My sister makes interior design look easy — whenever I move or redecorate a room, I call her up and ask her opinion on pretty much every decision I'm making, from rug choices to curtain rods. She has this ability to make every single space she touches feel clean, fresh, and comfortable, but most of all, incredibly calming — from her childhood bedroom, to the apartment we shared after college, to her home now. The other day, while visiting her, I realized the constant between all of these places: plants.
Trust me when I say, I didn't inherit her green thumb, which is why I've always resisted bringing plants into my own home. But, after reading about all the potential health benefits of having plants in your home (and work space!), I made the decision to become a better plant parent. For example, one smaller study I came across showed that plants in the workspace (now, my living room) could boost productivity — my sister's ability to tackle a to-do list is proof enough for me. Another noted that interactions with plants may reduce psychological stress.
That day, I visited my local plant shop and picked up a ficus and a snake plant. I placed them on my bookshelf in my living room, and on top of giving the space a much-needed pop of color, the greenery helps create a much more relaxing environment. I look forward to my morning routine with my plants — while waiting for my coffee to brew, I fill up the watering can and head over to the corner to check in on them. It feels somewhat meditative. Since then, I've invested in a few different plants for my balcony — and am currently searching for a simple planter for the railing, too.
Jesse Radloff, a licensed mental health counselor with Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital, confirmed that plants could have positive effects on our well-being.
"Yes, there is some research regarding indoor plants, however the vast majority of research does focus on being in nature outdoors," Radloff said.
What instantly came to mind for me was the rejuvenating concept of forest bathing, or taking in the atmosphere of nature.
"Research has been done examining the effect on people while being in an indoor environment with and without plants," Radloff said. "Not only did the people in the rooms with plants self-report feeling less stressed and happier, their cortisol (a stress hormone) was also lower than those in non-plant rooms."
Radloff also noted that there's a mental health therapy modality called horticultural therapy, "which among other activities, involves caring for an indoor plant to improve mood, motivation, stress levels, and feelings of self-efficacy."
While many of my friends are proud plant parents with lush, green plants decorating every corner of their apartments, Pamela Bennett, assistant professor with The Ohio State University, state master gardener volunteer program director, and horticulture educator and director for the OSU Extension, said that houseplants weren't always so buzzy.
"Houseplants were last very popular when I started my career in the mid to late 70s," Bennett said. "The popularity dropped and hasn't been the same until recently. It's fantastic to see so many 'plant parents' and people rejuvenating an industry."
If you're like me — a newbie to plant parenting — Bennett suggested going with options that are easy to care for: "snake plant, pothos, philodendron, and dracaena are some of the easy starter plants."
If you're more into blooms than greens but have a history of allergies, be sure to chat with your allergist to ensure that your choice in plants won't irritate you or cause any reactions. Likewise, Bennett says that there could be skin allergy issues for those who are sensitive to plants — so it's best to do your personal due diligence before investing in your in-home jungle.