The Joys — and Benefits — of Houseplants

To those who don’t know, I love plants. In fact, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t (or don’t still) become a botanist. Whether it is reading up on them, admiring them on walks, or tending to them in my garden, I love immersing myself in plants. I just can’t make enough space in my home, bedroom, or office for plants of all shapes, colors, and sizes; no visit to a store with a garden section is complete without me passing by to see what’s available and what more I can squeeze in.

Of course, you don’t have to be a plant-fanatic to appreciate the joys and practical benefits of plants. They are an important but often overlooked element worth considering for almost any room. Available in many shapes, sizes, and varieties at affordable prices, they offer everything from aesthetics to even health promotion.

For starters, houseplants add well-needed, eye-catching greenery to bland spaces, especially offices, waiting rooms, foyers, or other utilitarian areas that often lack decorative pieces. They’re a great way to bring some life and vibrancy into your living space, and the presence of houseplants has been known to promote relaxation and reduce stress – needless to say this is a must for offices and study rooms, and I find myself feeling much less stressed and unfocused in the presence of my plants (after all, one’s environment plays a big role in mood and psychological health).

Speaking of environment, research has shown that plants create healthier environments by serving as natural filters, sucking up harmful pollutants and producing oxygen to clean out and freshen the air. Many plants also help to regulate the temperature and humidity of a room, not unlike the cooling effect you may experience among lush vegetation outside. To maximize these effects, at least four plants per person are recommended, although any number will offer some benefit — including, say, the dozen or so I have in my own bedroom.

While all houseplants confer some benefits, a few do so better than others. Here are the big three to consider as air cleaners courtesy of News.Mic.

Areca Palm: Instead of splurging on a humidifier, you might want to try one of these. At its full height, this tall, leafy plant transpires up to a full liter (about four glasses) of water, warding off dry office air. The shrub also absorbs particulate matter, some of which can lead to heart disease, asthma and a host of other severe health problems, according to a NASA study.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue: While many plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen during the day, this plant’s long, dark leaves push fresh air into the environment at night, making it a good complement to the areca palm. It also absorbs nitrogen oxide, a fossil fuel and agriculture byproduct that accounts for 6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and cancer-causing formaldehyde.

The Money Plant: Instead of another cup of coffee, you might want to give this plant a shot. Like Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the money plant sucks up formaldehyde and other building pollutants. It also absorbs benzene, an air pollutant found in car exhaust that can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches.

Here’s a great TED Talk by researcher Kamal Meattle that explores the benefits of plants in indoor areas, ranging from greater health and productivity among workers, to even lower energy costs:

For what it’s worth, my own personal experience confirms a lot of this research; as a sufferer of depression and anxiety, not to mention mild respiratory problems, I have noticed a notable alleviation of all these issues.

Of course, even if I didn’t enjoy practical benefits, I’d love plants all the same. There is just something so visceral about it — maybe it’s an atavistic impulse from our origins in more natural environments (which we’ve long since detached ourselves from), or maybe it’s a natural yearning for the (idealized) tranquility of nature — who knows. But it makes no difference to me.

 

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