I’ve always enjoyed spending time in nature, from big mountain hikes to leisurely walks through the forest. But living somewhere with long winters, plus working from home, I inevitably spend a ton of time inside, too. That’s where houseplants came in. My journey into the world of houseplants began as a simple desire to bring a touch of nature indoors, but it soon transformed into a passion that enriched my life in many ways.
You probably intuitively know that incorporating more houseplants in your home could be beneficial for your well-being, and I’m here to share with you the truths behind that intuition. From improving air quality and enhancing mental well-being to the sheer joy of nurturing living organisms, houseplants offer a multitude of advantages that make them an essential addition to any home. I’ll also provide valuable plant care tips to ensure your leafy friends thrive. Join me in rediscovering the beauty and serenity that nature can bring you, right at home.
Benefits of Having Houseplants
On top of being beautiful and making your home more aesthetically appealing, there are tons of benefits to having houseplants around. Here are some of the ways your space, plus your physical and mental health, can be enhanced after taking a trip to the plant nursery:
- Improved air quality
The NASA Clean Air Study demonstrated that houseplants can significantly reduce the number of airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the air. Other studies have corroborated these findings, showing that plants can improve indoor air, increase oxygen levels in the air, and make interior breathing spaces healthier. They do so by absorbing pollutants through their leaves and transmitting the toxins to their roots, where they’re then converted into a food source.
Other research has called these conclusions into question, so it’s not clear exactly how potent the effects are, or if you have to have a very large quantity of plants in a completely sealed environment to reap the air quality benefits. That said, bringing more plants into your home won’t have a negative effect on the air–it can only improve it, even if just slightly.
- Lower stress and anxiety
Many of us have had the experience of finding a sense of peace when immersed in a beautiful natural landscape. You can bring a piece of that experience into your home by taking care of indoor plants, which one study showed can reduce physiological and psychological stress. In the study, participants showed suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure and promotion of comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings while working with plants.
Another study showed that participants were less nervous or anxious when in an office with plants compared to one without them. It might just be that the smell and sight of some leafy green plants can provide a soothing, calming effect, bringing welcome energy into your space.
- Improved focus and productivity
Having plants around has been shown to increase focus and productivity, which is especially helpful if you work from home or take care of lots of administrative tasks for your family. One study found that brain scans of students in a classroom with a real plant were more attentive and better able to concentrate compared to students who were in classrooms with a fake plant, a photo of a plant, or no plant at all.
In another study, participants instructed to complete a task in a computer lab performed 12% faster when there were plants in the room. Those in the room with plants also reported feeling more attentive than the participants in the control group.
5. Working with plants is therapeutic
“Horticultural therapy”, or the use of plant-based activities to promote healing, gained popularity and credibility in the 1940s and 50s. It’s used to treat a wide variety of ailments, and can be used as a way to increase feelings of well-being in people who struggle with various mental health issues.
Taking care of plants can also cultivate feelings of pride and a sense of achievement, helping you to get out of a slump. There’s just something ultra satisfying about getting to watch a live organism grow and flourish under your care!
6. Recover from illness more quickly
Having plants around may offer physical health benefits, like speeding up your recovery time following an illness, injury, or surgery. Some research found that people recovering from various surgeries required less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays when there was greenery for them to look at in the hospital.
While this research focused exclusively on patients recovering inside hospitals, it may be the case that similar benefits exist when recovering from ailments at home.
Plant Care Tips
Once you’ve brought some new plants into your home, you’ll want to take excellent care of them so they not only stay alive, but thrive. Read on for some indoor plant care tips to keep your plants healthy and flourishing:
- Provide adequate light
Providing adequate light is paramount to indoor plant success. Just like sunlight fuels us, it’s the lifeblood for plants. Understanding your plant’s light requirements and placing it in the right spot ensures vibrant growth. Different plants have varying light requirements, so place low-light plants in shaded areas and high-light plants near windows with ample sunlight. Rotate plants regularly for even growth.
- Be mindful about watering
Watering is a delicate balance in indoor plant care. Overwatering drowns roots, while underwatering leads to thirst. Every plant will have different watering needs, so consult with the employees at the plant store to understand your specific plant’s watering schedule. One way to determine if your plant needs water is to check the soil moisture before watering–stick your finger an inch into the soil; if it’s dry, water the plant.
- Ensure proper drainage
Proper drainage is the safety net for indoor plants, preventing soggy soil and root rot by allowing excess water to escape. To prevent water from accumulating at the bottom, make sure your pots have proper drainage holes. Use pots with saucers to catch excess water.
- Use appropriate potting mix
Choosing the right potting mix is the foundation of plant prosperity, allowing for optimal aeration, drainage, and nutrients. Use the appropriate potting mix for different types of plants, such as cactus mix for succulents and well-draining mix for tropical plants.
- Control humidity
Humidity control can make all the difference for indoor gardeners. Many plants, especially tropical ones, crave higher humidity levels than our homes naturally offer. To boost humidity, mist your plants regularly or place a tray of water nearby. For moisture-sensitive varieties, consider using a humidity tray or a room humidifier. Balancing humidity levels ensures your plants feel right at home, promoting lush foliage and vibrant growth.
During the growing season, typically spring and summer, feeding your plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer provides essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Follow the recommended dosage on the product label to avoid over-fertilizing, which can harm plants.
Pruning is like haircut day for your indoor plants. Regularly trimming away dead or yellowing leaves, spent flowers, and leggy growth not only tidies up their appearance but also encourages fresh growth. Pruning redirects a plant’s energy to healthier parts, stimulating new branches and foliage.
Over time, dust can accumulate on leaves, hampering their ability to photosynthesize effectively. To keep your plants healthy, wipe their leaves gently with a damp cloth or sponge or occasionally give them a gentle shower. Removing dust not only allows for better light absorption but also helps prevent pests from finding a hiding place.
- Keep an eye out for pests
Speaking of pests, insects like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can quickly infest and harm your beloved plants. Regularly inspect both sides of leaves and the soil surface for any signs of pests, like tiny crawling insects, webs, or yellowing leaves. If detected, treat infestations promptly with natural remedies or insecticidal soaps to prevent damage. Monitoring your plants for these unwanted guests is a crucial part of ensuring your plants can thrive pest-free.
- Maintain stable temperature
Most plants thrive in stable environments without extreme fluctuations in temperature. Because of this, avoid placing plants near drafty windows, heating vents, or air conditioning units. Keep your indoor garden within the preferred temperature range for the specific plants you’re growing. Maintaining a stable temperature not only promotes healthy growth but also reduces the risk of shock or stress that can weaken your plants over time.
- Repot as necessary
As plants grow, they may outgrow their pots, and repotting is like giving your plants a fresh start. When you notice roots circling the pot’s edges, or the plant becoming root-bound, it’s time for a bigger home. Repotting allows the roots more room to grow and access nutrients. Choose a slightly larger container, and take this opportunity to inspect and trim damaged or diseased roots.
- Support and stake
Support and staking are essential practices for plants with a tendency to grow tall or have fragile stems. Providing proper support prevents your plants from toppling over, which can cause damage or hinder growth. Use stakes, trellises, or ties to gently guide their upward growth. This not only maintains their aesthetic appeal but also ensures they receive adequate light and air circulation, and reduces the risk of structural damage or injury.
- Avoid overcrowding
Crowded pots can lead to competition for light, water, and nutrients, which can weaken and stress your plants. Ensure adequate spacing between your indoor plants to allow for proper air circulation and access to resources. This practice not only encourages healthier individual growth but also reduces the risk of pests and diseases spreading easily.
Enjoy your new indoor garden!
Whether you start with a couple pothos plants or cover your entire living room in foliage, you’re sure to appreciate the beauty and new energy that houseplants can bring to your home. And remember not to sweat it if you kill a snake plant or two along the way–all gardeners started out as novices, and you’ll become more practiced at attending to your plants’ needs with time. So plan a trip to your local nursery ASAP and get ready to become a plant mom!