Do Plants Make A Difference? Houseplant Benefits Explained

If houseplants already line your windowsills, some of the benefits of having plants will be obvious to you. However, if you are not among the proud plant owners (yet?) and are rather questioning the whole trend of greening up your space, you might find it surprising how many scientifically tested benefits there are to having indoor plants. Plants do make a difference after all.

Indoor plants make a difference to any living space through their calming aesthetic properties and have proven beneficial to reducing stress and anxieties while improving productivity and creativity. Overall, plants foster a better quality of life impacting human mental as well as physiological health.

Whether you are an indoor plant lover or a critic, there are surely benefits to indoor plants that you haven’t heard of yet. Learn more about the beneficial effects of plants on us in this post and stay tuned for some tips on how to green up your space even better.

Why Having Houseplants Makes A Difference: The Benefits

Many people ask themselves whether having plants indoors actually makes a difference to their quality of life. Houseplants certainly do make a difference to your quality of life as they improve emotional and mental as well as physiological health according to various scientific studies.

I also consider finding new and more ways to green up spaces, especially in urban areas, a major contribution to a healthy and sustainable life in the future. As the authors Han, Ruan & Liao state in their recent paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2022), indoor plants should be a major asset for any future urban and interior planning.

“Not only are green spaces needed in cities, but also plants are needed in buildings for people’s health and well-being. For the sake of people’s effective daily functions, indoor plants should be among the important elements of the healthy city, particularly in terms of their easy applicability and accessibility.”

Han, Ruan & Liao (Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2022)

Now, let’s get to know our houseplants’ many benefits.

Keep in Mind: The mentioned benefits relate to real plants only. Plastic plants won’t do the trick!

1. The Aesthetics Of Plants: Green Colours Calm The Mind

Plants simply look amazing and aesthetically enrich any living space. They add life to otherwise sterile places. Besides, in office spaces, they can reduce noise levels and as well as offer some privacy by obstructing the view.

By bringing green fresh colours into your home with houseplants, the calm aesthetic of nature is brought inside. According to colour psychology, green is the most calming colour. It is said to have restorative, reassuring and soothing effects and symbolizes tranquillity, harmony and peace.

“Out of all the colors on the color wheel, green is regarded as the most restful and relaxing color for the human eye. Green symbolizes harmony, tranquility, peace. As a soothing, relaxing color, it enhances stability and endurance. It is most often associated with growth and renewal, and it promotes optimism, hopefulness, and balance.”

Color Psychology (Access 2023-05-15, 2023)

Adding hints of green through plants in your living space gives it a homey, cosy atmosphere that makes you feel safe and snug.

With their lush and brilliant foliage, indoor plants are also an incredibly beautiful decor, granting your home a tropical and lively vibe one can’t resist. As you have probably noticed before, plants always attract one’s gaze as soon as you enter a room.

Good to Know: Compared to other decorative accessories, plants do not involve much cost at all. Actually, most indoor plants can be propagated so easily that often you don’t even need to buy a new plant: If you know someone who owns a plant you fancy, just ask them for offshoots or cuttings.

2. Relaxation and Reducing Stress

In general, many scientific papers claim the beneficial effects of natural environments for recovery from stress (Han, Ruan & Liao, 2022).

By bringing a little of nature inside with houseplants, they can boost mental as well as physiological health and well-being by relaxing the human brain and taking away the pressure. Many studies show how indoor plants lessen depressive moods as well as symptoms of anxiety.

In some experiments, even pain tolerance was enhanced by plants which explain why numerous hospital rooms have plants in them.

Tip: Make your home even more relaxing by listening to music regularly – your plants’ well-being will benefit from this, too. Learn more in my post on the effects of music on plants and what kind of music plants actually like.

3. Boost Your Productivity: Enhanced Creativity and Motivation

Plants do not only soothe and calm down, they can also have activating and motivating effects.

Being surrounded by plants in a workspace or in an office has proved to enhance productivity and attention span, and improve self-esteem and creativity as the authors Hall & Knuth state (2019).

Keep this in mind for the next time you’re in need of a creativity boost or writing stimulus: Sit next to plants and thrive in their presence!

4. Nature is the Best Therapy: Meditative Aspect of Working With Plants

Caring for and maintaining houseplants requires a good routine and is a practical exercise that requires one to be present.

As such, working with plants has a meditative and therapeutic effect to it which can positively impact the heart rate or help to lower blood pressure as the scientific results of Lee et al. show (J Physiol Anthropology, 2015).

Working with plants needs routine and regularity which in turn can help settle into further routines that are good for you.

5. Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better: Increased Happiness and Satisfaction

Nurturing plants regularly and seeing them grow gives a sense of purpose and accomplishment to our daily routine. The perceived rewards are similar to keeping a pet. The plant thrives and grows back at us when we adequately care for it.

The routine and care along with a sense of purpose and the wonderful aesthetics of plants provoke feelings of well-being, satisfaction and happiness.

Furthermore, as plants grow and blossom, they can be a positive reminder of good things to come.

6. Reconnection With Nature: Embracing A Greener Lifestyle

The health benefits of contact with nature have been valued for many centuries of human history.

Scientists such as Han, Ruan & Liao state that humans have an evolutionary emotional predisposition to connect with nature and other living organisms (2022). We are social beings longing to connect with our environment. This is also known as the concept of biophilia.

“The concept of biophilia claims that humans are born with emotional connections with nature and/or other living organisms. This emotional predisposition is deeply embedded in the biological nature of humans and does not disappear even after people leave the natural environment to live a modern urban life.”

Han, Ruan & Liao (J Physiol Anthropology, 2022)

By bringing nature inside with houseplants, a sense of reconnection to nature can be fostered.

Furthermore, if someone is willing to care for houseplants and values them, this usually also links to living or becoming aware of an overall healthier lifestyle. Health and the environment are valued higher than material assets or unhealthy habits.

7. Most Commonly Asked: Do Plants Clean Air?

Scientists have been debating for decades about whether or not plants can improve indoor air quality. Most famously cited is the NASA study in 1989 claiming that 10-18 houseplants are enough to filter indoor air.

However, more recent studies find that even though plants have high air-purifying capacities by filtering out pollutants, they do not measurably improve indoor air quality due to frequent air exchange and high amounts of pollutants in the air.

Read more about the scientific findings on plants’ air purification and their role in our planetary recycling system in this post: How Many Houseplants for Clean Air and 5 Purifying Plant Species

Some Tips to Benefit the Most From Indoor Plants

Here are some simple tips for you to make the most of the effects indoor plants have in your living space:

  • Leave windows unobstructed: If you have rooms with a view out of nature or green spaces, try to keep the view unobstructed to benefit the most from the greenery outside and let it contribute to the atmosphere of the room.
  • Create a green wall or corner: Place plants of different sizes and on different heights. This gives a more foresty and cosy feeling to the room. Also, plants like to be in each other’s company and they will grow better in such a setup.
  • Choose a variety of plants: Having many different types of plants makes you benefit from the effects and aesthetics of each one. Choosing flowering plants such as orchids or Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera) will add even more colour to the scene.
  • Add green and earthy colours to your space: It may be that your flat or not every room is ideal for plants. You can still benefit from plants’ calming effects by adding green and earthy colours through other decor and accessories, such as painting a wall green, adding plant pictures, a dark green blanket or a pillow on the couch. You’ll find plenty of accessories available these days in green colours or with plant prints on them.

Conclusion: Indoor Plants Make A Difference by Positively Influencing Our Mental and Physiological Health

The main benefits of indoor plants are:

  • Aesthetic value
  • Calming colours and appearances
  • Enliven sterile places
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Pain tolerance enhancement
  • Improve productivity and creativity
  • The therapeutic effect of working with plants
  • Evoke feelings of well-being and accomplishment
  • Foster a sense of connection to nature

The very best thing about all these benefits of plants is that on top of all the good effects, there are almost no negative effects of plants.

The only common myth about indoor plants’ benefits is cleaning the air. Even though plants have high air-purifying capacities by filtering out pollutants, they do not measurably improve indoor air quality due to frequent air exchange and high amounts of pollutants in the air.

Is It Good to Have Indoor Plants?

Indoor plants have many beneficial effects such as reducing stress, calming the mind and increasing creativity while their downsides are few. It is, therefore, recommendable to have indoor plants.

As the authors Lee M., Lee J., Park & Miyazaki conclude in their paper on human interaction with indoor plants (2015), modern people’s living space has drastically shifted from outdoors to indoors, which increases the need for greener living spaces to avoid losing connection with nature.

“The living space of modern people has moved from outdoors to indoors – more than 85% of a person’s daily life is spent indoors.”

Lee et al. (J Physiol Anthropology, 2015)

What Are the Downsides to Houseplants?

There aren’t many disadvantages to keeping houseplants, though I want to mention a few issues that can arise:

  • Inadequate maintenance: Houseplants are living beings and as such need the right care and routine to thrive. Otherwise, they might die off and you no longer benefit from them.
  • Pests: Unhealthy care routines can lead to sick plants that are prone to pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, thrips, or scales. These cannot only harm or kill your plant, but it’s also not going to look nice to have an infested plant in your living room.
  • Allergies to poisonous sap: Some plants, such as of the mulberry family (like Ficus benjamina), have poisonous milk sap also referred to as latex. Touching the sap can cause allergic reactions and it is recommended to wear gloves whenever treating the plant.
  • Toxicity and pets: If you own pets such as dogs or cats, it is essential you make sure to have no indoor plants that are toxic to them.

Recent Posts