plant
Source: Kristi Olberding

The Surprising Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Houseplants

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May. 22 2019, Updated 12:45 p.m. ET

Have you ever visited a conservatory? As you enter, warmth, humidity, and the aroma of soil greet you at the door. The feeling and smell of the air cannot be matched. I walked through my local conservatory this week and the humidity that fogged my glasses, though bothersome, was a welcome change from home. 

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If, like me, you live in the northern part of the country, the furnace blasting from fall through spring is drying and can wreak havoc on your skin and hair. But here in the conservatory, I could feel my hair and skin absorbing the excess moisture. 

Whereas we cannot and should not duplicate this environment in our homes, as the mold and mildew would take over, it is important to add a few living plants to our homes, because they make a difference in the atmosphere.

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plant
Source: Kristi Olberding

It is estimated that we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. This is worrisome when you consider sick building syndrome. This condition was discovered in the early ‘80s after people began complaining about mysterious headaches, sore throats, and other health problems. A study determined indoor pollution in the building was making people sick. 

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More specifically, researchers found that VOCs or volatile organic compounds were the culprits. These chemicals are emitted from carpeting, computers, furniture, and other objects in our homes or offices. Another study conducted by NASA and Dr. B.C. Wolverton found that the addition of plants to homes and offices helped remove these VOCs from the air. The complaints were greatly reduced with the addition of living plants. 

Another health benefit is that plants may help lower blood pressure. But they don't just affect our physical health; the presence of plants have psychological benefits as well. Caring for plants through tasks such as watering, pruning, and grooming can be welcome therapy at the end of a long day. 

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Source: Kristi Olberding

It's obvious that adding plants to our home is beneficial. So how do you choose the plants that are best for your home?

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The first thing to consider is the amount of light you have to work with. Do you have windows with bright light or is there a tree, awning, or building blocking your window? The amount of light you have determines which plants will live and thrive in your home. 

If you have an unblocked southern window, you can choose high light plants such as cacti and other succulents, fiddle leaf figs, hoyas, and snake plants. If you have an east or west window, your choice of plants is endless. Philodendrons, ferns, begonias, African violets, dieffenbachias, and pothos are a few choices. 

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plant
Source: Kristi Olberding

A northern exposure has no direct sun unless you have a bow or bay window. This exposure lends itself to cultivating foliage plants and usually does not have enough light to support flowering plants. Plants such as aspidistra, philodendron, pothos, spathiphyllum or peace lily, and ZZ plants are great for the north window.

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If you live in an apartment or home without much natural light, growing your plants under electric lights is a great alternative. If you use electric lights to grow your plants, every day is a sunny day. Any plant can be grown under these lamps. 

If a closet or the basement is the only place you have for a light stand, no problem. Sunlight is not necessary. Using the correct lights can supply plants with everything they need to make the food they need to thrive. 

Whether you have sufficient natural light, or use electric lights to grow plants, the addition of greenery to your home is important. It may help clean your air, raise the humidity, lower your blood pressure, and perhaps even make you happier. What more could you ask for? 

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