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The Helpful Nature of Houseplants

The Helpful Nature of Houseplants, Anna/AdobeStock.com

Nestled among books on a shelf, soaking up sunlight by a kitchen window or filling the bare corner of a living room, nothing adds beauty and interest to a home quite like a living plant. Bringing nature indoors also has numerous human health advantages.

Benefits of Houseplants
They oxygenate the air. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, while plants do the opposite during photosynthesis. This makes them ideal air fresheners. At sundown, when photosynthesis stops, most plants go back to absorbing oxygen and releasing CO2, except for orchids, succulents and bromeliads, making them wonderful bedside companions.

They eliminate toxins. Studies have shown that plants filter indoor air, removing volatile organic compounds like benzene, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene, ammonia and formaldehyde, which are commonly found in furniture adhesives, paints, carpets, chemical cleaners and craft supplies.

They humidify the indoor environment. Through a process called transpiration, moisture travels from plant roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released into the air. In arid climates and during winter, this creates a favorable indoor atmosphere that decreases dry skin, colds, sore throats, dry coughs and even the transmission of the flu virus.

They enhance our mood. Research shows indoor plants boost our mental health. One study found that viewing plants while recovering from surgery led to physiological improvements by lowering blood pressure and reducing the perception of pain, anxiety and fatigue. Also, the act of taking care of plants has been shown to be emotionally helpful.

They help with productivity. Placing a philodendron by the computer might be a good idea, as a number of studies have shown that being close to nature improves concentration, memory and productivity.

Pet-Friendly Varietals
Some plants can be toxic to dogs and cats, but here are a few that are perfectly safe for our furry best friends: rattlesnake plant, spider plant, parlor palm, ponytail palm, African violet, bird’s nest fern, Venus flytrap, Boston fern, polka dot plant, orchid, staghorn fern, bromeliad, date palm and herbs.

Maintenance Tips
Watering: Over- or under-watering are the most common houseplant killers, but there are easy fixes. One is a relatively inexpensive moisture meter that helps monitor hydration levels in a planter. Or simply stick a finger into the soil and add water only when it is dry one inch below the surface.

Low-light choices: Many plants thrive indoors with partial, indirect sunlight, and some are low-light tolerant, including lucky bamboo, spider plant, pothos, snake plant, staghorn fern, English ivy, peace lily, maidenhair fern, philodendron, anthurium, corn plant and dragon tree.

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