As a child of the 70s and 80s, I had my fair share of maidenhair ferns trailing down from handmade macramé pot holders in my home. Despite this, I love to be surrounded by greenery. My house boasts many indoor plants (in varying stages of good health).
At face-value, the decision to have lots of plants has been motivated by aesthetics, but as I’ve come to been appreciate more and more the multitude of benefits that having indoor plants brings, I wonder if this desire to be surrounded by plants has been motivated by an intuitive awareness of just how good living with plants is for us.
When you look closely at the benefits of indoor plants, it is hard to not be tempted to run straight out to Bunnings to turn your living spaces into indoor jungles.
For a start, just being in close proximity to living plants has been shown to improve our sense of wellbeing and ability to cope with stress. Research has shown that having plants in our environment is linked to a more moderate and mindful response to stressful stimuli and improves concentration, cognitive skill, mood and productivity (clearly a beneficial addition to my home office).
On a more physical level, they purify the air, absorbing and breakdown chemicals through their leaves and roots (and via microorganisms in their soil) and giving us lovely clean oxygen in return. In studies conducted by NASA, formaldehyde (which along with other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is off-gassed from furniture, flooring and textiles and the compounds believed responsible for Sick Building Syndrome) can be significantly reduced (by around 90%) in just 24 hours due to the presence of aloe (is there anything that plant can’t do?).
While plants vary in their ability to filter the air, there are many that are great options for improving air quality, in particular for dealing with formaldehyde. The following are some of the best:
- Dracaena species
- Bamboo palm
- Ficus species
- Peace lily
- Gerbera daisies
- Aloe vera
- Spider plant
- Phaleonopsis orchids
And you don’t need to cover every single surface with foliage – it has been shown that just 5 indoor plants in the home significantly improves air quality, increases relative humidity and delivers the mental health benefits mentioned above.
If you are short on horizontal surfaces to house your plants, consider a green wall, which along with all the other good things that plants do, further benefits a space by providing a source of insulation – cooling the air in summer and keeping cold air out in winter – and being a noise barrier.
When you consider that, for most of us, we can spend on average up to 90% of our time (sleeping and waking) indoors, it makes sense that in the one environment we can exert some control over, we make the air quality optimal – not to mention uplifting and, of course, beautiful. I highly recommend watching sites like Freecycle, your local Pay It Forward group, and Gumtree for indoor plant giveaways.
You can read more about the ideal plants for different parts of your home in At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond & Kara O’Reilly.
See you next week! - Elise
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