The Healthy Benefits of Houseplants

Interest in houseplants is reaching levels that haven’t been seen since the 1970’s.  I remember my first apartment having more plants than furniture in a 3:1 ratio, creating a virtual jungle on the 22nd floor in downtown Toronto and also removing the need for drapes.  Especially with the stress of the fast lane pace of urban living, coming home was like walking into an oasis of calmness and health.

Houseplants benefit our daily living in many ways.  Buying a plant is like making a new friend:  the better you get to know its attributes and needs, the closer you become to it.  Rooms become more appealing, light reflected off the leaves becomes soft and filtered and the scent of the air becomes natural and easy to breathe.

Air quality is one of the greatest improvements that owning houseplants presents to us.  When we breathe, we consume oxygen in the air and emit carbon dioxide.  Plants offer us the direct opposite.  They use our carbon dioxide to produce food for themselves while creating oxygen and giving off water vapour.  The water vapour, along with moisture in the soil, assists with humidity during the dry winter heating season, making the air easier to breathe, controlling static and preventing wooden furniture from shrinking and cracking.

Forty years ago, NASA performed an experiment involving plants grown inside a hermetically sealed chamber. The plants were exposed to various chemicals that humans are exposed to in their homes, such as benzene and formaldehyde.  The study concluded that plants substantially purify air of toxins and would be beneficial to astronauts on the Space Station.

Aside from scientists, most of us don’t have access to hermetically sealed environments, let alone live in one.  Air circulation inside our homes keeps refreshing and flushing out chemical elements before they reach toxic levels.  But the toxins that remain can be captured and stored within plants, assisting our overall air quality.

One of my favourite houseplants is the spider plant.  Available in striped or solid green, spider plants can be used as a potted plant or as a hanging basket.  This plant is also one of the easiest to propagate: as the plant matures, it sends out long shoots with baby spider plants hanging at the tips of them.  These can cut off and planted to start new plants for yourself or to be shared with friends.

Peperomia is another easy care, long-lived flowering plant.  The characteristic crinkled leaves are easily recognised and the narrow conical flowers seem to pop up regardless of the season.

Snake plant and yucca are two great plants for people who like plants that can take some abuse and neglect.  Snake plant is in the lily family, growing long flat fleshy leaves that are often mottled tricoloured green, grey and creamy yellow reminding one of a snake (or else its other name, mother in laws tongue).  Snake plants will survive erratic watering, shady areas and low humidity but if grown in optimal conditions it will produce a loose spangly white flower.  These plants are easy to divide (separate the bulbs in the pot) and make a great floor plant for narrow spaces.

If you tend to be very forgetful about watering, then a yucca is the plant for you. Its long, pointy fibrous leaves grow off stalks emerging from a mature trunk.  This is a great floor plant in full sunlight and it prefers to be on the dry side, especially in winter.

Interested in trying these plants at home?  Many of these house plants and more are currently available now. When you’re here, check out our pet-friendly plants table!

Garth Davey, Mar. 2021