House plants benefits don’t just include styling your home – they can also promote positive mental health, improve the air quality and increase productivity, says Sophie Veena Fisher
Spending time around nature improves mental health and wellbeing – but if you don’t have a garden or access to outdoor spaces, bringing house plants into your home can allow you to benefit from the wellbeing boost that plants provide.
We have all spent more time indoors recently, so it’s more important than ever to create an indoor space that is calming and promotes positive wellbeing.
Benefits of Houseplants for Air Quality
Having house plants in your home can help to reduce anxiety and stress, as being around house plants can have a calming effect on your mood and even help to lower blood pressure.
Research conducted by the University of Exeter has found that house plants can improve productivity by 15% and Norwegian researchers found that sickness rates fell by more than 60% in offices with plants compared to offices that did not have plants.
Participating in a hobby and doing something you enjoy releases endorphins in your brain which can help lift your mood and help with mental health conditions.
Tending to plants is a great mindfulness exercise and helps to keep you in the present moment.
Taking care of plants and nurturing them is rewarding and induces physiological and psychological relaxation.
Benefits of Houseplants for Air Quality
Houseplants can induce better quality sleep by improving the air quality in your home and removing toxins.
The air quality indoors is often more polluted than the air outside as it contains a mixture of pollutants from cooking smoke and dust as well as outdoor pollution that travels into the home from doors and windows.
Plants absorb many of these toxins in the air and release oxygen which creates improved respiratory health.
House plants for Beginners
Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
Pothos plants are vining, climbing and hanging foliage plants that come in a variety of different colours and shapes. They are native to south-eastern Asia and in the wild grow up trees using ariel roots for support.
Pothos tend to be easy plants to take care of and are relatively fast growers. They are a great plant to start out with if you are just getting into plants. Pothos can cleanse the air of common household toxins including xylene and benzene.
The Golden Pothos (pictured above) is one of the most common varieties and can easily be found at local garden centres. The plants have green heart-shaped leaves with splashes of yellow and cream.
Another common variety of Pothos is the Marble Queen. An affordable plant with stunning variegation. The leaves are green with a white marble effect and can even grow fully white leaves.
Neon Pothos (pictured above) has florescent green leaves and is a great statement for any room.
Caring for your pothos
Pothos varieties typically tolerate low-light conditions but varieties with white variegation such as the Marble Queen will need slightly higher indirect light to encourage the striking variegation.
The white sections of plants have no chlorophyll which is needed to photosynthesise, due to the lack of chlorophyll in the leaves, the plant will need more light than plants with no variegation.
If you would like to encourage bigger leaf growth on Pothos, encourage the plant to grow up a moss pole or plank of wood.
Pothos are very forgiving with underwatering and can tolerate some levels of drought and prefer to dry out before being watered again, they do not like to be sat in wet soil.
Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)
Native to the tropical floors of Asia, Aglaonema is a sturdy plant that comes in a variety of colours and patterned leaves.
Aglaonema has large oval leaves with short stems and grows fairly compact. They are slow growers which are good if you are looking for a plant that is not going to outgrow its space quickly.
A great statement plant is Aglaonema Prestige, which has deep green edges with splashes of bright pink.
If you’re looking for a greener plant, Aglaonema Nitidum has longer leaves than the typical Aglaonema and has dark green edges with a light green centre.
Caring for you Aglaonema
Aglaonema plants thrive in indirect light and can tolerate low-light conditions.
A basic rule of thumb for Aglaonema is that the lighter the leaves are, the more sunlight it will need, if it has darker leaves it can be in a more shaded area.
Aglaonema do not require a lot of water, especially if kept in a darker room. It is best to let the soil completely dry out before watering again.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace lilies have been found to improve air quality by up to 60%, including removing carbon monoxide from the air. Peace Lilies get their name as they are said to bring peace and the white flowers symbolise a “white flag” which is recognised as a truce signal.
Peace Lilies have textured dark green leaves and can grow white flowers.
Caring for Peace Lilies
Peace Lilies can tolerate very low light conditions but are more likely to bloom in part sun, partly shaded areas.
Peace Lilies tend to drink a lot of water, but it is still important to make sure the plant is not overwatered.
The soil can be slightly moist when watering but not wet. It is easy to tell when this plant needs water as its leaves will start to droop.
Every household should have an Aloe Vera, not only does it purify the air by absorbing formaldehyde, but the inside of the leaves has anti-inflammatory properties for repairing wounds and is great for helping with minor burns.
Aloe Vera is native to North Africa, Southern Europe and the Canary Islands. They have thick green leaves with serrated spikes on the edges.
Aloe Vera is an effective air purifier, removing benzene and formaldehyde and carbon dioxide from the air.
If the air quality is particularly bad, the plant will develop brown spots on its leaves.
Aloe Vera is easy to propagate as they grow pups (baby versions of the bigger plant) that can be removed and potted into their own pots.
This is a great way to share the plant with friends and family.
Caring for Aloe Vera
As Aloe Vera is a succulent, it does not require a lot of water because they store water in their leaves.
An easy way to tell if a succulent needs water is to keep an eye on its leaves, when succulents are low on water, they will be flat but when they have enough water the leaves will be thick and plump.
Aloe Vera like tropical climates and therefore do best with bright sunlight.
Houseplant care tips
If houseplants are watered too often or left to sit in water, it can cause root rot.
Once a plant develops root rot, it is very difficult to bring the plant back to good health, so it is best to try and avoid the problem from happening.
You can do this by ensuring that you are only watering the plant when it needs to be watered.
If you struggling to tell whether a plant needs watering or not, it may be a good idea to invest in a water metre that will tell you whether the soil is wet, moist or dry.
There are several pests that can attack your houseplants and potentially damage them or kill them.
Common pests to look out for are spider mites, mealybugs, thrips, scale and fungus gnats.
A natural remedy for getting rid of or preventing pests on houseplants is the use of Neem Oil.
Neem Oil is safe to use on most plants and soil but be sure to research the correct measurements to make a Neem Oil insecticide spray as the oil will need to be diluted down.
If you notice pests on one of your plants, try to keep it isolated from the rest of your houseplants to prevent the pests from spreading.
Always keep new plants away from the rest of your collection for a few weeks, until you are sure that there are no problems that could spread.
Dust the leaves of your houseplants regularly as it helps the plant absorb sunlight. Dust can also encourage spider mites so keeping plants dust-free is a great preventative measure.
If you are drawn to a particular houseplant that requires a lot of sunlight, but you live in a more shaded/dark place, it is possible to buy grow lights for your plants.
Grow lights are either full-spectrum (similar to the sun) or red and blue lights which are useful to enhance plant growth.
Blue and red plant lights can sometimes trigger migraines, so it is best to avoid these if you tend to suffer from migraines.
Where to Buy House Plants
A lot of plants are toxic to pets, so it is important to do your research before purchasing.
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