Dorm life can be rough for some students. The cookie cutter layout of the rooms can be hard to put a homey spin on, and the small space might be suffocating. This is especially true for outdoor enthusiasts and during colder seasons when it’s tough to get outside. Growing plants by the window is one way students try to make their dorms more comfortable. 

Kelsey Nelson, a freshman at the University of Oregon, currently has five plants on the window sill in her dorm: one cactus, two succulents and two from Saturday Market. She is also considering adding some hanging plants. 

“It just adds an aesthetically pleasing aspect to our room, and just makes it more, I guess, homey and comfortable,” Nelson said. “Being more of a nature-oriented person, I just like having a little bit of the outdoors inside and being surrounded by the green… that makes it a more relaxing environment for me.” 

Nelson has grown a garden every year since sixth grade and supports other students starting the practice as well. She says it doesn’t take much effort to care for plants besides watering and rotating them each day. She also recommends starting with something hardy like succulents because, according to Nelson, these plants don’t require as much attention as most. 

Two of Kelsey Nelson’s plants that she grows in her dorm. (Sararosa Davies/Emerald)

Plants can also be helpful for students used to having animals around to keep them company. Certainly they’re not the same, but houseplants are living creatures dependant on our care. Nelson even talks to her plants, and despite the lack of conclusive studies on how helpful talking to plants can be, many people still enjoy the practice. 

“It’s kind of hard not to,” Nelson said. “You do get kind of get attached to them because you see them grow every day through the benefits of your care.” 

Apart from aesthetic and emotional value, small plants also clean the air in dorm rooms and lead to healthier living. NASA conducted a study in 1989 on “Interior Landscape Plants For Indoor Air Pollution Abatement” that found low-lighting indoor house plants can remove volatile organic compounds. 

According to Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the volatile compounds in the air include benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and toluene, all of which are commonly found indoors. These pollutants can cause headaches, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, and nausea, along with other health issues. 

Research also shows that indoor plants can help people study. Travis Riddle wrote an article for Scientific American on Attention Restoration Theory. This theory states how people have a limited capacity for the direct attention necessary for studying. This is contrasted by undirected attention, which is an effortless orientation of interesting features in your surrounding. Undirected attention is engaged when walking at a park or in nature, and can be created with indoor plants. Attention Restoration Theory hypothesizes that this undirected attention helps to rejuvenate and rest the direct attention needed to be a successful student. 

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