Indoor plants have become a fast growing trend for many good reasons. However, with so many different plant species available it can be a bit intimidating for the first-timer or even experienced gardeners to know what plants are best suited for the home. I purchased my first indoor plant two years ago and I’ve never looked back! Indoor plants have become a whole new obsession of mine.
In nature, of course, there is no such thing as an indoor plant. Every single plant grows outdoors in its preferred climate and habitat. So what then is an ‘indoor plant’? An indoor plant is one that has naturally adapted to a natural environment that is very similar to what we can provide for them indoors. A majority of the plants we grow inside range from subtropical through to tropical. In nature, you can usually find them growing under taller trees and shrubs in low light and with little air movement. These plants can also be grown in pots and containers as they are adapted to having confined roots and they can go for long periods of time without needing to be repotted.
Good health reasons why do you need an indoor garden
Plants help you breathe
The first reason you need indoor plants is air quality. Having plants in our daily surroundings has proven to be effective at cleaning the air we breathe. Every day we are exposed to various gases and compounds that pollute our air in our homes and offices.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are emitted from certain liquids and solids that are found in everyday objects around the house such as televisions, carpets/floorboards, paints, office equipment (printers), glues/adhesives, disinfectants, air fresheners and dry-cleaning fluids, just to name a few. The VOCs given off by many manufactured items like carpets and furniture don’t reduce much over time.
Another example is flueless gas heaters as they emit carbon monoxide, a gas that cannot be seen or smelt. Carbon monoxide can be very damaging to our health (Burchett, 2016) and can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting. Exposure to moderate levels over a long period of time has also been linked to an increase in heart disease (Control, 2012).
Almost always, indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. Which, considering most of us spend 90 per cent of our time indoors (Burchett, 2016), means that the air we breathe in our homes and offices is incredibly important.
Have you ever suffered from a loss of concentration, headaches or drowsiness? These are common symptoms of the Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and are a result of poor air quality (Burchett, 2016) and exposure to the VOCs that are being emitted.
NASA Scientists discovered plants to be one of the most promising means of easing Sick Building Syndrome (C., 1989). By introducing plants into our indoor environment we can reduce VOCs and improve indoor air quality. During the photosynthetic process plants absorb and degrade air pollutants by releasing oxygen into the air (Burge, 2016).
As much as plants play a key role in air purification, it’s the microflora in potting mix that also does a lot of the hard work. Plants support a colony of bacteria in their potting mix that feed on VOCs (Burchett, 2016). But there is not much point in placing an empty pot of potting mix in your bedroom because although the bacteria will be effective at removing the VOCs for a short period of time, without the symbiotic relationship with plant roots, the bacteria will no longer function properly. If you add a plant to that empty pot of potting mix, the plant will feed the bacteria (Burchett, 2016), and together they will continue working to remove the VOCs.
Plants make you feel better
Plants can be very beneficial for our mental health. Reports have shown the positive effects of having plants in the office and in the home. Results show an improvement in overall happiness, decreased stress levels and better creativity as a result of having plants indoors.
The University of Technology Sydney conducted a three-month study on office staff that were exposed to plants on a daily basis. Results showed that those same workers who were exposed to plants during that time had reduced levels of stress and negative feelings by up to 40 per cent (Burge, 2016). I can happily admit if I sit in a room with some ‘greenery’ I will feel more relaxed and happy compared to when I sit in a room without any plant life.
Growing plants in general can be very rewarding and can give you a sense of accomplishment when you see them thrive and succeed. But they can also help fill that void of wanting to care for and nurture something when we are not able to have pets. Just like a pet dog or cat, plants will need you to care for them but they have the benefit of not being a daily responsibility.
By introducing plants to our homes we are bringing the outdoors inside, rather than taking our living spaces outside. We constantly think about how we can make our patio or garden a more liveable space and tend to forget that plants can be brought and grown indoors. For centuries plants have been brought indoors to protect them from weather conditions outside that were not compatible with their natural habitat. The Versailles Orangerie is the perfect example of this, as it was built between 1684-1686 (Versailles, 2016) for the purpose of protecting orange trees and young tender plants from potential frost damage and the cold winters that France is known for.
For those of you who live in apartment buildings or have very limited space to grow plants, you can create a garden in pots! You can even grow a selection of edible herbs on a brightly lit or sunny windowsill inside and have them ready and fresh to use daily!
By growing plants inside we are also taking advantage of a better microclimate for a plant that might not usually be able to grow outside in the garden. An example of this is trying to grow tropical plants outside in cooler climates, where it can be very difficult due to the cold winters and frosts that are very different to the plants’ natural habitats but these tropical plants can be grown quite successfully indoors. Codiaeum variegatum (croton), for example, are bright colourful tropical plants that grow well inside in warm sunny or well-lit areas. They look great in white or black pots and can add a big splash of colour to a room!
In my next post I’ll talk about using indoor plants and gardens for interior styling and how to choose your indoor plants…
References for further reading
• Burge, K. (2016, March 9). Need to reduce indoor pollution? House plants will help you with that. From ABC NEWS
• C., J. (1989). Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. NASA.
• Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. From Center for Disease Control, Control and Prevention
• Prof.Burchett, D. a. (2016, July). University of Technology Sydney: How Humble Houseplants can Improve your Health
• The Orangerie. From Chateau De Versailles