7 Houseplants that Improve Your Health and Wellbeing!
Do Houseplants Really Purify the Air in Your Home?
Gardeners could have told you long ago that life is simply better in the company of healthy, happy plants. But now, with the Internet, we all have ready access to information like the study NASA did on how certain houseplants purify the air. This is a hugely trending topic these days.
I would love to tell you that houseplants help to purify the air in your home, assist your sleep quality, improve your mental focus and concentration and in general improve your life! These are highly attractive and popular claims that just do not have a strong basis in accepted science. Yes, NASA did that study, but the conclusions of that study are more nuanced and rather different from what we see and read in so many blogs and articles.
But this article is not about “Gotcha” for the articles that do claim great benefits. Nor is it to de-bunk them. In fact, there is great reason to believe in the overall health and wellness benefits of living with and among plants both indoors and out. It just is not nearly so simple as choosing from a list of 10 special species and expecting to achieve cleaner air.
NASA's study (done in the early 1980’s, by Dr. Bill Wolverton) found that the soil for every houseplant they tested in their specific chamber environment did capture and fix sufficient air pollutants to make a remarkable difference in the over all air quality. This is exciting, but there is no indication that any particular plant had any effect. Further, the soil in pots in your home will not be sufficiently exposed to the air to really affect your home's air quality.
But there is ample evidence from many other scientific tests that plants do have a big impact in our health and wellbeing by dramatically reducing our psychological and physiological stress when we are near them, either indoors or out. And now, with most people spending an estimated 85% of their daily life indoors, the importance of houseplants that are easy to grow and care for is greater than ever before.
There is also evidence that "the presence of plants can boost your attention span", says Journal of Environmental Psychology.
Because all of the evidence indicates these health benefits are associated with plants in general, rather than any specific type of plant, I want to focus on some fun and easy to care for plants to enjoy in your home. Any plants that you enjoy and that prosper in your care will be a boon to your health and well being, especially if you have several indoors!
7 Easy to Grow Houseplants that Improve Your Health and Wellbeing!
Dracaena fragrans, corn plant
Dracaena fragrans, often called corn plant or mass cane plant, is a popular houseplant that is super easy to grow. Wide, lush leaves are variegated with a lighter green flare down the center of each leaf. As the botanical name implies, the flowers, when they form, are incredibly and wonderfully fragrant. Provide bright, indirect light, water only moderately and give a short drying time between waterings.
Aloe vera is well known for the benefits of the gel produced and stored in its thick, fleshy leaves. This aloe gel is a salve for burns, a gentle exfoliator, can be used as a hand sanitizer and even aids digestion! There are many varieties of aloe, and all are easy to please indoors. Provide bright, indirect light, and be sure to plant in a succulent or cactus potting mix. Water well, but check the soil to be sure it is dry a full 2 inches down before watering again. When you need some aloe gel, just slice off a leaf and use it!
Oxalis triangularis, purple shamrocks
Oxalis triangularis, or the purple shamrock, is a wonderfully long-lived houseplant with attractive purple foliage. These leaves open and close in response to light, closing up at night like a cluster of little purple butterflies! An incredibly long-lived plant, oxalis triangularis needs bright light indoors to look its best. Water moderately, and allow the soil to dry between waterings. These plants occasionally go dormant, typically every few years. Don't be alarmed if it appears to be dying. Simply stop watering, and set the plant aside for a few weeks. Once you see new sprouts, resume watering again.
Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
Chlorophytum comosum is often called spider plant or airplane plant, for the way it produces baby offsets that trail the mother plant. Spider plants look their best as either a hanging plant, or in a container on a pedestal, that shows off the foliage and the trailing baby plants. Incredibly easy to grow, spider plants prefer bright, indirect light, but will continue to thrive even in dark conditions. Provide ample water, but a healthy spider plant will continue to flourish even missing a few weeks of water. This is an especially good house plant for beginners.
Epipremnum aureum, golden pothos
Epipremnum aureum is a variety of pothos with yellow variegation shot through its heart-shaped leaves. Another great choice for beginners, this easy to grow plant forms trailing, vining stems that can reach 40 feet long in their native tropical jungles. Simply keep twining the vines around the plant in the container for a full look, then let them spill over the edge and drape down to the ground, or up over a window rod. Provide bright, indirect light. Water moderately, allowing the soil to dry well between waterings. A good way to avoid any root rot is to water well only when the plant appears to droop a bit.
Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
Sansevieria trifasciata is also known by the fetching names of snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue! Leaves are thick, and stiff, growing upright in a spear shape, often with mottling and contrasting margins throughout. A fine architectural element to add to any room. Sansevieria will thrive in just about any amount of lighting, and generally prefers dry soils. Plant to water just once every 2-3 weeks. Another great choice for beginning gardeners, or those new to houseplants.
Hippeastrum, amaryllis Minerva
Hippeastrum, or amaryllis, are commonly linked to Christmas, since that is the time they are most readily found in stores, but they can grow and bloom indoors at any time of the year. Amaryllis bulbs produce the most magnificent blooms in a wide variety of colors, with many alluring flower forms. Grown from large bulbs, amaryllis prefer bright light and moderate moisture. Although they can happily grow indoors year round, for best blooming, let them spend the spring outdoors in bright, indirect light, and feed well.
What ever color of thumb you have, these houseplants will grow and thrive for you with little effort. As they do, they will add beauty to your home, and improve the health and wellness of your entire family. I would love to learn whether you enjoy houseplants, or plan to start! :) Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know!
- Kathleen McCarthy