Indoor gardening is still enjoying a surge in popularity, fed by Instagram’s greenery-inspired interior designs, plant-based podcasts, and online plant subscription services like Lazy Flora and Grounded.
While social media trends are notorious for rapid flourish-and-fade lifecycles, indoor gardening may endure longer than most because of the many ways houseplants improve health and well-being.
Here’s what research tells us about the benefits of living and working with indoor plants.
Many people enjoy living and working in cultivated greenspaces, and most like having beautiful plants around. But is there more to it? Here are seven benefits science says indoor plants may provide.
1. Indoor plants may help reduce stress levels
In the study, participants were given two different tasks: repotting a houseplant or completing a short computer-based task. After each task, researchers measured the biological factors associated with stress, including heart rate and blood pressure.
They found that the indoor gardening task lowered the stress response in participants. The computer task, on the other hand, caused a spike in heart rate and blood pressure, even though the study participants were young men well-accustomed to computerized work.
Researchers concluded that working with plants could reduce both physiological and psychological stress.
2. Real plants may sharpen your attention
Sorry, plastic plants won’t help you pass your exams. In a small study involving 23 participants, researchers put students in a classroom with either a fake plant, a real one, a photograph of a plant, or no plant at all.
Brain scans of the participants showed that the students who studied with real, live plants in the classroom were more attentive and better able to concentrate than students in the other groups.
3. Working with plants can be therapeutic
For people experiencing the symptoms of mental illness, indoor gardening can be helpful.
Although horticultural therapy has been around for centuries, it has found a modern expression: Medical clinics in Manchester, England are now “prescribing” potted plants to patients with depression or anxiety symptoms.
4. Plants may help you recover from illness faster
Being able to look at plants and flowers may speed your recovery from an illness, injury, or surgery.
A 2002 review of the research revealed that people recuperating from several kinds of surgery needed less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays than people who weren’t looking at greenery during their recovery periods.
It’s important to note that most research focuses on plants and natural scenery in hospital settings rather than at home.
5. Plants may boost your productivity
A bromeliad may turn out to be the best cubicle-mate you’ve ever had.
Multiple studies have found that plants in the workspace increase both productivity and creativity. One frequently cited study from 1996 found that students in a campus computer lab worked 12 percent faster and were less stressed when plants were placed nearby.
And a 2007 study showed that people with more plants in their workspace took fewer sick days and were more productive on the job.
6. Plants may improve your whole outlook on work
A view of the city park might improve anyone’s job satisfaction — but it might surprise you to learn that a potted plant could have a similar effect.
Researchers said the natural elements helped to buffer the effects of job stress and anxiety.
7. Plants may improve the quality of indoor air
Scientific support for phytoremediation — that’s the word for plants scrubbing contaminants from the air — usually begins with a NASA study conducted in the 1980s.
Researchers then were looking for ways to improve the air quality in a sealed spacecraft, and they concluded that the roots and soil of houseplants reduced airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) significantly.
Recent findings suggest that you’d have to shelter a large number of plants to equal the air purifying efficiency of modern biofilters and other technologies.
If you do decide to purchase houseplants to freshen the air naturally, these are several of the species
- areca, lady, dwarf date, and bamboo palms
- Boston fern
- rubber tree
- spider plant
- Ficus tree
It’s nearly impossible to find a complete list of toxic plants because some plants have parts that are poisonous and other parts that are perfectly safe.
Before you bring a new plant home where kids or pets could get hold of it, check a reliable source to be sure it’s safe. Your state extension service and poison control office may publish a list of toxic plants in your region.
Plants that may be dangerous for children or pets
Here’s a brief sampling of common plants that pose a danger to children and animals:
- aloe vera
- English ivy
- lilies of many varieties
- monstera deliciosa
- sago palm
- umbrella plant
This isn’t a comprehensive list. If you have children or pets, double check before bringing a new plant variety into your home.
Having plants in your home or office (or your home office) confers a lot of benefits, but there are some risks involved, too. Keep these in mind as you decide if you want an indoor garden.
Be alert for pest infestations
Houseplants can operate like a Trojan horse for insects, molds, and other pests.
If you’re repotting a plant, it’s not a good idea to use soil from your garden to do so.
As you’re selecting plants, pay attention to the watering needs of each species, because overwatering can create ideal conditions for mold growth and fungus gnats.
Be sure to check leaves for pest signs (eggs, webbing, holes) so you can nip an infestation in the bud.
Can houseplants trigger allergies or asthma?
There’s some debate on this question. If your allergies or asthma symptoms are worsened by pollen, you might be relieved to learn that most common houseplants don’t produce much pollen.
Although some cut flowers, such as daffodils, can produce pollen, asthma
If your symptoms are triggered by dampness, mold, or fungi, you may need to pay careful attention to the soil moisture in your plant pots.
If you notice asthma symptoms after bringing plants into your home, it’s a good idea to remove them until you can talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms.
Having plants in your home or office can be a source of pleasure. Indoor gardening relieves stress, boosts creativity, productivity, and focus, and promotes recovery. There’s some evidence that houseplants may positively influence the air quality in your home as well.
It’s important to know which plants are toxic if you have children or pets in the home. If you have asthma or allergies, be alert to species that aggravate your symptoms.
Sharing your living or working space with living, “breathing” plant life can make your environment a happier, healthier place to be.