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My Top 5 Houseplants for Dorm and Apartment Living

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

Ever since I started college, my favorite thing to decorate my space with is houseplants. I love the personal touch they bring to a space, and there’s no better feeling than seeing your plant babies thrive. While I had to go through some trial and error to learn how to properly care for my plants, I can now confidently say that I’ve mastered the art of being a plant mother. Finding your rhythm when learning how to care for plants can be challenging, so here are my favorite plants I’ve added to my family, and how I care for them.


The cactus is my favorite houseplant because it’s extremely low maintenance. While specific care strategies differ among the thousands of cacti species, they all thrive in dry, sunlit environments. This means they can happily sit in the window and grow with a minimal amount of watering. Just make sure your cactus isn’t in direct sunlight, as it can develop a brownish hue due to sun stress. I water my cacti once a month, or when the soil is 90% dry, and my trick is to heavily saturate the plant to mimic the conditions of a desert environment. In the desert, some plants experience heavy rain up to 1-2 times each month, so watering your cacti properly is vital to their survival. 


One of the most popular houseplants, the succulent, is an adorable addition  to any houseplant lover’s collection. They’re cute, easy to maintain, and not too high maintenance. Succulents are sold at all kinds of places; from grocery stores and nurseries to boutiques, there are hundreds of different species to choose from. The trick with succulent plants is doing your research on the specific type of plant you have to know how often to water it, what warning signs to look out for, and how much sunlight the plant should receive. My favorite succulents that I own are a burro’s-tail and a jade plant. Much like a cactus, I wait for the soil to dry out before watering them. The only difference is that it’s okay to water succulent plants more than 1-2 times a month, so it’s important to pay a little more attention to them than a cactus and to water them when they dry out. My rule of thumb is to make sure the soil is slightly soft and damp at all times and to avoid drying the plant out completely. This typically means my succulents will get watered an average of 3-4 times each month. Keep in indirect sunlight at all times, and re-pot your succulent with fresh, succulent-friendly soil at least once a year (preferably during the spring or summer season).

Aloe vera

Aloe vera (scientifically known as Aloe barbadensis Miller) is another perfect, low-maintenance plant that comes with a huge perk: all-natural aloe for sunburns, skincare, and more. Aloe vera is super versatile and produces a multitude of different benefits. Much like my succulent plants, I ensure my aloe vera has soft, slightly damp soil at all times and is close to sunlight. When the aloe leaves grow out and feel squishy, follow this guide to harvest the gel properly. An interesting thing about aloe is that there are multiple species, some of which don’t produce the aloe vera gel we’re familiar with. My zebra plant, scientifically named Haworthiopsis attenuata, is one of my pride and joys. While it’s a species of aloe, mine hasn’t produced any gel and behaves more like a cactus, needing very little amounts of water to thrive. A great thing about the zebra plant is that it takes up significantly less space than an aloe vera plant, so it’s much better for those living in small spaces. Make sure you do your research when selecting which type of aloe will best suit you, as some aloe plants can grow up to two feet tall!


My orchid is my pride and joy and is a beautiful, colorful addition to my collection amongst the green plants I’ve collected. Nothing beats the glee I feel when another flower blooms, and I love how they’re able to survive indoors during the winter, as some flowering plants only bloom during certain parts of the year. Water your orchid 1-2 times a week and watch the beauty unfold. Orchids are also safe outdoors in the Michigan summertime, but make sure they’re in a shaded area and don’t get too overheated. If you’re ever unsure, they’ll do just fine in indirect sunlight indoors.

Snake plant

The snake plant is a beautiful, fast-growing plant that isn’t too sensitive to different kinds of sunlight. I like to think the snake plant is super go-with-the-flow, as they can essentially survive anywhere in the home. These plants can get tall, so ensure you’ll have room for them to grow freely. Water once every two weeks or when the top of the soil becomes dry, and ensure water is drained from the bottom to prevent root rot. 

If you’re unsure of how to get started in your plant parent journey, these five plants are a great place to start. Each of these grow quickly with low maintenance and look absolutely stunning in any space. If you accidentally over-water your plant or don’t get it quite right the first time, don’t give up and learn from your mistakes. Happy planting!

Charlotte Plotzke (She/Her/Hers) is double majoring in communication and music at Michigan State University, and is projected to graduate in the Spring of 2024. Plotzke serves as an assistant editor for Michigan State University's Her Campus chapter, where she assists in editing and publishing articles for the chapter. Plotzke won second place in the "News" category in the 2023 Her Campus Chapter Awards for her article covering a March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in Lansing, MI, which served to honor the victims of the MSU shooting on February 13th, 2023. On top of writing about activism, wellness, experiences, pop-culture, and current events, Plotzke enjoys going to concerts, cooking, singing, traveling, and watching bad reality TV.