Companions for College Students

Morgan Maddock ‘23

         If you’re a college student, leaving home can be hard. No siblings, no parents, and most importantly, no pets! College dorms are not really conducive to nonhuman friends other than fish, and even that’s pushing it. Luckily for us, plants can help fill the void. If you’re like me, you have no green thumb. Mine is so bad that my grandma used to not let me help her garden because I would kill everything. So, for us that struggle in the botanical department, here are a few kinds of plants that are really hard to kill. You would have to really try. So here is your guide to the easiest plants to take care of this winter!


            The succulent trend is not new. It seems like every cool hippy girl I see on TikTok has about a million succulents in her room, making it look like a jungle in there. It always seems so overwhelming and looks like it must take a lot of effort to maintain. However, succulents are one of the most forgiving and diverse of plant species. There are a lot of different kinds of succulents and they’re all relatively low maintenance, but here are a few of my favorites:

o   Aloe Vera

I was surprised that I could grow my own aloe instead of just using the bottled kind from the store. Like most succulents, aloe doesn’t like direct sunlight and does best in spots that it will get indirect sunlight, like on a windowsill, or in artificial sunlight. It’s suggested that you get soil that drains easily and has at least one hole on the bottom for drainage because these plants really don’t need a lot of water. You only have to water these plants about every three weeks and even less in the winter. It’s best to test the soil with your finger and if it’s wet at all, it doesn’t need any more water! If the soil stays moist, the roots of your plant will get rotted.

      Here’s the fun part about keeping an aloe vera plant. Your own supply of fresh aloe for cuts, scrapes, and my most frequent usage: sunburns! All you have to do is pick off a fully grown leaf from your plant, and cut it lengthwise (that’s hotdog for those of you that struggle with directions like me). Then you can scrape out the gel from the inside and apply it to the affected area. I like to use fresh aloe gel for my frequent face sunburns because it’s easier on my sensitive skin than the bottled kind from the store. I also think it works better, but I might be biased.

o   Cactus

Most succulents are cared for the same way: indirect sunlight, good drainage, and minimal water. Cacti are much of the same. Cacti have a growing season and a hibernation season. When it’s warmer, in the spring and summer for us, you’ll need to water them about once a week. During their hibernation season, fall and winter, you can stop watering altogether if your cactus is a desert-dweller. Otherwise, you can reduce your watering, but keep an eye on your cactus to make sure it’s not getting dehydrated. Personally, I think growing a cactus in my dorm would be super cool.

o   Burro’s Tail

This one is a little random, but look up a picture. It looks like your plant is growing braids. It’s recommended that these hang so the stems can hang off the end of the pot. Care for these the same as your cactus, indirect sunlight, water once a week, soil that drains well, and less watering in the winter.


            Air plants, similarly to succulents, are mostly cared for the same way. They require little water and indirect sunlight. These are even sturdier however because they require no soil. You can literally put them anywhere and they’ll probably survive. Personally, I really like when people hang their air plants, especially in glass orbs. I keep my air plants in a glass terrarium at the moment, but I’m hoping to “repot” soon. I water my plant once a week by soaking it in water for 20-30 minutes, but my sister brings hers in the bathroom with her when she showers so it can absorb some of the moisture in the air and it’s doing just fine as well. She also says you’d literally have to light it on fire for it to die, but I’d rather not test her theory and keep a weekly watering schedule at least. 

*Valley Girl does not own the image used in this article.

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