Pure and simple: Why houseplants have a host of health benefits

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·6 min read
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  • Andrew Fuller
    English Baptist minister and controversialist (1754-1815)
Houseplants can not only pretty-up your workspace but provide a whole host of health benefits. (Getty Images)
Houseplants can not only pretty-up your workspace but provide a whole host of health benefits. (Getty Images)

Despite lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, many of us are still continuing to work from home at least part-time. 

While last year saw home workers desperately scrambling to carve out a small-yet-productive corner of the house, this year has been all about adding the finishing touches to that prized space. 

Though the practicalities are obviously important (particularly if you don't want to suffer from pandemic posture), it's also vital that your work-space is an inviting place to be. 

That's why it's time to add some greenery to your makeshift home office. 

Not only can humble houseplants cheer up your work-space, research suggest they have a wealth of health benefits. 

Read more: Are you a garden snob? Campaign encourages people to grow 'vulgar' geraniums

"Throughout lockdown there has been an increase in the popularity of house plants – people are wanting to decorate and improve their homes and gardens as they spend a lot more time inside," explains Andrew Fuller, head growing guru at The Growers.

"With the visual appeal of plants also comes great health benefits, as plants are proven to clean the air and remove the toxins in the atmosphere, resulting in a much healthier living space."

With that in mind, here are the unarguable reasons to add a friendly and helpful potted plant to your desk.

Air purification

We’re all looking for ways to live healthier lives. And now that we’ve spent a year largely indoors, people across the UK are looking for ways to breathe new life into their homes.

Now, science has suggested turning to plants could help. NASA’s Clean Air Study found that there’s a number of air-purifying plants that are perfect for detoxifying your home from the dust, germs and airborne pollutants found in a variety of everyday materials, from carpets to furniture.

According to Nathan Raab, MD of Pointless Plants, Spathiphyllum Vivaldi – AKA the Peace Lily – is one of the best plants to pop on your desk to help purify the air. 

“NASA’s study found that the Peace Lily was one of the best plants when it came to purifying the air because of its ability to break down and neutralise toxic gases like benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide," he explains.  

"It’s also beautiful in its own right, with gorgeous white blooms and fairly easy to care for as the leaves will droop when it needs water. It's poisonous to pets however, so be careful if you’re a cat or dog owner.”

Fuller says the plant thrives in damper areas of the house and can help remove mould spores from the air.

Read more: 'Vegetable King’, 72, whose oversized produce went viral, shares advice for novice gardeners

Peace Lilies help to purify the air. (Getty Images)
Peace Lilies help to purify the air. (Getty Images)

Mental wellbeing

According to Patch plant doctors Richard Cheshire and Richard Hull, adding just a few plants to your work- from-home desk can have a dramatic effect on mental wellbeing. 

"Many studies have shown that being around nature makes us feel more relaxed," Cheshire explains. 

"That’s true inside as well as outside. Green is a colour our brains find naturally soothing, so bringing a few plants into an office can immediately make it a nicer place to be and a more productive place to work."

Hull and Cheshire suggest putting small, low-maintenance plants on your desk, so your eye is drawn to nature. 

"We recommend Penny the Chinese Money Plant or Susie the Snake Plant as great starter plants."

As well as the greenery helping us to feel more relaxed, the simple act of tending to a house plant gives your mind a chance to unwind and connect with nature. 

"Take 10 minutes to yourself once a week to water and mist your plants, or 30 minutes to gently clean their leaves, and forget about Zoom for a while," Cheshire adds.

Read more: The weeds you need to remove from your garden right now

Plants have a whole wealth of health benefits. (Getty Images)
Plants have a whole wealth of health benefits. (Getty Images)

Reducing stress and improving focus

According to Fuller, not only do orchids pretty-up a workspace, they are also great for re-oxygenating the night air in the bedroom or other living spaces, helping to reduce stress and improve focus.

"Additionally the Snake Plant (Sansiveria Trifasciata) can remove nitrous oxide and other toxins, helping to cleanse the air," Fuller adds. 

"Plants can also give people a feeling of calmness, which is hugely beneficial for your home working space to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increasing productivity, so we would definitely recommend filling your working environment with greenery and foliage to improve focus in the home office."

Watch: How to tell if you're overwatering your houseplants.

Increasing productivity

Productivity taken a bit of a hit during lockdown? Plants could help. Recent research revealed having plants in the office has been found to increase worker productivity by 15%. 

"Not only are they found to reduce stress and fatigue whilst aiding memory retention, they also regulate humidity and reduce carbon dioxide, both of which help employees remain energised," explains Lucia Polla, from Serenata Flowers.

"Bamboo Palm is known for its ability to fight indoor air pollution, promoting clear thinking and easy breathing." 

Read more: As birdwatching soars during lockdown, here’s everything you need to spot them in your garden

Snake plants can help (Getty Images)
Snake plants make great starter houseplants. (Getty Images)

Improving sleep

Not getting enough sleep can have a huge impact on the quality of your work and your ability to problem solve. 

"Whether you struggle to drift off or are easily disturbed in the night, keeping a potted Aloe Vera plant beside your bed could help you see the night through, as it produces oxygen at night to combat insomnia and improve overall sleep quality," says Polla. 

"Jasmine Flower is also believed to reduce anxiety levels which in turn will help you drift off to sleep, and the gentle scent will keep you in a deep sleep throughout the night."

Reducing sickness

Adding house plants to your WFH space could help ward off sickness. The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study which discovered that adding plants to office settings decreases fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms. 

In another study by the Agricultural University of Norway, sickness rates were found to fall by more than 60% in offices with plants.

Watch: The easiest houseplants to keep alive.