There’s no denying it – a lush, green plant can brighten up any space. With many of us now spending the majority of our days indoors, it’s amazing how much a touch of the outdoors can improve your mood. Good news! A number of studies have found links between the presence of indoor plants and improved well-being in the home or office. While the exact mechanisms behind these improvements aren’t fully understood, there certainly isn’t much downside to dressing up your cubicle with a plant (or two!)
Numerous species of plants thrive in indoor environments, and many do perfectly well under low lighting or artificial light conditions. Plants in the home and the workplace not only relieve stress, but actively filter pollutants out of the air. In fact, the air-purifying capacity of certain varieties of indoor plants has even been studied by NASA, whose findings indicate that a number of species can filter out not only carbon dioxide, but other common pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde. In modern homes and offices with airtight insulation, such airborne pollutants often build up, causing everything from brain fog and fatigue to chronic illness.
According to NASA, one potted plant for every 100 square feet of indoor space is enough to keep pollutants and airborne toxins to a minimum, keeping you happy and healthy at work or at home. The trick is to select a plant with good purifying abilities that’s also not too much of a hassle to care for. Here are seven of the best plants to help you boost your mood and your health.
Pothos is a green vine with big, glossy leaves. The drape-y configuration of this plant makes it a great friend to have on a desk or a high shelf where it can spread its leaves. The most common are neon or golden.
Pothos is low maintenance and does well in shade or low lighting conditions – if you work in a dim office or live in a basement suite, Pothos might be the plant for you. You can also trim overgrown vines and replant them, then gift the new baby Pothos to your coworkers and friends. Nothing improves the workplace mood like a beautiful gift!
The rubber plant is well-known as an extremely efficient air purifier. It’s also a striking aesthetic addition to an office space or home, with the ability to grow upwards of 50 feet tall in the wild (for best results, keep the plant trimmed so it doesn’t bust through your ceiling.)
These plants do best in partial sunlight, so be sure to place it near (but not directly in front of) a window. In the warmer months, the plant should be kept moist, while in its dormant season, the winter and early spring, it may only require water once or twice a month – ideal for those of us who get busier and neglect chores when the holidays come around.
With a name like “peace lily” this plant’s got to be good for the psyche. This lily is considered one of the most effective at removing toxins like formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene, all of which can come from products like household cleaners, air fresheners, aerosol sprays and disinfectants. Plus, the peace lily has a beautiful, delicate look with lush green leaves and large white flowers.
The white “flowers” you see on peace lilies are not actually flowers at all, but specialized leaves that grow into white, waxy umbrellas to cover the actual flowers, which are delicate, bunched stems. This plant does well in low to medium light – the more light that the peace lily is exposed to, the more white “flowers” it will grow. In dimmer conditions, the peace lily will grow fewer flowers, and look like a lush green foliage plant.
The peace lily should be watered a maximum of once a week. Check the soil is for dampness before dumping water on it – if it’s already damp, don’t bother watering. The peace lily does okay with under-watering, but over-watering will kill it quickly. The big, flat leaves of the lily tend to collect dust, so you may want to wipe them with a damp cloth once a year or so.
The dracaena plant features a sturdy central stalk and long, tapered leaves that fall in a cascade pattern. The plant has a tropical look to it and is surprisingly low maintenance. It’s a common house plant – you might have one in your home already – and great for the office as well. There are a few different varieties of Draceana, each of which are good at filtering different pollutants out of the air.
The most common varieties of Draceana do well in direct or brightly filtered sunlight – placing them right in front of a window with sheer curtains or venetian blinds is a good idea. The dracaena’s soil should be kept moist, though not soggy. If the leaves begin to turn yellow, hold off on watering for a couple days – like the peace lily, the Draceana is most sensitive to overwatering.
These plants do well at room temperature or warmer. As long as your space doesn’t get too chilly, the dracaena is happy.
The snake plant is a cool-looking plant that has long, vertical leaves that taper to a point. Usually the leaves are dark green with a whitish, or light green border along the edges. The snake plant is very good at filtering toxins, particularly benzene and formaldehyde.
The snake plant thrives in partial shade and needs watering roughly once a week. As with the peace lily, always check the soil before you water, and only water if the soil is dry – under-watering is better than over-watering! The snake plant should also be fed with a small amount of tasty plant food about once per week.
English Ivy is great for offices because it can grow in nearly any light condition. If your cubicle is shaded, or gets no light, or you ever have to swap desk spaces with the new guy, this plant will still be at your side. Ivy is good at removing mold, which can have very harmful effects when you’re inhaling it over time.
Ivy looks great in a variety of configurations – whether you plant it in a hanging basket and let it cascade down, or in a standing pot with a small trellis for it to climb up, it will soon spread itself out over your area, giving the whole space a natural feel. If the ivy gets too out of hand, this hardy plant is simple to trim. Fertilize the Ivy regularly and be careful not to overwater – keep the soil slightly on the dry side.
Cacti are the ideal plant for those of us not in possession of a green thumb. Succulents and cacti come in many varieties and are generally very easy to care for – acclimated to the desert, they do well in warm, sunny locations and can make do with very little water.
While cacti are in a category of their own and don’t do quite as much for air purification, they shouldn’t be ignored. Cacti make great plants for beginners, and add beauty and interest to any space. It’s very difficult to kill a cactus by accident.
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Studies conducted on the presence versus absence of plants in indoor spaces consistently indicate that plants can help improve your well-being, make your perception of the space more positive, and lower blood pressure and anxiety.
Plants in the office can also increase productivity, attentiveness, and even general job satisfaction. While these studies are promising, scientists can’t yet be certain what it is about plants that makes us so much happier in an indoor space. Some speculation posits that the reasons could be as simple as beautification. Pure air is also quite important for making us feel alert and energized. The act of taking care of something lends us satisfaction – if you ever played with a Tamagotchi as a child, a plant is kind of like a grown-up version of that.
Plants provide a pleasant distraction from the drudgery of work or television, and a sense of control over our space. All these are factors that, when combined, easily raise a person’s mood, quality of life and satisfaction with their home or workplace. While plants aren’t the only sources of these pursuits, they certainly do provide them in good measure – with a dose of natural beauty to boot.