Did you know that one rule of decorating is that there needs to be something living in every room? Our living spaces become more vibrant with a fresh floral arrangement or a simple potted ficus – the pop of color that a plant adds can really change the feel of a space. But can plants in your house provide more than just decor? Science says yes!
Nature’s Air Filters
In 1989, NASA (yep, NASA!) published a study that researched ways to clean the air inside of space stations. While all plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, certain indoor plants were shown to provide a natural way of removing toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, and trichloroethylene from the air. It’s because of this study that I decided to start adding plants to our apartment, starting with a Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) – a hardy plant with broad, dark green foliage that works really well in containers and requires minimum maintenance. In the past week, I’ve added:
- Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’, also known as the Cornstalk Palm
- Dracaena marginata, a red edged palm plant
- Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’, also known as a Peace Lily.
All of the plants above are really easy to take care of – super important for someone who isn’t exactly blessed with a green thumb. You can get small or large versions of these fairly common house plants at a hardware store like The Home Depot or at your local nursery (I bought most of these plans at Friedman’s in Sonoma County), and they aren’t super expensive. As a guide, the study finds that you should have one plant per 100 square feet of space, so I’m due to purchase another eight or more plants for our space. I’m kind of excited to make this place look like the scenes from The Legend of Tarzan .
Go Hug A Tree
It’s not just the air-filtration aspect that makes plants a hugely beneficial addition to your home or office. In another study, researchers found that the presence of plants in offices, schools, and hospitals resulted in:
- Lower systolic blood pressure
- Improved reaction times
- Increased attentiveness
- Improved attendance at work/school
- Raised productivity at work)
- Improved well-being
- Improved perceptions of the space
- Lowered levels of anxiety during recovery from surgery
- Raised job satisfaction
Yet another study concluded that people experience an unconscious calming reaction to simply touching a plant. It’s likely the reason why walking around barefoot on soft grass is one of my favorite feelings in the world. If you happen to see someone absentmindedly fondling some foliage, perhaps they’re actually just trying to zen out.
A Few Final Tips on Picking Plants
- Know Thyself. Are you the type who can take care of the most finicky of plants or nah? Check and make sure the plant you pick matches your care style. I’ve spent a good deal of my life making sure my wardrobe was machine washable, not Dry Clean Only, and my plants reflect my chosen care level. FWIW, my Ficus is thriving, and I constantly forget to water it. Excellent choice for a lazy gardener!
- Know Your Sun. Does your apartment get a lot of light or have south facing windows that get sun most of the day? If so, you’ve got the right kind of place for a sun-loving Yucca Palm. If your place is like mine that gets only okay light, you might want to go for something like a Dracaena (there are 50 species of it) that does well with indirect light.
- Watch the Watering. While it’s important to make sure your plants get enough water, the most common mistake is to over water them. Research the plant’s hydration needs and try not to go overboard!
- Mind Your Kids and Pets. Keep in mind whether or not the plants you choose are toxic to your curious kids or pets (most plants are only mildly toxic and would cause stomach upset but not anything more serious than that).