What Flowering Plant is Good to Grow in a Dorm Room?


TheGardenLady received this question from Scott –

I want to grow some plants in my dorm this coming fall.  I have a spider plant currently in a small pot. I’m looking for something unique that hopefully flowers and smells.  My room will be facing due east.  It will get direct sunlight when the sun is about 30 degrees from the horizon to straight up.  Hopefully I’ll get a planter box for my window sill.  I’m a semi-experienced gardener and feel confident about keeping things alive.

Your confidence and experience will do you well in your growing plants in your dorm room. Eastern exposure is good for many indoor plants, even some flowering plants.
But remember, you will be leaving the dorm room for school breaks; so you don’t want something that is too high maintenance. Few indoor plants have the fragrance you desire. One that can do well in an eastern location that does have great fragrance is the gardenia. However, though gardenias might do well in your dorm location, they are very high maintenance. TheGardenLady suggests the gardenia, but really doesn’t recommend it for a dorm room.

My suggestion would be to go with African violets. If they like the spot you put them in and they have the proper nutrients and water, they can flower all year round. For African violets read this. 
Since you have confidence, you might also want to consider trying your hand at growing orchids. One of the easiest to grow, but one that blooms for long periods, is the Phalaenopsis orchid.  If you live in the Northeast, a great place to ask questions about and shop for orchids is Waldor Orchids.
You requested information on flowering and fragrant plants. But have you considered plants that have beautiful foliage? TheGardenLady highly recommends your considering indoor begonias. Begonias have so many extraordinary leaf patterns that it is difficult to find just one that you will love. Many indoor begonias have small flowers; but they are grown for their incredible foliage. I am referring mostly to Rex Begonias.   But begonia lovers do collect other begonias – check out this site:
Some other suggestions for your window is to raise indoor blooming bulbs.  Narcissus, paperwhites and yellow, are grown for winter bloom and very strong fragrance.  Be warned, some people love the fragrance others hate it. Narcissus should be happy in an eastern exposure. You put the bulbs in water and hold the bulb down with pebbles or marbles. Don’t let the water evaporate, dorms tend to be hot and dry; be sure water is always in the container. You can stagger the blooming period by putting a few bulbs in water one week and the following weeks start other bulbs in water. No soil to deal with.
And lastly, for knockout color but no fragrance, consider the Hippeastrum, common name is amaryllis. You have so many beautiful choices and when the flowers die, the leaves are attractive.  See here. 

Even though you have an eastern exposure you might consider grow lights. Two excellent sites telling you everything you want to know about natural lighting and how to test to see exactly how much light your eastern exposure is getting, as well as growing indoor plants, check out this:
The second outstanding website for everything on plants is this. 

For an article on growing plants in a dorm room that has lower light levels, please read TheGardenLady column of Tues., November 7, 2006.

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