Green Living

Are Houseplants the Key to Health and Happiness?

Do you dread allergy season? Are you constantly looking for ways to boost your mood and reduce your stress? Do you keep saying you want to live a healthier lifestyle, but don’t know where to start? The solution to all of these troubles, and more, may be as simple as adding a little more greenery to your home.

According to Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms, plants make our home and office healthier in countless ways from their air-purifying power to mood enhancement.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shown plants can be amazingly efficient at removing harmful, volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in everyday air from our homes,” Hancock says. “VOCs are something a lot of us don’t tend to think much about, but the more energy-efficient our buildings become, the more they’re trapped.”

Scientific research also suggests that being around indoor plants can have a wealth of other positive impacts on our health and well-being including:

  • Encourage relaxation and reduce stress
  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Improve recall, attention span, memory and problem solving
  • Enhance creativity and problem solving skills
  • Lift self-esteem (through successful care and nurturing of plants)
  • Alleviate allergy symptoms by filtering and reducing allergens (including mold)

Benefits are difficult to narrow down completely as there are so many ways plants have a positive effect on our health. Hancock says that houseplants can even naturally help negate the effect of dry air during the winter months to help keep our skin hydrated and prevent chapped lips.

Best Indoor Plants to Add to Your Home

Two of the best easy-to-care-for, hardy and low-maintenance plants recommended by Hancock are the snake plant and the ZZ plant. Both are perfect for anyone new to indoor plants as neither requires a gardener with a green thumb to thrive.

“ZZ is more of a newcomer than the snake plant to the houseplant scene, but it’s every bit as reliable,” says Hancock. “I sometimes joke that you have to try to kill this houseplant duo with total neglect or consistently overwater them.”

Snake plants and ZZ plants fare well in low-light situations. Other good options for indoor settings include the spider plant and nerve plant.

Where to Place Your Plants for the Best Results

Anywhere you desire a little touch of greenery is a terrific spot to have a plant in your home, but if you are seeking to improve an area of your health, there are strategies to ensure your efforts are effective.

For optimal air-cleaning, Hancock suggests having at least one plant in a six-inch-wide pot or larger for every 100 square feet of your home. For example, twenty houseplants would be ideal for a 2000-square-foot home.

Additional considerations include:

  • Plants should be spread throughout the home for the best effect
  • Placing plants on or near a study/work desk is ideal for aiding cognitive health
  • Avoid over-crowding by placing too many plants in small spaces
  • If you have pets, be careful to keep plants out of range to keep pets from nibbling leaves or knocking plants over
  • Consider adding living walls to areas where extra insulation would be of benefit

“There’s tremendous range of plants available, practically one for every taste and décor style,” says Hancock. “And while houseplants are invaluable because of the benefits, they’re also highly attractive home and office décor.”

Most importantly, Hancock suggests planning your plants based on your ability to care for them. Don’t go over-board and add more plants than you have time to care for.


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Barb Webb is a sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky. When she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture on RuralMom.com and SustainableChick.com