Wanting to turn your home into an indoor houseplant jungle? Turns out, doing so doesn't just give your house a beauty boost—it can benefit your health, too.
There are several health benefits to keeping houseplants and greenery in the space where you live. Watching them thrive makes us happier, and gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment when we take care of them. We saw this during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when plant people across the United States spent $8.5 billion more on gardening items in 2020 compared to 2019.
And though we're not in lockdown anymore, the houseplant trend is here to stay.
We spoke with Libby Bolles, plant specialist and owner of Fancy Leaf Plant Co., about the particular health benefits of keeping plant friends in your home.
Plants Improve Air Quality
"The most popular plant we recommend to improve air quality is the snake plant, or mother-in-law's tongue," says Bolles. "It is basically un-killable, and you can put it in just about any light anywhere in home. It is great for cleaning the air because the plants photosynthesize all night long."
Carpets, paint, cleaners and other indoor objects can give off pollutants called volatile organic compounds. They build up in the air and can irritate your eyes and skin. Houseplants have been shown to soak up volatile organic compounds. Some other examples of plants that do this include ivy, the asparagus fern and the dragon tree.
They Fight Off Allergies
If you suffer from indoor allergies to dust, mold, etc., keeping houseplants is a huge help. Bolles says plants with long leaves and foliage help reduce the amount of allergens in the air. One she recommends for this reason is philodendron, which is popular at Fancy Leaf and in the online plant lovers community. Other low-light plants, like peace lillies or rubber trees (ficus), help allergy sufferers greatly.
Just be sure to avoid plants that contain pollen, which could further irritate allergy symptoms.
They Provide Free Aromatherapy
"Lavender is a classic plant that can be kept indoors that gives off a calming scent," says Bolles. "But any indoor plant, whether it has a particular fragrance or not, can make the air smell fresher and more pleasant."
Another plant that can be kept indoors with therapeutic qualities is eucalyptus. Be sure to keep the small tree in a bright, sunny spot in your home and keep soil moist by watering evenly every other day.
They Help Us Feel Happier
Who doesn't want to feel a sense of happy and calm when at home? A Scandinavian study showed plants improve focus, decrease depressive moods and lessen symptoms of anxiety. When the mind and body are relaxed, you can lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels.
Other studies have shown that living in an environment that feels peaceful can benefit our overall health. "What better way to do this than have plants and help keep them alive?" says Bolles. "Watching them thrive can make you feel good."
Bolles recommends flowering indoor plants like cactus, bromeliad, deep purple African violets and orchids.
They Can Help Us Get Better Sleep
Instead of dragging the humidifier into your room to breathe better when sleeping, why not try keeping a houseplant at your bedside? Some plants give off more oxygen than others, even throughout the night. The extra oxygen in the air may help you sleep more soundly.
Try putting plants like gerbera daisies, snake plants or spider plants in your bedroom.
The next time you start to feel a rumble in your tummy, reach for the leaves of your indoor peppermint or basil plant. Not only are these plants pretty to look at and give off a great scent, they will help settle your stomach when steeped with hot water into a tea or mixed with food.
They're Healthy for Humans, but Not Always for Pets
Make sure houseplants are out of reach of curious pets, who could potentially eat them and get sick. While plants may be healthy for us to look at (or even eat) they may not always be for Fido and Fluffy.