good, low-risk taste of being responsible for another life. Plants are much more forgiving of your mistakes than a pet would be. Dogs, for example, bark and whine when left home alone all day, where plants quietly and patiently await care.

A touch of green in your room is sure to liven up your space. Plants add a rewarding decorative aesthetic to any room they are in by bringing a smidge of nature indoors.

Mila the monstera. Photo by Kaylie Foster.