Indoor Garden: Ensuring Your Plant Can Survive Your Dorm

ANDI CROWELL

Illustrations Ziqi Wang

For the first week of its life in my apartment, a little gerbera-daisy plant happily sat right next to a window.  A pink and perky flower had already bloomed, and I eagerly awaited several flower buds to blossom.

After that first week, though, my gerbera daisy was not so happy.  The leaves developed a white mold, and the flower buds withered before they even transformed to flowers.  I desperately sought to save it: I moved it to my apartment’s balcony, where I thought it might receive more light.  I trimmed off its unhealthy leaves.  I gave it lots of water, and when that seemed to hurt it, I gave it a smaller quantity of water.  Yet the damage had been done.  Before too long, my poor little gerbera-daisy plant withered to complete lifelessness, never to be revived.

It is a small consolation to know that I am not alone in my struggle to keep an apartment or dorm plant alive.  Plants living inside must be tolerant of low or medium levels of light.  Even when a room seems to receive much natural light, it is often an insufficient level to sustain plants, as so many plants require direct sunlight (though, in varying levels).  For example, according to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), gerbera daisies “prefer an area of the garden where they will receive morning sunshine and afternoon shade.”  It is difficult to provide this environment indoors, perhaps explaining why my gerbera daisy fared so poorly.

Yet while many plants, particularly flowers, grow best outside, some can thrive indoors. Try growing the following plants in your dorm or apartment; not only do they provide an additional element of decoration to an indoor space, but they can also provide health benefits by helping to purify the air and to improve morale, according to a study from the New York Botanical Garden organization.

Snake plant 001
Illustrations by Zii Wang

Snake Plant: Snake plants come in a variety of sizes, but their commonality is their serpentine leaves.  The leaves, sticking straight up from the plant’s base, are decorated in a variety of colors and patterns.  Snake plants are one of the most highly recommended indoor plants because they do not require much light, and they do not require much care.  According to Better Homes and Gardens, they are “nearly indestructible” and “the only problem likely to develop is root rot if you overwater the plant.”

Grape ivy 001

Grape Ivy: Grape ivy is also recommended by multiple sources for dorm-like or apartment-like conditions.  It is often grown so that it hangs from above, but it can also grow in a pot.  Grape ivy is a little more particular in its needs than is the snake plant: it can tolerate light in indoor conditions, but “medium light” is recommended. Grave Ivy should also be kept moist and well drained.

Philodendron

Philodendron: Better Homes and Gardens classifies philodendron as “the backbone of indoor gardening.”  The plant is leafy, and its drooping stems can grow quite long but can be trimmed to fit in its growing environment.  It is adaptable to a range of lighting conditions and can be watered on an as-needed basis.  One caveat: the plant is poisonous!

Zeezee plant 001

Zeezee Plant: The zeezee plant’s branches look somewhat like the branches of a bush or tree.  Like the snake plant, the zeezee plant requires little maintenance and is highly tolerant of most indoor conditions.  It can live in even “extremely low light levels” and in fact, it flourishes most when it is watered only “every week or two,” IFAS assures gardeners.

After selecting your plant, be sure to read the plant’s tag or to research your plant to ensure you provide it with proper care.  Each plant’s needs are different; the necessary amount of light and water the plant needs varies.  Keep in mind that for many indoor plants, one of the greatest dangers is being overwatered.  Often, the plant only needs enough water to keep the soil slightly moist.

I am still not entirely sure where I went wrong with my gerbera daisy.   Maybe I gave it too much water.  Maybe I did not give it enough light.  Or maybe it really just is not an indoor plant.  Nevertheless, I am hopeful that with this new information in mind, I will be able to cultivate a new indoor plant of my own.

The information presented in the article was gathered from Better Homes and Gardens, Gardening Know How, Bayer Advanced, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science.

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