Are you decorating your dorm room? Bringing plants into your study space is a great way to ease stress and help you focus. Succulents, in particular, are a low-maintenance plant that can thrive alongside you. But which succulents are the best for your low-light dorm room?
The best succulents for dorm rooms are ones that have thicker leaves. These plants store a lot of water themselves, so if you neglect to water them for weeks at a time, they can still survive. Aloe vera, jade plant, echeveria, and snake plant are among the best for your dorm room.
In the following article, we’ll learn about the above plants and explore some more of the best succulents for dorm rooms. Read on to gain some tricks for helping these hardy plants flourish in your college dorm.
What is a Succulent?
First thing’s first, let’s get to know these desert plants that will soon call your campus home. A succulent plant is a type of hardy plant that can survive in challenging conditions. Arid environments can be inhospitable to many forms of flora and fauna, but these plants have adapted to the harsh conditions.
These plants are expert water storers. Their thick leaves and stems allow them to suck up and keep moisture for extended periods of time, a skill that comes in handy in the desert. This talent is part of the reason why succulents make such good dorm room plants.
As a student, your life will be unpredictable, and your schedule will be busy. It’s unlikely that you’ll have hours to dedicate to your plants, so low-maintenance plants are the best match for you. Caring for succulents is easy once you learn the way they like to be treated.
What do Succulents Need to Grow?
Succulents need a few key things to grow. The main components are, of course, sunlight and water, but there are a few other details to consider when choosing a succulent for your dorm room.
Starting with the basics, let’s address the amount of sunlight that succulents need. For the average succulent to thrive indoors, these plants should get at least six hours of sunlight. The best place for a succulent in your dorm room is going to be on or near the windowsill. This will give your plant the best chance at getting these six hours of sunlight.
As mentioned, succulents don’t need a lot of water. They do still need it, but much less frequently than other plants. Most succulents only need to be watered once every one to two weeks. Succulents also don’t enjoy water sitting on their leaves, so it’s better to apply the water directly to the soil. We will discuss watering techniques more thoroughly later in this article.
One of the key components when it comes to succulent care is the type of soil that they are planted in. Succulents dislike being flooded with water and should always be planted in well-draining soil.
When we talk about soil drainage, we are discussing how fast water is pulled through the soil by gravity. Different types of soil allow water to drain faster or slower. Because succulents don’t like too much moisture, porous, well-draining soil is key for their health.
If you’re a plant newbie, you should learn quickly the importance of the type of pot your plant is living in. Home gardeners prefer any pot with drainage holes, as this allows excess water that the plant won’t use to exit the container. If you don’t have a pot with drainage holes and you overwater your plant, chances are very high that your greenery will get root rot and die.
Many people like the look of succulents in a shallow dish, which often don’t have drainage holes. For beginners, it’s not recommended to choose a fully sealed pot until you have learned the behavior of your plants. The best pot for a succulent is made of unglazed terracotta or ceramic. These materials actually help to draw moisture away from your plants’ roots and help prevent diseases caused by overwatering.
What Types of Succulents Are Best for Dorm Rooms
Now that we know some of the main criteria for growing luscious succulents, we can discuss what types of succulents are the best for dorm rooms.
Fleshy succulents like burro’s tail and string of pearls are excellent for dorm rooms, as they have extremely minimal watering requirements. They love sunshine and will be happy on your windowsill. For plants you’d like to keep off of your windowsill, snake plants and aloe vera are great options. These succulents don’t mind a little bit of low-light, but you’ll still reap the benefits of a low-maintenance plant.
Cacti are also great for dorm rooms, as they can withstand both drought and low temperatures. However, most cacti need a lot of sun, so these plants are better if you have a south-facing dorm room.
Let’s explore the top ten succulents for dorm rooms.
The snake plant may be the ultimate dorm room plant. These beautiful succulents are unlike most others in this family. Instead of small and stubby, these succulents grow tall and proud. They are easily recognizable by their sword-like leaves that grow straight up in various shades of green.
Some varieties of snake plants can also grow in curled patterns, with their sturdy leaves reaching outwards instead of upwards. Whatever variety you choose, you’ll quickly fall in love with the reliability of the plant that is known for being “unkillable.”
Snake plants are incredibly hardy, and even novice plant owners are able to keep them alive. One of the reasons they are so perfect for dorm rooms is that snake plants (aka mother-in-law’s tongue) are one of the few types of succulents that don’t mind low-light conditions. While all plants need light to grow, snake plants need less light than other succulents. For the one-window dorm room, a snake plant will be just fine.
Another reason why these potted heroes are great for dorm rooms is that they look fantastic. If you want to bring stylish greenery into your college accommodations, then snake plants are the perfect option. They also grow vertically, meaning they won’t take up much of your precious floor room.
Bonus: These plants provide a way to decorate without getting out the hammer and nails, as they can grow up to eight feet tall!
Next on our list is Aloe Vera. These plants are similar to snake plants in that they don’t mind a little shade, and they are very forgiving of a missed watering day or two. Aloe Vera can be spotted by their thick, fleshy leaves that grow outwards in tapered points.
These fat leaves hold the moisture needed to keep the plant alive in harsh desert conditions, but they also hold something extremely beneficial to humans: aloe vera juice. Often used as a salve for sunburns, aloe vera juice has many healing properties.
What’s great about having an aloe plant in your dorm room is that you have access to this topical treatment whenever you need it. Simply cut off a tip of the plant and squeeze the leaf. A clear, gooey gel will emerge. Apply this to cuts, scrapes, or burns, and benefit from its holistic properties.
As for lighting, Aloe Vera plants are similar to snake plants; they like light but survive prettily without it. Aloe can grow to be quite big, so refrain from putting your plant in too big of a pot, or it could take up extra space. These succulents don’t mind being a little crowded, so don’t let it pressure you into giving it more room than necessary.
The pincushion cactus is a great place to start for the dorm room gardener who wants a challenge. It’s not that these plants are tough to grow. It’s that if you give it the right conditions, it will reward you with a ring of elegant pink flowers among the spines.
The pincushion cactus is a charmingly round succulent with spines, so if you do happen to bump the plant, you won’t be too damaged. (Plus, you can use some aloe vera to soothe the pinprick!) The main stock of the cactus is dark green, which provides a nice contrast to the white spines that cover the entire body. These spines give the cactus its pincushion-like appearance.
If you’re bringing a pincushion cactus into your room, be sure to keep it on or as close to the windowsill as possible. These plants are happy with up to 12 hours of sunlight a day. It likely won’t get this amount on your windowsill, but it will gladly soak in any amount that it can.
For the daily care of these cacti, there’s not much to do. You’ll be checking every week or two on the moisture level of the soil. The soil should be completely dry- almost cracking- before you soak it with water again. This will usually take two or three weeks throughout the winter months. These plants are slow growers and will only ever reach around 6” tall.
String of Pearls
One of the most charming succulents to bring with you to college, these little round gems will provide many moments of curious contemplation and many adorable Instagram photos. The string of pearls succulent is named because of the trailing stems of spherical bulbs that grow surprisingly quickly.
To make a string of pearls the centerpiece of your dorm room, buy multiple plants and pot them together in a hanging pot. Mount this near your window, and by the time you have your degree, you’ll also have a striking curtain of emerald pearls!
Even though something this cute seems like it would be high maintenance, string of pearls plants are actually quite hands-off. These specimens don’t like to be overwatered. They prefer to be left to the point of near starvation, which can be recognized in a puckering of the bulbs. As a beginner plant-owner, this will be your sign that the plant can be watered again.
String of pearls, like most succulents, benefit greatly from being housed in a terracotta pot. The porous material helps draw moisture away from the plant’s roots, making it easier to keep the string of pearls alive. The number one cause of death for these plants is overwatering.
Tip: If you’re unsure if the plant is ready for water or not, wait a few days and check again. These succulents can recover much easier from underwatering than overwatering.
When you first hear the word “succulent,” what probably comes to mind is some variety of echeveria. There are over 150 recognized types of echeveria plants, and while each one of them is unique, they are nearly all instantly identifiable as succulents.
Echeveria plants are compact succulents that are often crowded together in decorative planters or rock beds. These plants are not as tough as the snake plant, but they naturally grow in very adverse conditions. Types of echeveria can be found growing as high as 4,000’ in elevation in harsh mountain environments.
These plants are accustomed to growing in soil with very little nutrients, so their fertilizer needs are almost non-existent. This is great for the busy college student who doesn’t have time to spritz and prod their plants every morning.
If you do decide to get an echeveria plant, you might as well get five. These hardy things are happy to be nestled together in a small space, and more plants in a single container will dry the soil faster. Just be sure to keep your pot next to the window, as echeveria enjoys a lot of sunlight.
Note: direct afternoon sun can scorch these little guys, so a light curtain can help to soften the powerful sun.
An agave plant looks like a cousin of the aloe vera- which, of course, it is. The agave plant grows in a similar shape. Only its leaves are thin instead of inflated with sap. Agave plants also have spines along the sides of the leaves, creating an attractive contrast of sharp prongs along the muted green plant.
These succulents can grow into giants in the wild, with some of the biggest specimens reaching up to 20’ feet in height. Types of agave grown indoors are happy to exist at only a few inches of height, however, and these are perfect for your dorm room.
What makes these plants so ideal for your college stay in the slow growth rate and lack of necessary care. In fact, agave plants don’t like to be touched at all. They prefer to be repotted every two years, though you might top-up their soil annually.
These plants are the perfect living decoration to give some color to your dorm room, and they are about as high maintenance as a painting. Simply put an agave on your windowsill, and try to remember to water every couple of weeks!
The jade plant is a cheerful succulent that is just happy to be here. This spritely plant looks like a mini tree, sort of like a plumped-up bonsai. They don’t require much care as they store much of the necessary water in their inflated leaves.
The jade plant enjoys warm, dry conditions, so they are highly suitable for colleges in the southern half of the united states. They do well indoors almost anywhere, though, when given the proper care. These plants can live for many years and are often passed down through the generations. Taking good care of your jade plant through college could allow you to have a plant friend for life.
For optimal success, your jade plant will need a medium-sized pot that is deep enough for it to anchor in its roots. While echeveria like to live in shallow, crowded pots, the jade plant needs a deeper place to roost. This is because the jade plant grows to be quite top-heavy, and without a sturdy enough root system, it will topple over,
This succulent will be happiest on your desk near your window, but not necessarily on your windowsill. It can be sensitive to variations in temperature, and keeping it away from the glass will help minimize the intense highs and lows of daily temps. This is especially important in winter when the cold outside can sap your plants of heat.
Aeonium plants are very sweet succulents that look like something straight out of a Dr. Suess book. They appear to be echeverias that have sprouted out of the end of a strong stem. These stems usually grow in curious waves and curls, letting the aeoniums reach for the light.
Unlike the other succulents on this list, aeoniums prefer moist- not dry- soil. They will usually need a drink every week but should never be left to sit in water. Their thick stalks allow them to take up more moisture than an echeveria, and they are well-suited to live in the same planter. What water in the soil the echeverias don’t absorb, the aeoniums gladly will.
These are a great succulent for dorm rooms as they add a little height to your succulent planter. Multiple levels of plants draw your eyes around the room, create small “zen” scenes that can give some life to your boring dorm.
Aeonium plants also prefer lightly shaded areas, so they are perfectly suited for the not-so-sunny windowsills. These succulents are also slow growers and won’t overtake your study space.
Zebra cactus look like tiny dainty versions of the aloe vera plant. They appear as little explosions of striped leaves that seem to have existed for millennia. Their curious patterns echo Jurassic evolution, and studying them will likely provide a welcome distraction from your studies.
Of all of the succulents on this list, the zebra cactus is probably the one you need to think about the least. These plants are satisfied with only seeing water once a month. They may take a drink every two weeks in the warmer months, but it’s not necessary to even then.
Placement for a zebra cactus is simple as well: not too sunny, not too shady. Anything near your window will probably be fine, and you don’t need to worry about a cold draft, either. These succulents prefer cooler temps throughout the winter, as their already slow growth nearly comes to a halt.
If you’re looking for a succulent to make your friends say, “what is that?” search no further than the burro’s tail. Named after the tail of a small donkey, these plants are another trailing type that looks great in hanging pots. Given the right amount of light and water, a burro’s tail will quickly spill over the edge of its planter, creating an alluring display of greenery.
Each stem of the burro’s tail is covered on all sides with tapered, fleshy leaves. As with the string of pearls, burro’s tails can grow multiple feet in length. They can coexist in a planter with your other succulents or live in a pot with other burro’s tails.
The burro’s tail requires bright, filtered light so that it will be happiest near your window. Once you’ve decided on its placement, leave it be. The leaves of the burro’s tail are very delicate and often fall off at the slightest disturbance. If they do, return the leaves to the soil, and half bury them. Chances are they will take root and develop into their own plant. This is the easiest way to get a full planter of burro’s tails.
Tips for Growing Succulents in Dorm Rooms
While the above plants are very forgiving, there are some tactics you can use to truly help them flourish.
Apply Water Directly to the Soil
When watering a succulent, you should always apply water directly to the soil. This means avoiding pouring water all over the top of the plant. Water poured on top of the succulent won’t drain off and can easily cause its leaves to rot. This is even more likely in a room with limited airflow, like a dorm room.
Instead, using a watering can with a small spout opening, like this Nerseki Long Spout Watering Can, apply small amounts of water evenly over the soil. The narrow spout will allow you to get the water in between all of those closely planted echeveria.
Find a Cheap Plant Light
If you’re worried that your succulents won’t get enough light in your dorm room, or if your roommate has already claimed the windowsill, you can supplement your plant’s light needs with a plant light.
A plant light is an artificial lightbulb that mimics the radiation output of the sun. These lights provide plants with the energy that they need to grow so that they can survive even in a room with no windows at all. This Apple Gooseneck Grow Light is perfect for small spaces, and you can angle the light towards the succulents that need it most.
Refrain From Moving Them
While rotating your plants can ensure that they are getting even sunlight, it’s not absolutely necessary for succulents. These plants are mostly extremely slow-growing and are happy with a rotation maybe once or twice a year. For succulents like the burro’s tail, you’re better off leaving it be, as the delicate leaves fall off easily.
Decide on Your Plant Budget
One of the reasons succulents are so great for dorm rooms is that they are affordable. At your local garden center (or even grocery store), you can likely find a wide variety of succulents for $3-$5 each. Some larger plants, like a two-foot-tall snake plant, can but more expensive. This is mostly because of the long time it takes to grow a snake plant that tall.
If your plant budget is relatively small, you might have to choose between one $20 snake plant or five echeverias. Choose the budget and plant that will best suit your abilities to care for your plants, so your investment doesn’t go to waste.
Dust Your Plants
The rolling stone may gather no moss, but the sitting plant collects a lot of dust. Plants can collect so much dust that it inhibits their ability to absorb sunlight. Succulents specifically are at high risk of this, considering their leaves don’t get the regular shower that other plants’ leaves do.
To dust your succulents, simply take a damp cloth and gently wipe their leaves off. Don’t use a soaking wet cloth, as you don’t want to leave too much water on the succulent’s surface. Take extra care wiping off your delicate and spiny plants.
Water Them Less in Winter
Succulents are mostly seasonal growers. They will grow slightly faster in the summer than in the winter. A once-a-week watering schedule is plenty in the summer for most succulents, but that can lower to once every two or three weeks in the colder seasons. That means that your dorm room buddies only need a biweekly drink most of the time you are in school.
Succulents make the ideal dorm room plant. They are adorable, low-maintenance, and affordable. Be sure to place your succulents as close to your window as you can, and if you’re unsure if it’s time to water them: wait a day and check again.