Plants have entered the home ever since affluent Romans, Egyptians and Greeks began bringing plants from the outdoors in to decorate their sprawling estates around 500 BC. Romans in particular were enthralled with flamboyant flowers and went to great lengths to source the biggest and brightest blooms possible, as a marker of their wealth. Fast forward to the Victorians, who embraced elaborate potted palms, while spider plants and ferns will always evoke scenes from the 70s. House plants come in and out of fashion like any trend – today succulents and sculptural stems take up light-filled corners of our homes, but aside from providing aesthetic pleasures, plants offer many health benefits that far outweigh interior decoration.
Most of us instinctively recognise that being close to natural greenery can make us feel subconsciously more at ease in our surroundings. We feel calmer, rooms and buildings hold a quiet peace but, at the same time, are more stimulating and gratifying. Over the years, much research has been carried out to confirm that placing plants in your home, office space and general environment can have powerful effects on our health and state of mind.
We all know – inhaling draws oxygen into the body, while exhaling releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants do the opposite: they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, therefore plants help to increase our overall oxygen levels. Furthermore, plants act as natural humidifiers, naturally releasing moisture into the air around us.
Have you ever considered why we bring flowers when visiting someone in hospital, or why flowers are so prominent within funerals? Subconsciously we all recognise that being in the presence of flowers and plants is healing – both for our physical selves and emotional selves.
A study, carried out at Kansas State University, found that “viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement in physiologic responses as evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms”.
A number of studies across both students and employed workers has revealed that studying or working in the presence of plants can have a positive effect on productivity, as well as reducing stress levels and fatigue. The research concluded that employees that work in plant-filled offices take fewer sick days and make fewer errors. Plan for less stress and more success by placing house plants, particularly those with broad leaves, on your desk at work or in your home office. Strategically place a plant or two in a child’s bedroom to enhance concentration and focus when studying or doing homework.
Did you know that the air in your home could be harbouring unhealthy invisible toxins that can be eliminated by plants? NASA carried out a study researching air quality in sealed environments, the ‘Clean Air Study’, which determined which specific plants help to clean the air we breathe by eliminating harmful toxins. “Both plant leaves and roots are utilised in removing trace levels of toxic vapours from inside tightly sealed buildings. Low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone”. The common spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), as well as being inexpensive and easy to grow, is one of the most effective air cleansers. It can aid in removing the home of formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene. These are common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted into the air by everyday items such as carpets, furniture and common household appliances.
According to this body of research, the top 10 plants for removing indoor pollutants are: peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), golden pothos (Scindapsus aures), English ivy (Hedera helix), chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium), gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii), mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii), azalea (Rhododendron simsii), red-edge dracaena (Dracaena marginata) and the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum).
In regards to plant positioning, NASA researchers recommend one potted plant per 100 square feet of indoor space.