A student’s guide to taking care of your houseplants

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Photo provided by Dana Nichols

Even with “dorms like palaces,” living in a dorm for three years can be suffocating. In a time of our lives when we are juggling feelings of homesickness, pressure from academics and working to create and maintain friendships, it’s important for us to have a space that we can call our own. Although we may be sharing that space with a roommate, we’re able to make our dorms feel like home by hanging up pictures of our friends and family, adding touches from our hometown and making our bed so comfortable that we never want to get up. For me, another welcoming addition has been the incorporation of houseplants.

Having greenery in your personal space, whether it be in your workspace or in your bedroom, has been proven to reduce psychological and physiological stress, improve your productivity and help remove toxins from the air. Not only that, but plants make a colorful addition to the otherwise dingy and gray atmosphere of a dorm room.

Looking to get a plant or two? As someone with over 50 houseplants, succulents and cacti crammed into the bookshelves of my dorm room, I feel qualified enough to give at least a few guiding tips to aspiring plant parents.

Start out with easy-care plants

It can be tempting to pick up the prettiest plant you find and, while it is very possible to do so and be able to take proper care of it, if you’re looking for low-maintenance plants that can take a bit of neglect, there are a few plants to look out for. Golden pothos, ZZ-plants and snake plants can all handle periods of drought and medium light (so, as long as they’re not in a dark corner they’ll be OK). Starting out with these is a great way to get used to tending to plants, and if you find yourself wanting more, branch out — a quick Google search of a plant name will bring up an abundance of tips for its care.

Don’t go into succulents right away

Although trendy and adorable, succulents are a bit more difficult to care for than they appear. Succulents can be finicky, hard to water and need bright light to survive. If you’re tempted to get one, aloe vera, jade plants and elephant bush succulents are all relatively easy-care and great introductory plants.

Scope out where to shop

San Antonio is home to many great nurseries and small plant shops. Choosing a houseplant or succulent doesn’t have to be stressful — doing a little bit of research on Yelp is a quick and easy way to ensure that you’re going somewhere that’s likely to have a high-quality selection. My nearby favorites include Tillage (which is off Broadway and has friendly, helpful staff), Shades of Green (a beautiful nursery with a large indoor and outdoor plant selection) and Wild Roots Nursery (a booth at the Pearl Farmers Market every weekend).

If you don’t want to buy, follow!

Keeping a houseplant in your dorm may interest you, but maybe you don’t have the room in your budget or fear killing one. Luckily, many nurseries (including the three mentioned above) are active on Instagram and Facebook, where they’ll frequently update on any new additions to their inventory or events that are coming up. Similarly, there is an increasing online presence, especially on Instagram and YouTube, of a “plant community,” in which people with as few as two to as many as 400 plants share their love for the hobby. If you like plants but don’t want to kill one, follow some shops and plant parents!