Picking out personal plants

If this weekend’s Tropical Plant Fair at the USF Botanical Gardens proved anything, it’s that students and area residents remain interested in incorporating a little plant life into their surroundings.

As students prepare to move into their dorm rooms or apartments for the fall, they may want to know the best foliage for furnishing their new findings.

Others with an open backyard at their house might wish to try gardening – but even beyond the difficulties of building the garden and developing the seeds, not every plant can stand up to Tampa’s humid weather.

The Oracle suggests four indoor plants that are easy to maintain, and two outdoor plants that are easy to cultivate:

Indoor plants: Household plants for dorms and apartments that are simple to look after.

Spider plants

Spider plants are especially ideal for beginner houseplant owners because of their inexpensive availability and the low-maintenance care they require.

This plant’s arching stems can impressively stretch out to two feet and eventually produce “babies” – plantlets that can grow into full plants that can be offered to friends. The plant is easy to manage because it isn’t particular about room temperature, and most only need to be watered once a week.

Studies conducted by NASA even suggest that spider plants rank among 15 houseplants that help improve a house’s air quality – so putting one in a hanging basket might clear up a stuffy living area.

Mother-in-law’s tongue

If students are able to overlook its strange name, the mother-in-law’s tongue is another durable houseplant perfect for students preoccupied with classes, work and other time-consuming obligations.

The plant is composed of tough, upright green leaves that resemble hardened seaweed and is recommended by online plant sites for those with a “black thumb.”

They thrive with a little natural sunlight but can also tolerate darkened rooms, and they usually are in greater danger of being overwatered than ever suffering a drought.

Because of the space it fills – the leaves can reach heights of four feet – a potted mother-in-law’s tongue might be an environmental alternative to adorning a room corner with more paper posters.

Christmas cacti

Although most small cacti are also suitable natural decorations – placed by a windowsill where they can receive moderate sunlight – a Christmas cactus makes for a more robust and colorful houseplant.

The stems are similar to a cactus, but the ends are red, white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers. This way, owners can get two striking greenery looks in one purchase. It requires little attention besides partial sunlight and occasional watering until it begins to bloom in fall – when it needs to be put in darkened areas.

The Christmas cactus might be better bought during winter after they have fully bloomed, but if properly cared for, this long-living plant can last students through their four years of college.


For students who want a tropical, flowering houseplant that also isn’t a struggle to maintain, bromeliads fit as well in a house interior as they do outside in the USF Botanical Gardens’ collection.

Bromeliads are an actual foliage family – pineapples are categorized within it – but the varieties sold as houseplants are usually spiky, multilayered plants that come in vibrant color hues such as fuchsia and bright yellow.

Bromeliads are best suited to bright but indirect sunlight and actually benefit from humidity. This makes them ideal to place near a window, so they can absorb Tampa’s weather while impressing onlookers with their often-beautiful appearance.

Outdoor plants: Two vegetables that grow in a similar and straightforward way for backyards:


Peppers are those rare vegetables that can actually flourish under the full sun. However, they should be put in containers so they can be moved into shadier areas if necessary and because they use moist, organic soil other vegetables may not.

They should be watered daily but lightly, and the plants are otherwise fairly undemanding.

Once students settle on growing peppers, they have a wide selection of varieties to choose from – including bell and sweet peppers, or even the fiercely hot jalapenos and habaneros.

Balcony gardening websites like lifeonthebalcony.com
even suggest that apartment dwellers try growing pepper plants on their patios as long as sunlight is available.


Tomatoes are a huge fixture in the American diet – be it pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa or by themselves – and about half of the country’s supply is grown in Florida, so try it at home.

Like peppers, tomatoes grow well in containers with organic soil, enjoy the sun and remain easy to maintain. Yet gardeners might want to collect the seedlings now and wait to plant their produce.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, tomatoes struggle in Tampa’s extremely hot summer weather and grow best when planted in either September or February.

Unless they plan to try battling heat with shade cloths or other protection, students will have an easier time growing tomatoes this September – and starting to develop a green thumb when school starts, too.

Here are a few nurseries in Tampa:

Best Value Plant Nursery:
2807 N. Armenia Ave.

Manny’s On the Bay Plants:
600 W. Hillsborough Ave.

Treemart Inc.:
12505 N. Nebraska Ave.