Being outdoors and engaging with the natural environment has proven to have many benefits for people. Although it’s not quite the same, you can receive some of those benefits within your own indoor space. There are many reasons for going outside. It can often be difficult to leave the comfort of your home when there is a blizzard or a heat wave outside. It can also be hard when you work a 9-5pm job and want to get home and enjoy your couch. Sometimes bringing the outside in can make you feel better from the inside out.
You may have dried out or overwatered your plants, but there are many reasons to keep these marvelous plants alive. More times than I would like to admit, indoor plants have not survived while in my care. I often wonder how I manage to keep myself on my own two feet, functioning on a daily basis, when I cannot water my plant once or twice a week. But indoor plants are not just a pretty sight to have tucked away in the corner. They can reduce our stress levels (and the amount of sick days we might take from work), improve our air quality, and lift our mood. Just as we take care of them, they may help with taking care of us.
Benefits: Mind and Body
Indoor plants can provide psychological benefits. Research as linked indoor plants with less nervousness and anxiousness, fewer symptoms of health issues, and better air quality (Deng& Deng 2018). Indoor plants are correlated with reports of less depression and anxiety, lower levels of stress, and increases in work productivity (Hall & Knuth 2019). Indoor plants seem to improve outcomes for employees, students, and patients. One literature review of
Before and After Office Visuals
various studies found that indoor plants in the workplace decreased the amount of sick days taken and the stress levels among workers. Hospital patients recovered faster when there was a variety of plants in the room versus not having plants. Students with plants in their classroom had faster performance productivity: 10%. The review also found that indoor plants decreased stress and increased pain tolerance (Bringslimark, Hartig, & Patil 2009).
Benefits: Air Quality
The NASA Clean Air Project found that there was a correlation between air quality and the reduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some common VOCs that we may interact with on a daily basis include: Acetone, Benzene, Butanal Ethanol, and Formaldehyde. These VOCs are found in everyday products such as your laundry detergent, nail polish remover, burning candles, and stoves. These chemicals can be harmful and hazardous to your health over time. The Clean Air Project found that low light house plants aided with improvement of air quality. However, the findings were not significant enough to support any of the other claims that were mentioned within the review literature (Moya, Van Den Dobbelsteen, Ottelé, &Bluyssen 2019). After reading this study, I personally found myself rethinking everything that I use around my apartment and reflect on how many plants are there to help with improving my air quality. That number is zero. As an avid candle burner, I may need to start looking into bringing home some indoor house plants to make sure my obsession doesn’t get out of hand.
Benefits: Active Engagement
Having plants around to look at might be good for you but being actively engaged with them may provide an even better benefit. Some research suggests that active involvement in indoor gardening and viewing indoor plant life was better than nature installations or nature inspired photographs in improving psychological and physical well-being, social engagement, and life satisfaction (Yeo et al,. 2019).
Indoor gardening could mean growing your own herbs or vegetables but could alsoinvolve just maintaining indoor plants in your space. This would include watering the plant, adding soil, moving the plant into different pots, and cleaning the plant from any dead leaves it may have. This allows you to interact with the plant inside of just having a fake plant in the corner.
There are limitations to many of the studies mentioned above, but the evidence is growing that adding indoor plants to your homes has potential advantages and no real disadvantages.
Starting your Plant Journey
Indoor plants can be relatively cheap and easy to maintain. NASA’s Clean Air Project recommended medium-low light house plants to complement air filters and carbon filters in your space. Some suggestions for beginners that are low maintenance and cost effective include: Spider plants, Ivy, Maidenhair Fern, and. These plants could be the gateway to exploring more of what indoor plants have to offer.
If you are just beginning the indoor plant journey, you might be overwhelmed with all the options to choose from and may face problems along the way. Some common challenges are underwatering or overwatering. After determining which indoor plant, you want and discovering how often it should be watered, you can start a routine by setting-up a reminder on your smartphone.
An example indoor plant that requires minimal watering is the spider plant. The plant is forgiving and should be watered once a week. The spider plant is a low-light and low maintenance plant, perfect for leaving near a window that occasionally lets in the sunlight every indoor plant needs. If the indoor plant does not come in its own pot, it would be good to invest in a pot to help contain the soil and drain water properly. This helps with maintaining and setting up your routine to make taking care of your new friend easy.
Spider Plant. Source: https://www.amazon.com/Ocean-Spider-Plant-Better-Growth/dp/B00U9VWYQ8
A helpful routine would be to water the plant every Monday night when you return from work or school. Another routine could be Sunday night right before you go to bed. All plants are more likely to store and conserve their water consumption when watered at night. A helpful tip for knowing when your indoor plant should receive a little more TLC is if the top 1 inch or so of soil is dry. Simply add some water. The soil should always be moist, not overly wet. It can be easier to determine when you are underwatering rather than overwatering.
Signs that you are overwatering your plant include: the soil being wet, but leaves are wilting, browning leaves, and yellow falling leaves. A few ways to determine if you are is by taking your finger and place it into the plant’s soil so that it reaches near the base of the pot. If you feel that it is still wet, and leaves are brown and wilting, you are most likely overwatering. Obtaining low maintenance and low light plants, can help my fellow over waterers to relieve some pressure to take continually water our indoor plants.
Taking care of indoor plants can help reduce stress, increase productivity, and help keep us physically and psychologically healthy. If you choose low to medium light houseplants, you’ll find that caring for them is easy. Why not bring plants into your home or office? It’s more than just a pretty green thing it’s a life that can help you improve yours.
Want to find out more about how you can start your indoor plant journey? Check out these links below for a beginner’s guide:
The Ultimate Guide to Indoors Plants: https://www.ambius.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-indoor-plants/
A Quick Guide to Houseplants for Beginners: https://www.omandthecityblog.com/all/houseplants-beginners
Want more? Check out our sources below:
Bringslimark, Tina, Hartig, Terry, Patil, Grete G. The psychological benefits of indoor plants: A critical review of the experimental literature, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 29, Issue 4, 2009, Pages 422-433, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2009.05.001.
Deng, L., & Deng, Q. (2018). The basic roles of indoor plants in human health and comfort. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 25(36), 36087–36101. doi: 10.1007/s11356-018-3554-1
Hall, Charles, & Knuth, Melinda (2019) An Update of the Literature Supporting the Well-Being Benefits of Plants: A Review of the Emotional and Mental Health Benefits of Plants. Journal of Environmental Horticulture: March 2019, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 30-38.
Moya, T. A., van den Dobbelsteen, A., Ottelé, M., & Bluyssen, P. M. (2019). A review of green systems within the indoor environment. Indoor and Built Environment, 28(3), 298–309. https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326X18783042
Yeo, Nicola L., Elliott, Lewis R., Bethel, Alison, White, Mathew P., Dean, Sarah G., Garside, Ruth.Indoor Nature Interventions for Health and Wellbeing of Older Adults in Residential Settings: A Systematic Review, The Gerontologist,, gnz019, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnz019