Having indoor plants and home gardens has often been regarded as hobbies solely for those with a so-called “green thumb”. This unfortunate assumption, however, suggests that gardening and growing plants are reserved for a select few in possession of the “magic touch” that enables them to grow and care for plants successfully. In reality, this mindsight is not only untrue but it also holds the potential to inhibit people from enjoying the many benefits of growing plants indoors! Having and caring for plants both indoors and outdoors can significantly improve various aspects of our lives and homes.
One of the primary benefits of plants is that they take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen which is safe for us to breathe! The process of photosynthesis involves taking in carbon dioxide and water in order to produce oxygen as well as sugars which the plant uses as food. Although the ability to photosynthesize is a key element of plants, some plants can additionally contribute to cleaner air by taking up other chemical compounds that may have adverse effects on human health. An experiment performed by NASA found that spider plants are especially effective at removing formaldehyde from the air, removing 95% of the toxic compound over only 24 hours in a sealed chamber (National Wildlife Federation). Spider plants are just one example of the purifying power which many plants hold! Results from NASA also indicated that having more houseplants in the home can significantly reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the home which decreases the risk of negative health effects from such VOCs (NASA). Indoor plants can thus benefit human health by providing a clean source of oxygen while also removing harmful substances from the air.
In addition to cleaning and purifying the air, houseplants can also have therapeutic benefits as they can reduce stress levels and contribute to general well-being. A study from 2015 demonstrated that working actively with indoor plants can reduce both physiological and psychological stress as compared to working solely on a computer (Journal of Physiological Anthropology). The results of this study revealed that interacting with plants reduces stress by “suppressing sympathetic activity, which often increases when a subject is exposed to a stressor” whereas working with the computer increased sympathetic nervous activity (Journal of Physiological Anthropology). Although this study focused on active interaction with plants, passive interactions are still beneficial, as well. Seeing greenery and being around nature has been shown to benefit mental health and well-being as they reduce “cognitive fatigue and stress” and promote feelings of relaxation and peace (NBC News). Horticultural therapy is also a popular method targeted at improved mental health and well-being that relies on a combination of green spaces and indoor and outdoor gardening (BJPsych International).
Indoor plants not only contribute to cleaner air and reduced stress, but they have also been shown to increase focus and productivity! One study focused on the effect of plants on elementary school children found that seeing live plants reduced the children’s number of theta waves, brain activity which corresponds to a lack of concentration (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health). The results of the study thus demonstrated that the visual stimuli of the plants improved the children’s concentration in addition to improving general mood and reported level of comfort. A similar study conducted with adults found that people working in an environment with plants, as compared to working in a space with magazines or no plants, also demonstrated both increased productivity and reported a better mood (National Library of Medicine). For both children and adults alike, working and living in a space with indoor plants has clear benefits on both mood and general productivity.
Seeing and caring for indoor plants has many advantages both physically and emotionally. Plants naturally clean the air, thus creating a livable environment with improved air quality and decreased risk of negative health effects caused by atmospheric substances and toxins. Plants additionally have shown to have a positive impact on mood, mental state, and productivity, thereby minimizing stress and establishing an environment that is both comfortable and visually stimulating. The overall benefits of plants are well worth the care they require, and some plants provide these benefits with nearly no human input necessary at all! No matter how much plant knowledge or experience you may have, everyone can benefit from having and maintaining plants in their home, green thumb or no.