Aristotle, one of history’s most famous philosophers, said, “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”
It turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) that Aristotle was right. Over the last few decades, a growing body of research has found that we would all do well to spend more time in the great outdoors.
Recent studies reveal that a simple walk in the woods relieves stress and wards off depression[*]. Gardening helps people recover faster from brain injuries[*], and a single weekend spent camping boosts your immune system for more than a month[*]. In short, nature is great for your health.
But what do you do if you don’t have access to nature?
A lot of us live in small city apartments, lack a yard in which to garden, or are too busy to get away on a camping trip.
If you want more greenery in your life (and the health benefits that come with it), there’s a simple and elegant solution: bring nature indoors with you.
The Joys and Benefits of Keeping Houseplants
It turns out you can get a lot of the health benefits of nature without leaving your home.
- A 2015 study found that caring for houseplants reduced stress, anxiety, and fight-or-flight response in healthy adults[*].
- High school students who looked at houseplants for three minutes showed an increase in heart rate variability -- an indicator of relaxation[*].
- Patients rated hospital rooms with plants as more relaxing, and many hospitals in Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark use houseplants to improve their patients’ recovery[*].
- Children surrounded by real plants concentrated better in school, reported better mood, and showed a decrease in theta brain waves, which are a sign of inattention and sleepiness[*]. Interestingly, realistic fake plants did not give students the same benefits.
Planting Healthier Indoor Air
Houseplants have another benefit too.
In the late 1980s, NASA researchers were looking for ways to keep air fresh for their astronauts during space travel. They realized that in the perfectly sealed environment of a spacecraft, pollutants released by the spacecraft materials would quickly build up.
As a result, NASA scientists began looking into using indoor plants to create cleaner air[*].
While they ultimately didn’t send houseplants into space, the NASA researchers discovered that plants were very effective at improving air quality. Their work spurred a new field of research into houseplants as natural air filters.
- Houseplants removed 35-85% of several common carcinogens in indoor air, including chemicals that are common in furniture, textiles, and construction materials[*].
- Households with plants showed a decrease in indoor air pollutants that trigger asthma[*]. The longer participants had their plants, the more their home’s air quality improved.
- Different houseplants filter different compounds, so it’s good to have a variety of plants in each room[*].
Benefits aside, growing houseplants is a joyful hobby. Plants bring life into your home and add depth and beauty to any room. Your plants will grow with you, and if you take good care of them, they’ll live forever -- you can pass them on to your children.
3 Great Houseplants for Beginners
Here are three species of houseplant that are perfect for beginners:
- ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). This plant has dark, lustrous leaves and is resistant to all pests. It’s also nearly impossible to kill. You only have to water your ZZ plant about once a month (although it will grow faster if you water it once a week), and it will thrive in any light conditions.
- Rubber plant (Ficus elastica). The rubber plant gets its name from compounds in its sap, which can be used to make latex. It has broad, handsome leaves that come in a variety of colors. Dark rubber plants are almost black, while ruby rubber plants have pink leaves that turn red as they mature. You can also find a tricolor varietal whose leaves look like watercolor paintings. Water rubber plants once every two weeks. They’ll thrive in any light condition.
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Pothos grows faster than almost any other common houseplant. It’s happy in any light condition and only needs watering once every two weeks or so. Pothos plants offer a lot of lush, green foliage with minimal care.
Houseplants are a simple way to bring nature into your home. You can find indoor plants at your nearest home improvement store or plant nursery. They’re inexpensive, easy to maintain, and will improve your mood, stress, air quality, and more.