Getting Your Greens–Benefits of house plants & which to choose
A room festooned with lush, green houseplants is an inviting one. Whether they’re a bright green pothos sitting on a desk or a string-of-pearls suspended from a hanging planter, plants make any space feel a little more cheerful and a lot more alive. But those plants don’t just look good. Research has indicated that keeping houseplants around can have some major health benefits. If you’re interested in starting your own indoor garden—or expanding upon your existing plant collection—there are a few things to keep in mind.
Some of the pluses of houseplants may come as a surprise if you’re used to thinking of them as exclusively decorative. Bedecking your bedroom with plants that release oxygen at night may help you sleep better. Plants that fit the bill for improved sleep include snake plants, succulents, and bromeliads. Houseplants can also relieve allergies; rooms with plants in them have been found to have less dust and mold in the air than rooms without—just avoid plants with pollen or spores. Chinese evergreens and peace lilies should do the trick. And it’s not just dust and mold. Plants can work as natural filters to clean the air of pollutants released by common indoor objects like photocopiers, cleaning products, and printer toner and ink. For this purpose, dragon trees, English ivy, and asparagus ferns are strong contenders.
The benefits of houseplants aren’t limited to physical health—they can also have positive effects on your overall well-being. For one thing, plants can help improve focus. In one study, students in classrooms with potted plants did better on tests than students in plant-free classrooms. Adding plants to a room can also improve your mood. Colorful plants like croton, red aglaonema, and lipstick plants will give you the biggest boost. Another benefit of plants is stress relief. Flowering plants are great for this, making African violets, anthurium, and begonias a good choice.
With all these perks, it’s hard to imagine houseplants could have any drawbacks, but some varieties definitely do. Many plants that are common sights on windowsills are poisonous to children and pets. Peace lilies are incredibly toxic, for example, as are snake plants and ZZ plants. Before bringing a new plant into your home, check to make sure it will be safe for your kids and pets.
Once you’ve picked out your plant, read up on how to care for it. While some, like aloe and spider plants, are low-maintenance, others need a bit more TLC, so know what you’re getting into before you commit.
Next, select a good home for your new flora. Whatever pot you choose, make sure it has drainage holes so water won’t get trapped at the bottom, potentially causing root rot. Terracotta is a great material for pots, since it breathes well; however, it’s fragile. Glazed clay is also a great option, and plants potted in it need to be watered less often, since it isn’t porous. And of course, resin pots are always a solid choice: they’re lightweight and tough to break.
Light is crucial to growing healthy plants. Without sufficient full-spectrum light, a plant will cannibalize itself. If there’s a poorly lit room you’d love to add a splash of green to, a sun lamp that simulates full-spectrum light might be just what you need to ensure your new plant stays happy. If you’d like to utilize an existing lamp, full-spectrum screw-in lightbulbs are also available. But not all plants need a lot of light. Arrowhead vines, cast-iron plants, and philodendron thrive in the shade.
Humidity is another consideration. Air conditioning in the summer and central heating in the fall and winter dry out the air and can wreak havoc on your plants. A small humidifier can counterbalance arid conditions, as can lightly misting plants with lukewarm water each morning. If you yearn for a more laissez-faire approach, succulents and cacti are a good bet because they thrive in dry environments.
Mold presents a big threat to houseplants. Dark, damp environments—like a pot full of wet soil shaded by leaves—are where mold likes to grow. If it gets out of control, a mold problem can kill your plant. To prevent this situation, avoid overwatering, remove dead leaves and other debris from soil, wipe dust off leaves regularly, and use sterile soil—like commercial potting soil—when potting.
The rewards of houseplants are more than worth the work that goes into them. Besides, you’ll feel great when you see your well-tended plant flourish.
A Plant for Every Pot
Marimo moss. Submerse your marimo moss in a glass container full of water, and let it sit in low to medium indirect light. Change the water once every two weeks.
Aloe. Plant aloe in cactus potting mix, and place it in bright sunlight. Let the soil dry out between watering, and be extra careful to choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes. Bonus: if you get a burn, just break off a piece and spread gel on affected area.
Calathea. Bright but indirect light; give them distilled water or rainwater. Fertilize monthly in the spring, summer, and fall. Keep the air around these plants humid by setting the plant on a tray of wet pebbles or placing a humidifier nearby.
Gardenia. Make sure your gardenias get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight through a window each day, and keep them at day temperatures of 65-70 F and night temperatures of 60-65 F. Their soil should always be damp, but never soggy. Gardenias like to be fertilized every 2-4 weeks with organic matter like peat moss or manure.