I was a bad plant parent when I was at uni, which is why I wish I’d opted for these unkillable houseplants instead

Your kid might not be able to look after themselves, but they’ll definitely be able to look after these houseplants

Plants hanging and on wall in home office
(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

If you’re working your way through your child’s university checklist in preparation for their first semester, or you’re tired of seeing their student accommodation in disarray, houseplants can make a huge difference to their space. But what are the best unkillable houseplants for students?

Well, it’s safe to say that I’m hugely invested in this topic. Although it’s been a few years since I graduated from university, I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to bring my houseplant ideas to life. I dreamed of turning my uni accommodation into an indoor jungle, and I spent all of my spare money (which wasn’t a lot) on buying new plants.

But this wasn’t because I was trying to break the record of the most houseplants one person can have in one room at one time. Most of the time, I was simply replacing the ones I had sent to the plant graveyard! My poor research skills and my genuine lack of time meant that I didn’t give them the TLC they needed, and sadly, they just couldn’t survive the neglect. 

You don’t have to send your child off to uni houseplant-less, though. These houseplants are basically unkillable… meaning they’ll be safe in the hands of your little birdy as they fly the nest. And there are even fun patterned and colourful houseplants that are easy to care for.

The best unkillable houseplants for students

There are so many reasons to send your kid off to uni with houseplants. Not only can they boost productivity and even promote luck, but they’re a way for them to add a little bit of ‘home’ to their new space. But that only works if they manage to keep them alive - something they’ll definitely be able to do with these unkillable houseplants for students. 

One caveat – even the most easy going of greenery will need a little TLC, so make sure you're buffed up on how and when to repot houseplants...after all, they might be so easy to take care off, you could have rapid growth in no time!

1. Cactus

Row of cacti in pots on windowsill

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

Cacti are able to grow in the most desolate corners of the planet, which is basically the same as a Halls of Residence, right? This houseplant has seen a resurgence of popularity since Wes Anderson made them cool again, meaning your gen-z child will no doubt appreciate the quirky and interesting vibes of this unique plant.

But even better than that, the cactus plant is basically impossible to kill. It requires very little care and attention, only needing water every week or two. Plus, they thrive in warm and sunny conditions, meaning your son or daughter can keep this out of the way on their windowsill.

Your little birdy could even use this plant to get creative with their student accommodation decor, too. ‘Make the most of their quirky shapes and go wild with containers,' advises theThe Royal Horticultural Society. 'Pop them in second-hand tea cups (remember drainage holes) or bright pots.’ 

2. Spider plant

Spider plant hanging from hook with lightbulb

(Image credit: Future PLC)

There are two kinds of spiders in this world. There’s the spiders you want to keep out of your house, and then there’s the spiders you’ll happily send your kid to uni with. Yes, I’m talking about the humble spider plant. 

While this plant looks fairly high maintenance with its lush and rather dramatic foliage, it’s actually a great houseplant for students - especially as they’re extremely tolerant to neglect. Caring for a spider plant is very simple,, it can grow pretty much anywhere and continues to look great all year round.

Plus, if your child wants to get involved in some baby-making (the plant kind), they might be interested to know that it’s very easy to grow spider plant babies, too.

3. Money tree

Money tree against plain background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Considering most students are poor, there’s no harm in trying a money tree out for size, is there? Offering a beautiful twisted trunk and some impressive leaves, a money tree is a great addition to any student housing - mostly because it’s very easy to care for. 

‘Money trees grow very quickly and can bounce back if they start to struggle. These plants thrive in direct sunlight, so work best placed close to a window,’ says gardening expert Calum Maddock at HomeHow.co.uk.

For the most part, money trees can be left to their own devices. But they can actually be pruned like a bonsai if your kid needs a way to de-stress after a day of lessons (or a night of partying). 

4. Chinese evergreen plant

Chinese evergreen in woven pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Technically called aglaonemas, you might want to add the Chinese evergreen plant to your uni shopping list. But one thing I want to note is that this plant doesn’t have to be green. You can also buy Chinese evergreen plants that have pink/red tinges to them - and they’re pretty cool. 

Their unique appearance is something that would definitely appeal to the student in your family, but their unkillable nature will also be a major selling point. According to RHS, ‘Aglaonemas cope with forgetful watering, so perfect for the first-time grower.’

That’s not all, though. The Chinese evergreen plant can still thrive even in dark and dingy conditions, which might come in handy if your student didn’t get their first-choice accommodation. 

5. Devil's ivy

Pot of trailing pothos

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone loves a trailing vine plant, right? Perfect for students, the devil’s ivy plant is a trailing vine plant that definitely sounds slightly ominous. But the mottled colouring of the leaves can really add something special to a room, which can be a welcome break from the white walls of uni halls.

In 2022, this houseplant was dubbed one of the most popular houseplants in the UK, and that was largely due to the fact that it’s not fussy in the slightest. Your child could forget to water it for a month and keep it in a dark cupboard, and it would still look gorgeous and green. 

A houseplant like this would look great dangling from shelves or hanging from a macrame plant pot, and I’ll bet you £10 it’ll still be alive by the time you pick your kid up at the end of the uni year. 

6. Snake plant

Row of three snake plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As I basically lived in a 4x4 room for three years of my life, I’ve learned the art of working with space. And if your kid only has a small bedroom at their disposal, it’s often a good idea to work with height rather than width. That’s where the snake plant comes into the mix!

Steve Chilton, garden expert from LeisureBench, says, ‘These plants are often described as being indestructible, and for that reason, I think they're the best plants overall for students to have. Snake plants are fine with living in dim conditions and don't require regular watering.’

They also prefer to live in indirect light, which makes it the perfect desk plant - especially as it’s also one of the best air-purifying plants you can buy. And in student accommodation, you’ll probably want to remove as many toxins as possible. 

What is the most unkillable indoor plant?

There are so many unkillable indoor plants to choose from, and all of them are extremely tolerant of neglect. This means that if you forget to water them or you accidentally leave them in the sun for too long, they should be able to survive. 

Plants like the snake plant, spider plant, and cacti are known for surviving in harsh and desolate conditions, so they’re used to going weeks without water. However, it’s still a good idea to maintain a regular watering schedule when you can.

What plants don't need a lot of room?

If you have a small room, you can still fill it with plants. However, you need to be tactical when choosing these plants, and it’s often better to go with plants that are taller rather than plants that are wider with thick foliage. 

Because of this, plants such as spider plants and bamboo are perfect for smaller rooms, as they require very little room while still adding some greenery to your space.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.