The Many Benefits of Indoor Plants


small cactus in a small ceramic planter that looks like a duck

You love to dote on and tend to your houseplants, but you wonder if there are any benefits to having them besides your home looking nice. They really do cheer you up, and sometimes you feel you can breathe a bit better when your houseplants are near. Are those some benefits of indoor plants?

What are the benefits of indoor plants? Indoor plants have a myriad of benefits, including:

  • Better physical health
  • Improved mental health
  • More productivity
  • Cleaner air
  • Easier breathing
  • Better concentration and memory
  • Healing
  • Fewer illnesses
  • Serving a role in therapy
  • Less stress
  • Healthier self-esteem
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less exhaustion
  • Better-quality sleep
  • Fewer allergies
  • Less sore throats and headaches
  • Potential longer life

In this article, we will gladly provide more information on each of these benefits. We’ll even share stats and studies that prove that houseplants are more than just something pretty for your home or apartment. They can truly improve your life in a variety of ways.

Unexpected Benefits of Indoor Plants

Improving Physical Health

Do you suffer a lot of bodily pain in your day-to-day life? You know how much of a hindrance this can be. Sometimes you feel like you’re left on the sidelines of life, watching everybody else have a great time while you have to miss out on events and activities.

While you may undergo physical therapy or even surgery to lessen your pain, one option you may not have thought of involves your houseplants.

A 2009 report in the Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine published the results of a study on how houseplants can influence pain. In the study, 90 people who had just had a hemorrhoidectomy surgery were recovering. About half of them recovered in a room with plants while the others did not. The patients recovering with plants in their room had a ton of health benefits, including:

  • A good perception of their care, as they “conveyed positive impressions of hospital employees caring for patients”
  • Less stress
  • Less fatigue
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower pain levels

Whether you have nagging aches and pains or more chronic pain, try adding a few houseplants to your apartment or home. You may just feel better for it.

And Mental Health, Too

You don’t need to have a mental illness to prioritize your mental health. It’s just as important as your physical health and should be treated as such. Well, it turns out you can kill two birds with one stone, caring for both your physical and your mental health with some houseplants.

Besides the abovementioned benefits, the Right as Rain blog by UW Medicine wrote that being out in nature in general can “increase overall happiness.” Furthermore, data also suggests that adhering to the responsibility of caring for a plant and keeping it alive can even reduce depression symptoms in some people.

Can Increase Productivity (by a Surprising Rate!)

Do you want 15 percent more productivity? That may seem like a rhetorical question, because who wouldn’t? You could get so much more done at work and at home. It’d be like a dream!

That dream can become reality with some houseplants in your home or office (why not both?). This article from the University of Exeter shared the findings from a Cardiff University study. The researchers worked with offices employees. Some workplaces were given plants and others not. The offices without plants were referred to as lean while those with plants were called green.

Before the plants were given to the now-green offices, they had been lean previously. With some time surrounded by the greenery, employees had a perception of better air quality and more satisfaction at their jobs. While these were all self-reported results, the data is there. Office productivity can increase by as much as 15 percent with some indoor plants.

You could even see similar effects at home, we’re sure. That’ll inspire you to finally tackle some items on that never-ending to-do list of yours.

Purifying the Air

It’s easy enough to see smog and smoke and make a concerted effort to get away from it for cleaner air. Just how clean do you think the air in your home or office really is, though? The answer might surprise you. You might not be able to see every last particle in the air, but that doesn’t mean they’re not present.

The organization that conducted a wealth of research on the effects of indoor plants on air quality is NASA. Yes, that’s the NASA. Here’s what they had to say. “Both plant leaves and roots are utilized in removing trace levels of toxic vapors 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.”

Now, houseplants will never replace a carbon monoxide alarm, nor should they, but they’re still pretty effective at air purification. In fact, According to science company Bioadvanced, houseplants can clear the air of volatile organic compounds or VOCs at a rate of 87 percent. They do this on a 24-hour basis, keeping up healthier.

The best plants for this purpose are the bamboo palm, chrysanthemums, peace lilies, snake plants, aloe vera, and spider plants.

Allowing for Easier Breathing

As we’ve written about on this blog, plants will photosynthesize. They take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. We humans operate in reverse. When we breathe in, we inhale oxygen. Then, when breathing out, we exhale carbon dioxide.

There’s a reason plants photosynthesize like this. They make more oxygen for us to breathe in. The only time this stops is at night, as that’s when certain plants act more human-like. After sunset, these plants will take in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Epiphytic bromeliads, succulents, and orchids don’t do things this way. They keep right on keepin’ on, making oxygen for us to breathe around the clock.

While we’ll talk about it more later, having enough oxygen can influence our sleep. It also makes it easier for us to breathe.

Boosting Concentration and Memory

When you need to knuckle down and get something done at work, do you ever find you have a hard time concentrating? It’s okay if it happens once in a while, as we all get caught up in our daydreams sometimes. What if you’re distracted all the time by any little thing?

Perhaps your issue is with memory. If you don’t leave notes and reminders in your phone, you’d forget to do almost everything. You’re lucky your head is attached to your shoulders or you’d forget that, too. Can houseplants help you?

Yup! In both cases, indoor plants can be of assistance. The University of Exeter study we linked you to before said that the employees at green offices (or those with indoor plants) said they felt like they concentrated better. If there’s one place to sharpen up your concentration, it’d be at work, so maybe bring a houseplant to your office soon.

A Texas A&M AgriLife Extension post says the same about concentration. The article also mentions that we can bring that sharpened concentration with us at home, too. If you do any kind of hobbies or creative endeavors in your personal time and you want to get in the zone, so to speak, a houseplant could put you in that frame of mind.

What about memory? The same Texas A&M post mentions how houseplants allow us to do tasks with higher accuracy and of better quality, mostly due to our higher levels of concentration and retained memory.

Triggering Healing

Do you feel like your injuries always take forever to heal? While we’ll never be able to regenerate like some animals can, we do have the ability to speed up our healing through houseplants.

Remember how we said earlier that having some indoor plants around after recovering from a surgery can reduce pain? Well, it turns out the benefits go further than that. A Science Daily article from 2008 cites a study that appeared in the American Society for Horticultural Science that same year.

The study, led by Kansas State University’s Department of Horticulture, Recreation and Forestry department focused on post-surgery patients as well. The researchers discovered that the more stress that surrounded a patient’s perception of their surgery, the more pain they were often in afterwards. More so, they ended up increasing the amount of time it took to heal and recover.

While sure, analgesics, anesthetics, and other medications can have an effect on pain, these can also produce some unpleasant side effects such as vomiting.

In the same group of patients from the Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine study we talked about earlier, the ones with plants in their room reported having to take less pain medication. They also had less stress and anxiety about their recovery, which didn’t impede the time it took to heal.

Preventing You from Getting Sick

When summer ends and autumn begins, then winter, it seems like everyone gets sick at some point. Whether it’s your spouse, a coworker, your children, or a friend who has come down with something, it makes you want to live in a bubble.

Until human-sized bubbles become a reality, having an indoor plant at home is almost as good. According to data from a journal called Computing Life, by increasing humidity in the air, the flu virus can’t live as long. Just like we boil water to kill germs, the virus can’t handle all the heat.

Bioadvanced notes that houseplants make more water, particularly moisture vapor, when they photosynthesize. This keeps the air in our home a bit more humid, perhaps even enough to kill germs and viruses before they can affect us.

Playing a Major Role in Horticulture Therapy

If you’ve never heard of it, horticulture therapy is a type of treatment involving plants and gardening. The American Horticulture Therapy Association or AHTA also refers to it as social and therapeutic horticulture.

You’d have a horticulture therapist you work with who oversees your gardening activities. These activities aren’t chosen at random, but rather, are designed in such a way to assist with issues and even reach goals.

Not only can horticulture therapy lessen stress, but many who engage in it say their quality of life has gone up as well. These patients also note more positive life emotions and greater inner peace, and all because of plants.

The AHTA recommends horticulture therapy for better problem-solving, retaining skills one may have lost, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological issues.

Lessening Stress

Earlier, we talked about how you could have less respiratory stress through houseplants. Well, what about the regular type of stress we all experience day in and day out? You know, the kind that makes you feel frazzled yet like you’ve gotten hit by a steamroller. Well, don’t worry, as your indoor plants can help with that stress as well.

Here’s a short lesson on our bodies. Stress responses, technically called fight or flight responses, are dictated by our body’s autonomic nervous system. This system controls our body temperature, blood pressure, metabolism, emotional responses, heart rate, and digestion. That makes it pretty important.

Within our autonomic nervous system, we’ve got our enteric system (the gastrointestinal tract), the parasympathetic system (for digestion and rest), and the sympathetic system (in charge of the abovementioned fight or flight response).

Well, per a 2015 report published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, it was discovered that young adults that had and cared for houseplants could reduce their fight or flight response as their sympathetic nervous system was suppressed. That leads to less stress.

Achieving Better Self-Esteem

How’s your self-esteem? According to Journal Buddies, very few women (a mere two percent) believe they’re actually beautiful. A good chunk of women in the United States in their late teens and early-to-mid 20s, about 20 percent, report having bulimia. This all proves that the collective self-confidence of people could be better.

If you’re in the same boat, then we recommend you get yourself a houseplant. A 2008 study in the American Society for Horticultural Science studied elderly participants who required assisted living. Although they needed help doing a lot of basic things for themselves, they began taking care of plants. In turn, they had a better quality of life. This seemed to be mostly attributed to the sense of satisfaction and pride they got from doing something for themselves, like tending to their plant.

This could be the basis of restoring your own self-esteem. Once you realize you can care for a plant, that will make you feel better about yourself. The feeling could hopefully snowball from there!

Lowering Blood Pressure

Have you checked your blood pressure lately? We hope so! When blood pressure gets high, it can lead to a whole host of health issues, many of which can be deadly. For instance, you increase your chances of having a stroke and getting hypertensive heart disease. This encompasses such heart conditions as coronary artery disease and heart failure.

While a healthy diet and exercise can get your blood pressure under control, so too could some houseplants. So says the 2015 data from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology that we linked you to earlier.

The researchers studied men, 24 in all. Some had a plant to care for and others did not. The ones without plants did computer work. There were 12 participants in each group. The groups did not stay consistent the whole time, as, midway through the study, the 12 men taking care of a plant began doing computer activities. The ones who hadn’t had a plant now did.

Through the semantic differential method, the researchers found that the participants “felt more comfortable, soothed, and natural” when tending to a plant than on the computer. Their diastolic blood pressure also went down after caring for a houseplant. Your diastolic blood pressure, by the way way, is the bottom of the two numbers of your blood pressure reading. It relates to artery pressure.

Reducing Exhaustion

Perhaps you’re in the camp where no matter how much sleep you get, you never feel rested. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a weeknight or a weekend, you never want to open your eyes in the morning.

Exhaustion can make us feel like we’re sleepwalking through life, just sort of going through the motions. If you want to stop doing everything on autopilot, then you know what to do by now. Yes, get some houseplants in your life.

We talked about it earlier in this article, that houseplants go through a regular process of photosynthesis. This means of making energy also happens to lessen the carbon dioxide that lingers in the air at home. With less carbon dioxide, some of our exhaustion disappears. That’s because too much carbon dioxide can produce feelings of drowsiness and fatigue.

Enjoying Higher-Quality Sleep

Besides feeling less tired, you’ll also notice you sleep like a rock if you happen to move a few indoor plants in your bedroom. The best plants for this are succulents, bromeliads, and orchids. That’s because these plants let out more oxygen when the sun goes down. We get less oxygen when we drift off to dreamland, says CPAP.com, a resource for sleep apnea.

Our oxygen levels tend to linger at 90 to 100 percent during wakefulness. Then they can fall as low as 88 percent, sometimes even lower upon falling asleep. This can cause a whole slew of symptoms, including:

  • Intense exhaustion
  • Lack of memory
  • Choking or coughing feeling that wakes you up
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Lack of alertness
  • Inability to breathe that wakes you up
  • Higher blood pressure and heart rate
  • Restlessness

You can see how these symptoms would interfere with sleep and your health in general. If you experience any of the above symptoms, we recommend putting some plants in your bedroom.

Reducing Allergies

Now, this one may seem kind of strange, and we’ll give you that much. If anything, wouldn’t you think that indoor plants would contribute to your allergies rather than take them away? Sure, but that’s not exactly the case.

While you should avoid the indoor plants that produce pollen, as that will certainly trigger your allergy symptoms, you can also fill your home with hypoallergic houseplants. There are a slew of these plants that will keep the air cleaner while failing to induce allergy symptoms. That makes your home a safe reprieve when allergy season begins.

Here’s a list of hypoallergic houseplants to consider for your home and office:

  • Swedish ivy
  • Common ivy or English ivy
  • Viper’s bowstring hemp or snake plant
  • Common daisy
  • Weeping fig
  • Transvaal daisy
  • Yucca
  • Dracaena fragrans
  • Devil’s ivy
  • Dracaena angustifolia
  • Areca palm
  • Dracaena
  • Philodendron
  • Rhapis excelsa
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Peace lily

Cutting Down on Sore Throats and Headaches

Few things will put a damper on your day faster than waking up with a sore throat. You sip tea, pop cough drops, and limit your talking, yet all day your sore throat persists. What about those annoying headaches that strike in the middle of the workday right before that big conference call with your boss? Ugh, the worst.

Well, houseplants can lessen both sore throats and headaches, it turns out. This data comes from a study done at Sweden’s Uppsala University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences as reported in the Daily Mail.

It all has to do with the humidity in your home that plants produce, which we discussed earlier. Besides just having less of a sore throat and rarer headaches, you can also improve dry skin and coughing. The Boston fern is especially great at humidifying your home and keeping your throat anything but parched.

Could Lead to a Longer Life

Everyone wants to live longer, but the keys to doing so always seem to change. One thing that can definitely help? Having houseplants. A Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study from 2016 found that American women with houseplants had “significantly lower” rates of death compared to those who had less plants or vegetation.

Together with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied a group of women for eight years. The researchers discovered that these women lessened their rate of mortality by 12 percent through having more greenery in their lives.

Now, this study isn’t necessarily about having houseplants as it is living in an environment with lots of trees and vegetation around you, but hey, a few houseplants won’t hurt!

Related Questions

Is it healthy to have plants in your bedroom?

As we showcased in this article, yes, it’s healthy to have plants in your bedroom. They can make more oxygen so you get a better night’s sleep. Their calming presence could also boost your physical and mental health. Plus, plants just look nice, so they’ll spruce up any room they’re in, including the bedroom.

Which houseplants purify the air?

Looking for some more plants to add to your indoor garden that can also purify the air? Try any of these:

  • Chinese evergreen
  • Weeping fig
  • Dragon tree or red-edged dracaena
  • Broad lady palm
  • English ivy
  • Barberton daisy

How many houseplants do I need to purify the air?

Besides the type of plant you choose for air purification, the amount of houseplants you have also matters. According to NASA, you should fill a diameter of six to eight inches with 15 or 18 plants for air purification. An indoor hanging garden would let you add all those plants without your home becoming overcrowded!

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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