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Benefits of the Indoor Plant

Indoor plants are worth the time it takes to keep them healthy.

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s still winter, and in the Southern Hemisphere, it soon will be. So, worldwide, it’s timely to consider adding potted plants inside the buildings where we are spending, or in the near future will spend, so many of our waking hours.

Living plants can do a great job cleaning up the indoor air we breath — and they’re also great for our mood, and much more.

Most of the psychological benefits of potted plants have been tied to viewing green, leafy ones, such as ficus trees and ferns. Cactuses may bring to mind pleasant thoughts of home if you grew up in a desert, but to obtain the benefits noted below, they’re not your best choices.

Scientific research tells us that green leafy plants help boost our mood. If there are nearby plants, we also seem to get along better with others. For many of us, most of the time, those two benefits are reason enough to test out our green thumbs with a few houseplants. We also feel better physically when we’re around plants — a good reason to bring a potted plant to your great aunt in an assisted living facility or the hospital.

Being near indoor potted plants helps us to de-stress and restock our stores of mental processing power after we’ve depleted them doing knowledge work. We do thoughtful work better when we are around indoor plants. A few work area plants, at home or in the office, can help keep work time on track and pleasant.

The presence of green leafy plants has also been linked to enhanced creative thinking. No matter what we’re up to in life, thinking more creatively is generally useful — it’s usually handy while we work at our jobs, but also when we reason with toddlers or teenagers, and as we’re trying to re-combine our clothes into a new and more interesting wardrobe.

All this leads to two inevitable questions: How many plants should we pack into our buildings? Psychological research indicates that seeing one or two when we look off into any direction is probably sufficient. Adding too many can really be too much and make us feel stressed. Resist the temptation to add more and more plants to your indoor world. Curate your collection and share extras with friends.

And do the plants need to be real? Seeing artificial plants seems to have the same sorts of psychological benefits as seeing real ones — as long as the artificial plants really, truly look real.

Plants also add desirable scents to our world — something we'll discuss in a future article.

Indoor, potted plants are good for our mental well-being, as well as our lungs. Put your green thumb to work!

More from Sally Augustin Ph.D.
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