Easier to take care of than a cat, but requiring a bit more work than a pet rock, houseplants seem like the perfect compromise for university students wanting a bit of companionship.

If you’re adopting a plant, you should know some things. Houseplants are like pets: you need to do some research before you commit to taking care of them. If you don’t want your plant to end up in the garbage chute, here are some ways to take care of your leafy friend.

Cacti

Cacti, such as moon cacti and paddle cacti, typically have a barrel or large body for water storage, and of course, their iconic prickles.

Over-watering your cactus can drown it, so use a shot glass to water your cactus once per week. According to Cornell University's Horticultural Society, both over and under-watering your cactus can be dangerous.

Over-watering can also cause your plants to go mushy, so it’s important to let the soil dry out once a week. But under-watering your cactus can shrivel it up.

Your cactus needs lots of light to stay healthy, so you should put it near a window. Keep that window closed though — cacti can’t handle cold temperatures. 

The kind of pot you use matters too. Cacti live best in terracotta, not plastic, since it helps to absorb excess moisture that your cactus can’t. If you have to keep it in the plastic it came in, try putting a plate beneath it.

Houseplant

Succulents

A succulent will likely have appendages that look like leaves, but are relatively fleshy. These leaves store water, and can come in just about any colour: most commonly green, blue, purple and red.

Similar to cacti, you don’t want to over-water your succulent. When it needs water, its leaves will shrivel up or become soft. Usually, about a quarter of a cup every other week is the ideal amount. 

Unlike cacti, succulents like indirect sunlight. Don’t put your succulent directly on a windowsill, as they can get sunburnt in much the same way as people — instead, try placing it on a surface that gets some natural light.

These plants are hardy and can handle cool temperatures. You can probably leave them near your front door in the winter, or by an open window.

Your soil type also matters. Succulents like to have small rocks, some fertilizer or bark mixed into their soil as it helps with water absorption.

Tropical plants

Tropical plants' leaves and stems will generally be thin, but they come in any shape or size. Some common and easy-to-care-for varieties include "ZZ" plants, Chinese money plants, fig plants and umbrella plants.

While watering habits vary for all tropical plants, a general rule is once every one to two weeks, or once its soil is dry. Usually, about one cup per four inches of container space is a safe bet.

One of the fastest ways to kill your tropical plant is by putting it in direct sunlight. Instead, opt for a spot in low light and far away from any indoor heaters. 

You might also consider leaving a bowl of water near your plant to keep it humid enough to stay happy and healthy. These plants require much more water than succulents or cacti, so a non-draining pot is your best bet. 

While keeping houseplants can be rewarding in lots of ways, letting them die is no reward at all. With these tips, you may manage to keep the $5 plant you bought from the University Community Centre long past when you leave for the summer. 

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