Small, cramped quarters. Stale, musty air. Dim artificial lighting. Sparse décor. One window. These qualities basically describe the typical dorm conditions that college students across the nation have to deal with — and those lucky enough to live in an apartment don’t fare that much better. The good news? These dismal living conditions aren’t anything that a houseplant or two (or twenty-two) can’t fix.

Houseplants not only add much-needed aesthetic to dorm rooms and apartments, but they also purify and humidify dry indoor air, absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Plus, they boost productivity and memory retention while promoting calmness and peace of mind. Here are some hardy, low-maintenance plants that will survive and thrive — even under the care of irresponsible college students.

1. Cacti and Succulents


Photo courtesy of @sandracbt on Instagram

Some of my personal favorites, these hardy little troopers are a college student’s best friend. Cacti and succulents require minimal maintenance and are forgiving if you forget to water them. True story: Once, I neglected mine for two months and they were still in pretty good shape (don’t try it, though!). Keep these houseplants in well-lit places, like your windowsill, and water once the soil becomes dry to the touch.

2. Lucky Bamboo


Photo courtesy of @_asanayoga on Instagram

The woven stalks and bright green leaves of lucky bamboo plants add a perfect calming, zen-inspired touch to your living space. There’s one thing to watch out for, however — bamboo plants are mainly hydroponic, meaning they grow in water, so practice good water hygiene and regularly clean out algae and dead leaves found in the water to ensure plant health. Lastly, they’re called lucky bamboo for a reason…cross your fingers and wish upon your lucky bamboo plant when that next accounting exam rolls around.

3. Ferns


Photo courtesy of @silverspoonhome on Instagram

The fern’s effortless crisp-green fronds are a perfect addition to any room, and they thrive in medium to well-lit areas. These plants love humidity and are pretty good natural humidifiers, too, which make them great for relieving dry skin and respiratory problems. Bunch them together with other plants, and make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out.

4. Snake Plant


Photo courtesy of @adaavenuedesigns on Instagram

You can already tell how tough this plant is by its thick, sturdy, yellow-and-green striped leaves. It makes everyone’s life easier by adjusting well to minimal watering and different light levels. Snake plants are also known to be great at detoxifying the air we breathe and removing benzene and formaldehyde traces. They’re trendy, shapely, and perfect in living areas with subtle modern touches.

5. Aloe Vera


Photo courtesy of @caraduchene on Instagram

This spiky, teeth-edged succulent is another personal favorite of mine. And get this —they’re simultaneously aesthetic AND medicinal. If you’re desperate, use the gel found inside this aloe vera stalk to soothe that nasty sunburn you got from too much pool time. This one loves the sun, so put it in a bright area and make sure to water enough so the soil doesn’t dry out.

6. Mint


Photo courtesy of @lifeofmoderation on Instagram

Here’s another multi-tasker — cleans the air, adds some green, AND is edible. Plus, if this goes well, you can take the next step and convert your whole windowsill into an indoor herb garden (#goals). Talk about locally sourced produce — and within one mile.

7. African Violet


Photo courtesy of @arzucnr on Instagram

These beauties are a fan of bright light, but not direct sun. And get this: these houseplants are hardy enough to thrive under fluorescent lighting. Yes, fluorescent lighting — the kind of bad lighting you have in your dorm room. These plants are typically made up of green, spade-like leaves, but if you do everything right (no pressure here) they’ll flower into beautiful violet (or yellow or white or pink or red) blooms several times a year.