The Benefits of Houseplants: Why Everyone is Head-Over-Heels for Them
Posted on March 21 2021
“You can’t have just one.” This applies to many things in life: like potato chips and houseplants. One plant leads to another until (before you know it) you have an indoor jungle on your hands. What’s the big deal about indoor plants? Why is everyone addicted? Are there any real benefits of houseplants?
The Scientific Benefits of Houseplants
There is a lot more behind the power of plants than just their looks. While we all love the aesthetics of a jungle house vibe, there is solid science behind why houseplants make us feel good:
During daylight hours, plants and humans absorb opposite gases. We absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Houseplants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which brings clear benefits. Boosting the plant population in your home will also increase the oxygen within your walls.
Why is oxygen so vital? Aside from being required for human life, it is also connected to our tissue, brain, organ, and cell function. Increased levels of oxygen can boost our energy and brainpower. Who doesn’t need that?
At night, when not actively photosynthesizing, most plants “breathe” just like us: absorbing oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide.
Some plants, such as the Sansevieria, Pothos, Orchid, and Aloe Vera (to name just a few), produce oxygen night-and-day. Do your research and place a nighttime oxygen-producer on your nightstand! What’s the benefit? Boosted levels of oxygen at night can give you a deeper, more restful sleep.
Did you know that plants release 97% of the moisture they take in? They do, in a process called evapotranspiration. Your plant soaks in water from the soil; it travels up the stems (transpiration) and out the leaf pores.
If you group plants together just right, you can boost the ambient humidity of the rooms of your home. Some experts suggest that you place at least two plants per 100 square feet, group them closely together and select houseplants with large leaves to reap the most significant benefit. What’s the advantage?
Higher humidity levels can prevent or lessen nose bleeds, minimize dry skin, calm dry sinuses, and even reduce the effects of allergies. (Among other things.) What are a few of the top contenders?
- Rubber Trees
- Spider Plants
- Jade Plants
- Parlor Palm
- Pothos, and more!
As a rule of thumb, most leafy plants act as humidity boosters. On the other hand, many desert-natives, such as succulents, cacti, and aloe vera, absorb moisture out of the air. Avoid purchasing several of these plants if you are looking to increase your home’s humidity.
Among houseplants’ benefits is that they can easily lift your mood. For one thing, plant owners must keep their curtains open so that their leafy companions can flourish. They’re not the only one that benefit from natural sunlight!
- When we receive sunlight, hormones within us produce serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with severe and seasonal depression.
- Sunlight also tells our skin to produce Vitamin D, which contributes to overall bone health. Some researchers also believe that low levels of Vitamin D are linked to specific types of cancer.
- Research has linked exposure to sunlight to lowering cardiovascular risks.
As already noted, the increased oxygen your plants bring to your environment can also boost your mood. That’s not even to mention the undeniable therapeutic benefits of houseplants: they are something to concentrate on and nurture, other than ourselves. This ability can bring relief from daily stress and anxiety and help us look forward to the future!
Research has shown that hospital patients in a room with a houseplant had overall better wellness and a more positive outlook than those without. Who wouldn’t want to tap into the natural power of plants?
Do you ever feel like tossing your computer or phone out the window? Well, say ‘no more!’ Studies have shown that plants minimize the fatigue we feel after staring at our computer for hours on end.
Aside from minimizing fatigue, houseplants also benefit us in the classroom, making us more attentive, reduce our stress, and increase concentration by 70%. Pretty impressive, right?
We might not like the bitter truth: Our homes are filled with “volatile organic compounds” (aka VOCs). What are they? Chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene are present in our carpet, grocery bags, cleaners (no, not all cleaners are “clean”), books, and just about anything else you can think of.
VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than they are outside. The American Lung Association highlights the dangers of overexposure to VOCs when it says: “Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea, and can damage the central nervous system as well as other organs. Some VOCs can cause cancer.” The FDN (Functional Diagnostic Nutrition) also produced this article, highlighting the dangers VOCs pose to the body’s endocrine system (including your thyroid, hormones, pituitary gland, and more).
After considering all of the hazards, lowering the harmful chemicals in your home is probably a no-brainer. Do plants reduce VOCs? Yes and no.
According to NASA’s research, plants can remove up to 87% of VOCs every 24 hours in a small, controlled environment.
In an average household, your best bet for removing VOCs will still be an air purifier and eliminating harmful chemicals from your lifestyle. For houseplants to have the same or similar efficiency in your uncontrolled, larger environment, studies have shown that you would need to have 10-1000 plants per square foot to reap measurable benefits.
That being said, something is better than nothing. Maintaining a “plant shelf” in your living room will remove some VOCs in the area. Besides, this is just one of the many advantages plants have to offer!
While you might assume that more plants equal more mold, think again! Homes with (properly watered) houseplants benefit from 50-60% less mold and bacteria than those without. Why? Some researchers believe that plants emit phytochemicals that reduce mold. No wonder plants can help with allergies!
Five Easy, Maximum Benefit Houseplants
You may be wondering a simple question: Which houseplants bring the greatest benefit? While there’s no “wrong” choice, below are a few Dr. Wolverton approved plants. He is the renowned scientist behind NASA’s study on the effectiveness of plant’s cleaning abilities.
The Areca Palm
Palms in general are very popular on Dr. Wolverton’s list, ranking 1-3 out of 50! The Areca Palm, however, holds first place for its air purification abilities. These plants require moist, well-draining soil and the brightest light you can find in your home. For the best results, shield your Areca Palm from the hottest afternoon sun.
The Rubber Tree
This glistening living room companion thrives in medium-bright, indirect light, normal humidity levels, and should dry out in-between waterings. As far as big plants go, you’ll be hard pressed to find one with easier instructions. According to Dr. Wolverton, the Rubber Tree ranks #4 out of 50 species.
Elegant, elongated green leaves with irresistible pops of red. An Anthurium is an eye catching statement piece that will spice up any part of your home. These plants require chunky, well-draining soil that is kept evenly moist during the growing season. Place it in a humid, brightly lit location. Anthuriums ranked 41/50 for effectiveness on removing VOCs.
The Round Leaf Plant
The Round Leaf Calathea is beautifully simple in its appearance. Plants continue growing, and the leaves can reach unbelievable size! Big leaves means more humidity released into the air. Keep your Round Leaf Plant in a high humidity location that receives bright indirect light. Water when the topsoil is dry and crumbly. Calatheas in general ranked #32 of 50, making them a great option. And with so many varieties to choose from, your house will be booming with color and texture!
The Calathea White Star
Speaking of Calathea varieties, the White Star is another stunner. Long stems with wispy, pinstriped leaves makes this a wonderful plant to fill vertical space. With their purple undersides, these Calatheas can take a little less light than their Round Leaf cousins. Water when the topsoil is dry and crumbly.