Plants don’t just look pretty - they’re good for your health and wellbeing, too.
We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, but plants do the opposite. They absorb CO2 and emit oxygen in a process called photosynthesis, which freshens up the air around us. The Amazon rainforest is known as the lungs of the earth because it produces 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen!
From purifying the air to improving our mental and physical health, plants really are our best friends.
Let’s run through all the ways they make life better.
Plants clean the air for a healthy home
We all know how damaging planes, traffic and power stations are for the environment, but did you know that the air inside your home can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air outside?
Indoor air pollution contributes to at least 10,000 deaths in the UK every year - a scary figure when you consider that the average person spends 90 per cent of their time indoors!
Wood-burning stoves, cleaning products, paints and new carpets all release gases that are harmful to breathe in and can lead to long-term respiratory problems. Poor ventilation in our well-insulated modern homes exacerbates this issue.
Houseplants have been widely touted as saviours when it comes to reducing indoor air pollution. It’s true that they have air-purifying benefits but they soak up air pollutants slowly, so you will need a lot of plants to make an impact - at least one per 100 square feet.
The best air-purifying plants
NASA’s 1989 Clean Air Study found that some indoor plants are better at cleaning the air than others, including the tropical areca palm, the lush ficus benjamina and the sculptural marginata. Try snake plants, golden pothos, corn plants and peace lilies too.
If you’re stuck for time, we’ve put together a handy air-purifying bundle to make your life easier.
Plants help reduce stress
It’s official: being around nature improves your mental health. A 2010 scientific study found that walking in a forest lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels.
‘But not everybody lives in the countryside!’, we hear you cry! Houseplants let you bring the outside in, even if you're a city dweller with no outdoor space.
Looking after living things gives us a sense of purpose. Like a pet, if you don’t care for your plant, it’ll die. It’s nice to know you’re needed! Studies have shown that nurturing plants can foster a rewarding sense of pride and joy, improving our overall wellbeing.
Tending to plants is an excellent mindfulness activity that helps ground you in the present moment and calm you down after a stressful day. Horticultural therapy can play an important part in someone’s recovery from mental illnesses such as PTSD and depression.
Carefully consider where to position your plants to create the most relaxing environment possible.
Plants help heal physical health problems
Plants have been found to have physical health benefits too, reducing fatigue and headaches in those who live around them.
The gel inside an aloe vera leaf is naturally anti-bacterial, so keep one in your kitchen in case of a cut or burn. Spider plants and Boston ferns help moisten the air, making them a friend to anyone struggling with dry skin or a scratchy throat. If you’re struggling with damp, peace lilies are great at removing mould from the air.
Consider growing herbs to aid with physical health complaints, too. Basil helps calm your digestive system and mint reduces bloating after a big meal.
Most plants need sunlight to release oxygen but some, such as gerbera daisies, succulents and snake plants don’t, making them ideal bedside table plants to aid sleep if you tend to toss and turn at night.
If a friend or loved one is in hospital, take them a plant, as they have even been shown to have a positive effect on physical pain. Nature really is a healer.
Plants boost productivity when working from home
Plants have been found to increase productivity, attention span and the speed of our reactions.
Researchers at the Unviersity of Exeter found that employees became calmer, happier and 15 per cent more productive after plants were added to their office!
Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that students were able to focus on a demanding task for longer in a stimulating space decked out with greenery.
Put simply, we like being around nice things - plants and brightly-coloured flowers boost our happiness and help us take on the day with more oomph.