We love being surrounded by green growing things. Whether you live in the city or the country, in a sprawling mansion or tiny apartment, bringing the living energy of plants into your home is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing.

1. Moisture

As part of the photosynthesis and respiration process, plants release moisture into an environment. Basically the water we give them is absorbed through their roots and leaves, and then exhaled as vapor into the air. This is part of what keeps rainforests so lush. In a dry indoor environment, such as a house that uses forced air heat in the winter, a moisturizing plant is invaluable.

Living in a space with a comfortable moisture level can keep you from developing colds, sore throats, and respiratory illnesses, according to studies done at the Agriculture University of Norway.

You can increase your plants moisturizing properties by misting them regularly, and ensuring that they are receiving the appropriate amount of water for that type of plant. Keep in mind that each species will have its own unique watering needs, but in general most houseplants only need to be watered every week or two at most.

2. Mood

The way plants uplift us can be so subtle that you might not notice at first. But if you have ever walked into garden nursery or room full of plants in a friends house, you have probably felt lighter and calmer.

Bringing the green energy of nature indoors can help stave off depression and anxiety, especially in dreary winter months or grey urban environments. Plants that put off flowers or have colorful leaves tend to be the most helpful for uplifting mood, as long as they harmonize with the dcor of the room.

3. We Breathe Together

Perhaps the greatest benefit of having plants in your home is air purification. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale the oxygen that we need to breathe.

The presence of more oxygen in a space encourages us to breathe deeper, which calms the nervous system and improves the functioning of every part of the body.

Many types of plants also filter pollutants out of the air as they breathe. Plants are especially helpful in rooms that have no natural ventilation.

In a study in the late 1980s NASA discovered that plants draw volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. VOCs are the dangerous chemically smelling gasses put off by carpets, paint, cigarette smoke, ink, furniture, and many other elements of indoor environments. The study found that if there are a sufficient number, houseplants remove up to 87 percent of the VOCs and 50-60 percent of the mold spores and airborne bacteria in a room every 24 hours.

A U.S. government study found that having 15-18 houseplants in 6 to 8 inch containers would purify the air in a home of up to 1,800 square feet. Another study at Penn State University found that snake plants, spider plants, and golden pathos in a room significantly reduced the amount of ozone, a marker of air pollution.

These are the types of houseplants that have the highest purification properties:

  • Philodendron
  • Aloe Vera
  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lily
  • Spider Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Azalea
  • Dracaena
  • Palms
  • Ferns

4. No Pain in Sight

The presence of houseplants improves our ability to cope with pain, and may actually help us heal from injuries and illnesses faster. Researchers at Kansas State University found that hospital patients in rooms with plants had lower heart rates and blood pressure, requested less pain medication, and were released from the hospital sooner than patients in rooms that did not have plants or a view of nature.

5. Concentration

Having plants in offices and schools improves concentration and productivity. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, it was determined that the presence of plants in an office improved the workers ability to maintain focus.

This improvement may be in part because of the cleaner air, but there are theories that it may also be because of our attention span. Focusing on single task for several hours is taxing for the brain, and requires the use of our directed attention. Indoor plants, especially large ones with many leaves, allow the brain to relax into undirected attention. This tends to improve our ability to concentrate when we return to the task.

To be the most effective, plants need to be placed so that every person in the office or classroom has a view of at least one plant from his or her desk. In a home office, the plant should be on your desk or in your view while you are working.

Bring a little nature inside by brightening your home and office with plants. A few little green friends can make all the difference for air quality. Give them a little water, the right kind of soil, and your attention, and houseplants can improve your health and quality of life.

Sources and Further Reading:

Mother Nature Network 15 Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
and Best Filtering Houseplants According to NASA
Scientific American Houseplants Make You Smarter
Seattle Times Guide to Houseplants