I never considered myself the “green thumb” type. My grandma gave me a whole pot of succulents before college, and I managed to kill all the allegedly indestructible plants by the end of the year.
I swore off plants and said I would never put another sweet green creature through such misery again. I didn't keep my promise to myself — my dozen or so plants can attest to that — and I am happy that I didn't. In fact, science suggests I may actually be happier because of my plants, and I am sure all my fellow plant moms and dads can attest to that.
Behind the Science
“Biophilia” describes the connection humans have to nature, and since humans spend almost 85% of our time indoors, many of us are severely lacking in that connection. Bringing plants inside is one of the easiest ways to bring nature to us, and reap all the health benefits included.
Plants can contribute to our physical and mental health in incredible ways. For example, just like trees make oxygen, our house plant friends purify the air. As we exhale carbon dioxide, our houseplants absorb it and admit oxygen. NASA even uses plants as a natural filter, with studies suggesting plants can remove 87% of air toxins in 24 hours.
Another study suggests houseplants reduce both the mental and physical elements of stress. According to research published in US National Library of Medicine, after working with houseplants, participants felt less stress and more “comfortable, soothed, and natural.” They also experienced physical benefits, including lower blood pressure levels. Seeing all that green and feeling more connected to nature helps us feel calmer and happier.
After working with houseplants, participants felt less stress and more comfortable, soothed, and natural.
Furthermore, plants also help people recover from illness quicker. A study published in Hort Technology determined patients in hospital rooms with houseplants recovered at a faster rate than patients without houseplants. Positive side effects include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, decreased feelings of anxiety, pain, and fatigue, less medication, and a more positive attitude.
Plants even help stimulate the mind and improve concentration. According to a University of Michigan study, subjects reported feeling up to 20% more concentrated while working with a plant nearby. Putting a plant in your favorite work area may be exactly what you need for a productivity boost!
Our green friends also decrease depression or anxiety. Caring for a living thing is rewarding, and humans receive a dopamine hit from watching them grow, thrive, and flower. Just being in the presence of plants triggers the same calming and happy feelings we receive when taking a walk through nature, except you never have to leave the house.
Being in the presence of plants triggers the same calming and happy feelings we receive when taking a walk through nature.
Having issues with your roommates, landlord, or family? Plants might actually be able to help with that. Plants make us nicer, according to a series of studies published by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The studies suggest plants help foster human connection and bring people together. What is a more rewarding project than growing a plant and watching it blossom, together?
When turning your brown thumb to green, it is best to start with hardy plants that can tolerate the adjustment to becoming a plant parent. Succulents and cacti are always a great bet because you can forget to water them for more than a month, and they will still keep on living (although I recommend an every-other-week schedule, with reminders).
Succulents and cacti are always a great bet because you can forget to water them for more than a month, and they will still keep on living.
Other tough-to-beat plants include Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), various types of ivy, and spider plants. The large, green leaves transport you to a jungle while only needing to be watered once or twice a week. If you forget, they will let you know by looking limp and losing their vibrancy, and once watered can quickly perk back up again.
While some plants are easier than others, all plants can be happy and thrive with the right care. Do not always listen to the information on the plant card, make sure to do online research to make sure you are caring for your plants properly and giving them the best start to life.
Receiving the maximum health benefits from your plants
As soon as nighttime falls, plants stop photosynthesis, meaning they no longer release oxygen into the air. To get a better night's sleep, try introducing succulents, orchids, bromeliads, and snake plants into your room. They continue omitting oxygen throughout the night.
Hot and steamy places like the bathroom are great for air plants and Japanese hanging moss, which can live almost entirely from the steam in the shower. Other plants that thrive in the heat and steam with an extra watering include ferns and palms.
Workspaces and other areas of the house can benefit from any large-leafed plant or flowering plant. As long as you do not keep your house at freezing temperatures, many environmentally moderate plants will thrive in almost any part of your home, and so will you!