Adding houseplants to your home is a great way to add a pop of color and visual interest to your décor; however, indoor plants have many other benefits that make them valuable additions to any home. Not only are houseplants excellent ways to inspire creativity and foster a connection with nature, but they also promote healing and stress reduction, improve indoor quality and can reduce chronic health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Science-Supported Benefits of Houseplants
Although there are countless reasons to keep indoor plants, below are our top ten reasons we love growing houseplants in our homes and offices.
1. Houseplants Reduce Harmful Indoor Air Pollutants
Carpets, particle board furniture, paints and many cleaning supplies have VOCs, also known as volatile organic compounds, that are chemicals that are released as gases from common household products. VOCs, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, can have negative health effects including an increased risk of some cancers, allergies and other respiratory ailments, headaches, damage to the central nervous system and more. While opening windows and adding air purifiers to your home can improve indoor air quality and reduce chemical emissions, adding houseplants to your house is an effective and low cost way to reduce VOCs and improve the health of your home.
According to a 1989 study by NASA, houseplants can greatly reduce chemicals in indoor air, and it is estimated that it only takes between fifteen and eighteen plants to lower VOCs significantly in an 1800 square foot home. Another study found that within a twelve hour period, bromeliads are capable of removing over 80% of six of the most common VOCs from the air, while dracaena can remove 94% of air-borne acetone in the same amount of time. While all plants can help filter indoor air, some plants are better natural air purifiers than others. Some of the best houseplants for improving air quality include:
- Dwarf date palm
- Lady palm
- Ficus trees
- Rubber tree
- Boston fern
- Spider plants
But it’s not just houseplants that help improve air quality. Interestingly, the microorganisms found in potting soil also help to clean indoor air.
To ensure that your houseplants are best able to remove VOCs from your home, make sure to regularly clean your houseplant leaves with water and a gentle cloth. When temperatures permit, placing your houseplants outdoors for a few hours can also boost their health and help them better purify indoor air.
2. Houseplants Can Help Reduce Signs of Stress
Most people know that interacting with the natural world is a great stress buster. From taking walks in a park to practicing “forest bathing” on hikes to gardening, working with the natural world can help us refocus, be more mindful of the present and better cope with stressors. But it’s not just getting outdoors that can help reduce stress. Gardening indoors with houseplants can help too.
According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology in 2015, working with houseplants can greatly diminish common signs of stress, including cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rates. A simple task such as watering or repotting your houseplants can help slow respiratory rates and soothe mind chatter. For people who do not have ready access to nature or space to garden outdoors, adding a houseplant or two to a sunny windowsill can help ease agitated nerves and promote relaxation.
3. Add Plants to Your Bedroom for Improved Sleep
Lush greenery and vibrant flowers can add charm and coziness to bedrooms, but plants’ oxygen-boosting abilities can also help promote restful slumber. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, turning it into oxygen that is then released into the environment during the process of photosynthesis. According to a recent study, exposure to high levels of oxygen at night can promote deeper, more restorative sleep, so it’s no wonder than many scientists and doctors recommend adding houseplants to your bedroom.
While all plants release oxygen during photosynthesis, some of the best oxygenating plants to add to your bedroom include:
- Snake plants
- Gerbera daisies
- Chinese evergreens
- Money plants
- Areca palms
4. Houseplants Increase Indoor Humidity
During photosynthesis, plants release oxygen, but they also release water vapor into the air increasing relative humidity levels. This is particularly helpful during the dry winter months when gas or electric heat can wreak havoc on your respiratory system and your skin. By increasing indoor humidity levels with houseplants, you can help improve respiratory health and combat issues like dry, frizzy hair and parched winter skin.
Some of the best plants for increasing indoor humidity are the common spider plant. A recent study found that adding a few spider plants to a home increases indoor humidity levels from 20% to 30% in a short period of time.
5. Working With Plants Can Combat Depression and Anxiety
Tending houseplants has been shown to help ease signs of stress, but it also can boost your mood in general reducing signs and symptoms of chronic ailments like PTSD, depression and anxiety. Taking care of houseplants can help give you a sense of purpose and be “positively distracting,” but the benefits of indoor plants on mental health extend even further. A 2007 study found that a particular bacterium, known as Mycobacterium vaccae, which is found in indoor and outdoor soil actually triggers the release of serotonin, which improves both emotional and mental health.
6. Indoor Plants Reduce Allergens
Although the mechanism at play is not thoroughly understood yet, houseplants can drastically decrease dust and mold in indoor air, helping to improve respiratory health by reducing some of the most common allergens. According to a recent study released by Virginia Tech, houseplants can reduce dust in indoor air by up to 20%, while their ability to regulate humidity levels can help reduce problematic moisture levels in bathrooms and other humid areas prone to mold. While there are many great houseplants to choose from when it comes to improving air quality, some of the best plants for the job include Chinese evergreens, English ivy and peace lilies.
7. Plants Reduce Sound Pollution
Sound pollution from busy highways, noisy neighbors and raucous electronics can be quite taxing, particularly in cities and apartment complexes. Luckily, houseplants can help reduce unwanted sounds by deflecting, absorbing or refracting noise pollution. Some of the best plants for the job include broad-leafed varieties such as rubber plants and weeping figs. Placing a few larger plants against an exterior window or wall can work to buffer unwanted sirens, car noises, barking dogs and more, helping to maintain a calm and relaxing environment in your home.
8. Houseplants Can Improve Physical Health and Healing
While it is common practice to bring a plant gift or bouquet of flowers to friends and loved ones when they’re recuperating from illness or surgery, studies have found that plants and greenery can actually speed healing times. Study after study has found evidence that exposure to plants and the natural world can reduce recovery times and can even lessen patients’ dependence on pain killers during healing, helping people to get back on their feet quicker after illness or surgery.
9. Plants Improve Concentration, Productivity and Creativity in the Workplace
Studies have found that adding greenery to classrooms and office spaces can help bolster productivity levels and creativity in workers and students alike. One recent study of Amazon employees found that workers reported greater job satisfaction levels and took off fewer sick days when indoor plants were added to their working space. Even better, studies on students found that students’ test scores and attention spans improved in the presence of indoor plants. While the reasons for this are not fully understood yet, evidence suggests that plants oxygenating abilities may help to explain the results of these studies.
10. Grow Your Own Edible and Medicinal Houseplants on a Budget
Fresh herbs can get expensive fast but adding your own windowsill herb garden is an easy way to cut grocery costs while exercising your green thumb. While herbs can be grown in standard terracotta pots in a brightly lit window, windowsill herb planters are easy to find online or in home improvement centers and, as many of them have self-watering features, they are a simple way to take the guesswork out of growing your own herbs. Some popular herb choices for windowsill gardens include cilantro, chives, parsley and basil.
Beyond growing your own herbs, there are other great edible and medicinal plants that are easy to grow as houseplants. Many dwarf varieties of citrus trees, such as kumquats and Meyer lemon trees, do well as indoor plants and will remain healthy and thriving with a regular dose of organic fertilizer formulated specifically for citrus plants. Peppermint and lemon balm are excellent medicinal plants that can help soothe sour stomachs and calm nerves and, as mints, they are easy to keep healthy. Including an aloe vera in your houseplant collection will add not only visual interest, but it can be a great addition to your medicine cabinet and will help calm irritated skin and burns.
Tips for Keeping Your Houseplants Healthy
While different plants have different needs, understanding the basic requirements of most houseplants can ensure your indoor jungle is lush and thriving.
- Be sure to do a bit of research on individual plants. The fertilizer and watering requirements of cacti are very different from the requirements plants like African violets need to survive. Research how frequently individual plants need to be watered and fertilized and also explore their specific lighting requirements.
- Make sure your houseplants get enough light. Some plants like snake plants and pothos do well in low light; however, the majority of houseplants are tropical specimens that require at least six to eight hours of unobstructed light. South-facing windows are ideal for most houseplants, but any bright window should do. For very shady locations, adding a LED grow light or bulb near your houseplants can ensure they receive adequate lighting. For particularly bright windows, take care to ensure your houseplants don’t get sunburned and add light filtering curtains or blinds if you’re concerned about sun scorched leaves.
- Maintain a regular watering and fertilizing schedule. Most tropical houseplants do well with weekly watering; however, to avoid overwatering your plants, insert your finger about an inch into your soil to check for dryness and only water your plants when the top one to two inches of soil is dry to the touch. Desert-dwelling species like cacti and succulents require minimal watering and often are happy to be watered as little as two to three times a year, depending on the species. Houseplants can benefit from regular feeding with organic fertilizers intended for indoor use. A good rule of thumb is to feed your plants approximately once a month during active growth cycles, but be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on your fertilizer for specific guidelines.
- Check your plants regularly for signs of pests. While there are certainly more plant pests present in nature, from time to time creepy crawlies can find their way into your indoor plants. Regularly inspecting the underside of plant leaves, stems and soil can help you catch smaller infestations before they become major problems. Common indoor pests include scale, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, fungus gnats and whiteflies.
- Shine up your leaves for healthier plants. Plants need clean, dust-free leaves for optimal photosynthesis. That’s why it can be so helpful to occasionally polish plant leaves with a bit of warm water and a soft cloth. Your plants will look tidier for it and they’ll be that much better at improving indoor air quality, regulating humidity and more.
- Keep your pets safe. While many houseplants are pet-safe, a few common indoor plants, such as sago palms and lilies, are highly toxic to cats and dogs. Before adding a new plant to your collection, be sure to check whether it is pet-friendly and remove unsafe plants to areas inaccessible to curious critters.
Houseplants are charming additions to homes and offices, but they are so much more than that. From their ability to bolster mental and emotional health, speed up healing times and improve indoor air quality, houseplants offer countless benefits that cannot be overlooked. Whether you’re a lifelong houseplant enthusiast or are just starting your collection with a few spider plants, growing plants indoors is a hobby that is sure to inspire and will brighten your home and your mood in no time.