Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Indoor gardening: A plant-iful hobby

Thursday, May 5, 2022
The Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse sees many Southeast students looking for plants to keep in their dorms. Most walk out with a species of succulent.
Photo by Kailyn Veach

Moving into a dorm or apartment doesn’t mean giving up a love of gardening. Whether it’s buying shelves, caring for low-light species or even choosing a dorm based on the amount of sunlight the room gets, there are plenty of ways to fill the indoors with greenery.

Corporate communications and psychology senior Ellie Dirnbeck said she kept plants in her dorm for two years and found ways to ensure, no matter how small the space seemed, they had plenty of room to grow and thrive.

“Most of the plants my freshman year were in the windowsill. My second year, there was a huge window in my room, so I was able to put a plant stand there with a lot of shelves. I was able to put several plants in the sunlight and put some in the windowsill,” Dirnbeck said. “I probably have a smaller window in my house now than I did in my second year on campus.”

Having plants inside is not always sunshine and rainbows. Dirnbeck said that though keeping a garden indoors can come with its own struggles, the positive impact on her mental health is worth it.

“My golden goddess [plant], that’s my second one, because my first one that I had in the dorm actually did die. Certain plants are a little more temperamental with switching pots and getting used to it, and that one is just one of them,” Dirnbeck said. “But whenever I wake up in the morning, I just love the greens and the brightness it brings to my room.”

While common, beginner-level indoor plants include several species of succulents, cacti and others like spider plants. The few coveted rays of sun in the dorms also fuel growth for trees and carnivorous plants.

Biology sophomore Wren Simkins said they don’t consider themself an advanced gardener and chose the hobby on a whim. Simkins has learned how best to care for each of their plants through trial and error, using Google as a resource.

“If you ask an expert, they’re going to give you insane advice. A lot of plants can take a lot more neglect than that. But they respond to random things in strange ways,” Simkins said. “I killed a bug and put it in one of the carnivorous plants' little plant mouth, and that head of the plant died. I’ve learned you can’t force that kind of stuff.”

Simkins aspires to grow their favorite tree — the pawpaw they currently have — and the biblically-publicized myrrh tree, despite the difficulties they noted about getting reliable seeds in the United States.

“You never meet anybody who’s grown a myrrh tree. You can’t find them at stores, you can’t find them at botanical gardens. They’re native to the Middle East and propagated for their sap, but they’re difficult to propagate,” Simkins said. “The sap has different grades, and you can’t get good myrrh sap in the U.S. very easily because they’ll mark it all as the same grade.”

Outside of the world of succulents, spider plants and cacti, if tree propagation isn’t calling, there are still options for indoor plants. Several species of flowering plants, including trailing snapdragon and various begonias, thrive in low-light environments, making them perfect for even the shadiest dorm rooms.

Horticulture, plant and soil science senior Alyssa Wiggins works with the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse to study and care for a large variety of plant life. Wiggins said many students come into the greenhouse looking for plants to keep in their dorms.

“Any of our succulents are good because they stay pretty small and they’re cute and don’t need to be watered very often,” Wiggins said. “We also have some little trailing ones; there’s different textures and colors you can get.”

For places with low sunlight exposure, Wiggins suggests choosing a plant that thrives in shade or setting aside time to bring the plants outside when the sun is out.

“I think the success comes a lot from choosing the right plant. If you know its requirements, once you start being with the plant for a little bit, it can give you signals,” Wiggins said. “Just listen to your plants. That’s all you have to do to take care of them.”

The Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse sells a variety of plant life to Southeast students and the community. For more information, visit their Facebook page. For more information on plant care and the horticulture department, visit the SEMO website.