Climate Crisis and the Environment

Plants: The Student Guide

When you’re a busy student, caring for a plant seems like the last thing you want to add to your schedule, but there is plenty of plants that are very easy to look after.

It is an undeniable fact that plants are good for you. We all know that big or small, they filter toxins in the air, expel oxygen, and can really add some life and colour into a space. With so many types to choose from, there is something for every person, place, and aesthetic. Yet there is still an element of fear in being responsible for a plant. Though more resilient than a goldfish or an infant, they still require a certain level of care. I am here to tell you that really, a potato could keep some of these things alive. Below, I have suggested some hardy, inexpensive, and nice-to-Instagram plants for you to peruse, and perhaps to invest in…

  • Spider Plant

Do not fear—this thing will not attract any critters indoors, but it will create some ambiance. Spider plants are actually herbs, and will grow about sixty centimetres tall, whilst their long, thin leaves can be about 50 centimeteres. NASA actually considers the Spider plant as one of the best for reducing indoor pollution, and if you are going to listen to anyone, listen to NASA. The ideal spot for one of these is a humid bathroom out of direct light. They are notorious for producing little plantlets of their own, so before you know it, you could have Spider 2.0 ready to be potted. Water it once a week.

  • Jade Plant

Known by its scientific name Crassula ovata, this is a hardy little succulent and another ideal choice for a windowsill gardener. These things grow fast and love full sunlight. Their smooth, shiny leaves are a nice change to the pointed leaves of many succulents. Jade plants have small white or pink flowers and are an evergreen species. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, ensuring it is well drained.

  • Ivy

Yes, yes, it is technically an invasive species in the US, but it is a native to the UK, and a really lovely plant as long as you keep it under control.  With its heart-shaped leaves, ivy looks just as good trailing from a shelf as it does swinging from a basket. It is also apparently great at removing mold in the air, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the condition of your student digs. Ensure it has bright sunlight and be careful not to over-water—ivy prefers to be on the slightly drier side, and with excellent drainage.

  • Snake Plant

Sansevieria trifasciata can grow to over a meter in height and can really bring a bit of pizazz into any room with its striking architectural leaves. It is a truly tough plant, able to withstand neglect for months at a time. The snake plant is quite happy in low light, and does not need regular watering in the winter. NASA again applauded the snake plant for its air purification abilities, and it is also a great passive-aggressive gift for obvious reasons.

  • Aloe Vera

A favourite of millennials who cannot commit to anything further, aloe plants are easy to care for, easy on the eye, and can grow to about 100 centimetres in height. They also have various medicinal qualities, though I would advise popping down to the chemists instead of trying to make your own remedies. Water them deeply but not too regularly or they will rot, and place them in bright but indirect sunlight. Aloe is quite tough when it comes to pests, so do not bother with any pesticides.

  • Cacti

This list would not be complete without mentioning this student favourite. There are literally thousands of types, some prickly, some fluffy, so there is definitely one for you. The most popular option for the home appears to be from the Mammillaria genus, which flowers in a variety of colours. Most cacti will thrive in strong light, as long as they are not exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Water irregularly, but deeply when you do, and mist during the winter months.

  • Orchid

A favourite of everyone’s mums, orchids look super fancy and suggest you’re a hard-core Gardner’s World type, but they’re easy to look after once you get the hang of it. Flowering in an endless amount of colours, they look great on any desk or shelf. Orchids love bright indirect light, and cooler temperatures, and be careful to drain them thoroughly after watering when the top inch of soil is dry. You can also try the Peace Lily if Orchids are not your thing.

  • Kalanchoe

This tropical succulent was actually one of the earliest species to be brought into space in 1971. Kalanchoe is a plant with vivid, long-lasting flowers in every colour imaginable, and can really brighten up a dull space with minimum care. Place them in bright shade and do not expose them to more than a few hours of direct sunlight each day, and water thoroughly once a week. It is easy to prune away the dead leaves and this will help keep it looking fresh.

As for pots, you can never go wrong with Ikea, who have plenty ranging from the 40p Bintje to the £12 östlig. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, grab an old mug or even an old boot and plant away.

Plants are your friends, and if you give them a little bit of TLC on a quiet Sunday afternoon, they will keep giving and giving, which is not a bad thing when you are stressing about exams.

Esme Johnson

Featured image courtesy of glasseyes view via Flickr. License here.

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