Houseplants are one of the best ways to bring the outdoors inside and to reap the benefits they offer. Even if you’re not an outdoor gardener, having houseplants is a practical and engaging way to feel more connected to your space and to help with focus, concentration and memory. Really.
The U.S. Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health did a randomized crossover study involving the interaction with indoor plants and the physiological stress suppression in young adults, and concluded that the results suggested that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared to mental work. You can read it here.
DO PLANTS CLEAN YOUR INDOOR AIR AND REMOVE TOXINS?
I’ve read my share of blogs and posts about the fact that houseplants can clean indoor air, but sadly it’s just not true. Indoor plants, as mentioned above, have been shown to reduce physiological and psychological stress compared to mental work, but not to have any effect on the toxicity of the air in our homes.
According to Blogger Robert Palvis in his blot post dated December 27, 2014 titled A Garden Myth Is Born –Plants Don’t Purify Air, the idea that plants purify air is a myth that was born from a study done by NASA in 1989. Read the study here.
Indoor plants have a multitude of benefits, but cleaning your home’s air is not one of them unless you use a Plant Air Purifier which involves a charcoal filter which was designed by…get ready for it…a NASA scientist. My best guess would be that the device was also born from the 1989 study, as it appears to be directly related to the methods in the original study. I have to admit though, that in reading the NASA spinoff article titled “Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments” I am still a little skeptical about this product. I plan to buy one and test it, and when I do I will write a review about my thoughts.
Just because houseplants don’t purify the air in your home doesn’t mean they are not beneficial in other ways. Plants have been shown to reduce stress and create a feeling of well-being, to lower background noise, to be physiologically and psychologically soothing and to reduce air born dust levels and keep air temperatures down. They are also fun to tend because they are living things that need care and love. I look at my houseplants as a sort of Fung Shui, which I consider more mind-over-matter than actual science. If you think something works, then it works. Make sense?
LOW LIGHT OPTIONS
I grew up and lived in Southern California until late 2016 when I moved to Salem Oregon. Many of the houseplants I brought with me didn’t’ thrive or even survive due to the lower levels of light year round. I had to re-think a few things and make some changes. These low light options are not only beautiful, but they offer many of the same psychological benefits as other indoor plants, and they require less fussing over.
SNAKE PLANT: This plant is believed to protect the home from evil. (really). One thing I know for sure is that if you let your pets chew on them it will be evil. (They are toxic to animals). This plant can be neglected for weeks and still live on. They are very forgiving so you don’t need to worry about them much.
POTHOS: This is arguably the easiest plant to grow, and its vines can reach up to 40 feet long or more in the proper environment. This plant needs to be pruned in order to avoid it becoming leggy, but if you do it right it will live forever. I have several of these, most of which started from cuttings from a friend’s healthy plant. Hang these high because they are toxic to pets.
PEACE LILLY: This beauty blooms indoors in the winter, and loves low light. This plant helps to humidify indoor air so you can’t lose with this one except for the fact that it is toxic to humans and animals, so keep it where nobody can get to it except when it needs feeding.
PET SAFE HOUSE PLANTS
It’s hard to get the right mix of plants for your home, and also to know what should be out of reach of pets. If your pets are well trained then you have nothing to worry about, but if you have cats then you know there is no reasoning with them about snacking on your greenery. Before you decide to buy a houseplant, check to see if it is safe for pets to gnaw on when they’re in the mood to irritate you. What I do is hang all of my plants on walls or from the ceiling, and you can even use a pulley to raise and lower them when they need water or tending.
STAGHORN FERN: This hardy plant requires lot light and free draining soil. These guys can be neglected but still thrive, and they need very little water in the winter months. That is, if you live in a place where there is an actual winter. If you have a black thumb this plant would be good for you. These are safe for pets to be around and they are non toxic.
PONYTAIL PALM: This beautiful palm does best in bright light, but will also do well in most any lighting condition. Requires infrequent watering and will grow up to three feet tall. These would make a safe snack for your fur babies.
ZEBRA PLANT: This plant is a tropical and will do best in a home that is around 70 degrees. It will bloom in the summer and it likes well-draining soil.
SPIDER PLANT: Great for those new to indoor plants, because this beauty is easy to grow, suffers from few problems and is easy to care for. They like well-drained soil and thrive in low light or in spaces where there is high light. The ASPCA lists this plant as non-toxic, but its leaves contain chemical compounds related to opium.
Parlor Palms, pigmy date palms, bamboo palms, Areca palms and lady palms are all great indoor trees and they like temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. They require very little maintenance and bring a touch of the tropics to your space. When you buy them be sure to put them in a pot large enough for them to grow in to, as trees are a pain to repot.
The rubber tree (aka rubber plant) and Janet Craigs like dim light and they do a little work to help purify indoor air, but not in any significant or meaningful way. They are slow-growing, but the Janet Craigs, which I find more aesthetically appealing, will tolerate abuse and neglect better than the rubber tree. Either one of these trees is a great choice, but make sure you get the variety that is not poisonous to pets.