That greenery boosts your health in ways you probably don’t even realize.
Plants are kind of having a moment right now. Take one quick scroll through Instagram and you’ll see beautiful interiors covered in leafy vines, hanging plants, spunky succulents, and trees that liven up every corner of a room.
And there’s a reason why everyone is so obsessed with greenery: Indoor plants improve your mental and physical well-being in ways you probably didn’t even realize. Ever wonder why you feel like you can breathe easier, focus better, and simply be happier in a room full of nature? Well, turns out these perks have existed long before our seemingly newfound appreciation for lush spaces. Here, horticulture experts explain how houseplants improve our everyday lives, from boosting our environment to helping us heal faster.
When you breathe, your body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.At night, photosynthesis ceases, and plants typically respire like humans, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. A few plants –orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads –do just the opposite, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Place these plants in bedrooms to refresh air during the night.
The air purification ability of plants depends on factors such as size of the plant, size of the indoor space, and amount of toxins in the air, but 6 to 8 medium to large plants throughout a large room should be enough to make a noticeable difference in the air quality. To help plants perform their best, keep leaves clean and free of dust, and periodically take them outdoors to receive natural sunlight so that they can ‘recharge.'
They make any room more comfortable.
Not only do indoor plants add color and liveliness to your space, but they also change physical aspects of the environment in pleasant ways. “Plants can be used to increase the relative humidity indoors, reduce noise, screen unattractive areas, and moderate room temperature by shading a bright, sunny window,” says Altman. Before you fill a space with furniture and accessories, take some time to think about how you want to feel in that room and how plants might help you achieve that vibe.
As part of the photosynthetic and respiratory processes, plants release moisture vapor, which increases humidity of the air around them. Plants release roughly 97% of the water they take in. Place several plants together, and you can increase the humidity of a room, which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.
Plants remove toxins from air –up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research. VOCs include substances like formaldehyde (present in rugs, vinyl, cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint). Benzene is commonly found in high concentrations in study settings, where books and printed papers abound.
Modern climate-controlled, air-tight buildings trap VOCs inside. The NASA research discovered that plants purify that trapped air by pulling contaminants into soil, where root zone microorganisms convert VOCs into food for the plant.
Adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Compared to patients in rooms without plants, patients in rooms with plants request less pain medication, have lower heart rates and blood pressure, experience less fatigue and anxiety, and are released from the hospital sooner.
The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study that discovered that adding plants to office settings decreases fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms. In another study by the AgriculturalUniversity of Norway, sickness rates fell by more than 60 percent in offices with plants.
A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70% greater attentiveness when they're taughtin rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants.
How Many Plants?
The recommendations vary based on your goals.
To improve health and reduce fatigue and stress, place one large plant (8-inch diameter pot or larger) every 129 square feet. In office or classroom settings, position plants so each person has greenery in view.
To purify air, use 15-18 plants in 6-8-inch diameter pots for an 1,800-square-foot house. That's roughly one largerplant every 100 square feet. Achieve similar results with two smaller plants (4-5-inch pots).
Remember that for the best success with any houseplant, you need to match the right plant to the right growing conditions.