Welcome to January 2021, the time of year when we all shift our focus from decadence to health and well-being. It’s no longer eggnog, cheese and everything sparkly, but instead workout equipment and green smoothies. While I might miss the cheese, I do like the idea of looking for ways to improve our well-being.
On that topic I came across an exciting new initiative just launched in BC, health-care practitioners can now formally prescribe time in nature. Yep, they can literally write you out a slip to spend some time with plants. The healing power of plants and nature has now been made official. But it’s actually been know and well studied for years. If you start to look a bit deeper into the beneficial effects of plants you will find massive amounts of peer-reviewed studies that all tout the benefits. These studies have shown interactions between people and plants can positively change your brain, lower heart rates and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Just imagine better sleep, less anxiety, increased immune function, better concentration, improvement in creativity, and an overall lifting of your mood. It sounds like a wonder drug… and the side effects? Needs to be watered, and can make you smile when you least expect it.
Now, while I love a good walk through a forest, let’s be honest…. I don’t always love the weather and not everyone has access to quality natural spaces. But anyone with a window can get themselves a potted plant, and you can reap the benefits of well-being afforded by plants in the comfort of your warm, dry home. Tropical indoor plants have heaps of benefits to your well being.
Probably the most famous study done with indoor tropical plants was the NASA Clean Air Study done in 1989. This landmark experiment looked at how plants could be used to filter out and lower the concentrations of volatile organic compounds and carcinogens in the air. Nasty things like benzene, formaldehyde, tricloroetheylene, xylene and ammonia. The idea was they could be used in space stations as living air purifiers. The results were astonishing with reported success of up to 90% of the toxins removed from the air in as little as 24 hours. The plants take up the chemicals into their leaves and roots where they are then broken down by fungal and bacterial processes.
The study looked at a number of different plants and some where found to be better than others at removing certain chemicals. So, it’s best to get yourselves a nice selection to cover all the bases. Here are a few of my favourites from the list:
Snake plant (sansevaria): a very trendy and easy to care for plant. The minimalist architectural leaves are often variegated and rise up from the soil looking very much like snakes. Does great in both low and higher light conditions and it a great go-to for a beginner.
Spider plant: a retro favourite, consider putting one in that macrame hanger you’ve been eyeing. Good for medium to bright light, just don’t overwater it or the tips of the leaves will turn brown.
Pothos: a wonderful vine with heart shaped leaves that come in bright green, chartreuse, and variegated/spotted both white and yellow. Easy to grow, it will thrive in both bright and low light.
Peace lily (spathiphyllum): an easy to grow plant with classic dark green glossy leaves and elegant white long-lasting flowers. This was found to be one of the best plants of the study for it’s ability to purify the air. A very adaptable plant it’s a great option for low light conditions.
Chinese evergreen (Agloanema): so easy to grow and come in stunning colour combinations. The sturdy green leaves can be spotted with pink and white, lined in red, or striped in cream. A great plant for low light, just make sure not to overwater them.
Philodendron: I have yet to meet a philodendron I don’t like. These are trendy, easy to care for plants with large tropical-looking glossy leaves. You can find ones with frilly-laced leaves (‘Hope’), striped leaves (‘Birken’) as pictured here, or even silver leaves (P. hastatum silver sword).
Dracaena: makes a statement with their “spikey” leaves on top of stately canes. They come in different shades of green and chartreuse and feature variegation in white, cream, yellow and pink/red. An easy plant to grow, just don’t overwater it.
The great thing about adding plants to your life is that studies have shown that adding a few as 2-3 small plants is enough to make a positive difference on your health and well-being. The NASA study found that to properly purify the air you need to have a minimum of one plant per 10m2. But I find that once people get a taste of how enjoyable it is having plants, they tend to get more.
Indoor plants do so much for us, they stabilize the level of CO2 and decreases the concentration of volatile organic compound and in the air. They release moisture into air, acting as a natural humidifiers. Through their air purifying work they help to reduce allergies, asthma, eye irritation and just improves mood. One of the studies I’ve read claimed that people-plant interactions result in greater happiness and life satisfaction. Ummm… okay, sign me up. So, this year start off your January healthy lifestyle by getting yourself some indoor tropical plants, to me they are a health necessity not a luxury. Write yourself a prescription for a pothos, take a deep breath and start you new wellness journey.