Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Reasons to Have House Plants

It’s really nothing more than being green the old-fashioned way. We just didn’t call it that. When I was a kid and our family went on vacation, we not only roped a neighbor into feeding our dog but also into watering the indoor plants while we were away. There were ferns in hanging baskets, easy-to-grow philodendron, temperamental African violets and a wide assortment of ivy and succulents. My grandmother is so good with them that twice a year, she used to hold a well-attended plant sale.

Recommendation: 15 Plants per 2,000 Square Foot Home

Last year I wrote Agrigirl’s Blog of Practical Houseplants which was in part a spoof on T.S. Eliot but never mind,I think I was far too obscure with that connection and the post was mostly about the oxygen producing benefits of houseplants. It’s true that many of these benefits are associated with air quality but there are more. And of course, the fact that we can engage in endless debate about whether houseplant is one word or two didn’t even make the list.

  1. They look good. A few well-placed plants in a room are an easy way to decorate but this comes from someone with little decorative talent so I’ve counting on the likes of Judy and Rukmini to chime in and confirm this. Seriously, I love the ambiance that greenery adds to a room. In grad school, one of the local establishments was referred to as a fern bar. I’m not sure I remember the fern.
  2. They can be useful. Some indoor plants, like aloe vera, can be applied to skin as pain relief for kitchen or sun burns. Sally, you might have ideas to offer here.
  3. They bring nature indoors. Five years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the key recommendations from my readings and from the Wellness Community is to spend more time in nature. I couldn’t agree more and for those times that I’m stuck indoors, the greenery in my office and my home helps me connect with the world that is alive outdoors.
  4. Plants make you happy. According to Dr. Bruno Cortis, a Chicago cardiologist, studies have shown that hospital patients who face a window with a garden view recover more quickly than those who look at the wall of the opposing building.
  5. Plants can prevent allergies. By exposing children to allergens such as plants when they are very young, they are able to build a tolerance to the allergen. It works sort of like a customized allergy shot.
  6. Having indoor plants may keep you healthy. House plants have been shown to reduce cold-related illnesses by more than 30%. This is because they increase the humidity in the home while at the same time decreasing dust.
  7. Plants can decrease your blood pressure. A study by Live Science showed that people with plants in their homes have less stress and that contributes to lower blood pressure.
  8. The presence of green living plants in the workplace has been shown to increase worker productivity. There must be a corresponding benefit at home. Joe, if you’re reading this, I’m certain you have data.
  9. Plants improve the air quality. Not only do plants filter out bad stuff but they produce oxygen and that has numerous benefits such as clearing congestion, reducing headaches and providing for a better night’s sleep. Set a vase of Gerbera daisies in your bedroom to improve your rest.
  10. They give you the opportunity to test out some really cool new technology. Botanicalls actually enable your plant to tweet you when it needs water. Check out these tweets!

Since my earlier house plant post, I’ve heard from so many people looking for more information. Over the next few months, I’ll try to offer more on this topic. Until then, green your home with greenery.

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89 Comments

  1. I love these list 🙂 I used to keep aloe vera at home all the time…but when we went on a long vacation recently it died 😦

    Reply
    • I’m sorry about that! I keep my aloe vera outdoors as it loves the heat and also a bit of shade. Thanks Tes.

      Reply
  2. Also, here in the north, in the winter they provide the green of nature inside while it’s a white world outside. I love having them around!

    Reply
  3. iDella

     /  May 17, 2011

    Brava Tammy!The only green I think of these days is what I eat. It’s just as well as my green thumb is non-existent.:-)

    Reply
    • But some of these are so amazingly easy and with the botanicalls, you can’t lose! Come on, give it a try Idella!

      Reply
  4. I’m praying over an orchid, cutting back a shamrock and adoring my big scrawly and ugly aloe vera that I am never without.

    I have a problem with white fly and you’ve just reminded me to get on the internet and find out why. Many thanks.

    Reply
  5. I have focused all my attention on outside plants, as I’m an avid container gardener (the soil in my part of the southwest is cement-like in quality, so I opt for the ease of containers!). This post has absolutely inspired me! Thank you!

    Reply
    • I also live in the SW Mimi so know what you mean about the soil. There are a couple of very easy indoor plants that I’m certain would do well for you.

      Reply
  6. I have plants in almost all my rooms except bedroom and kitchen…money plants do so well in the bathrooms, and I’ve found mint and basil thrive in pots on the bay window.

    Love that they have benefits other than looking good!

    Reply
  7. Paul Reynolds

     /  May 18, 2011

    When I saw the title I thought I would be able to add a another item to your top, as a house plant lover. But, you covered it. Maybe for the Sedona vortex crowd — use two similar plants and love one more and see if t grows better. Ah..remember the Secret Life of Plants.

    Reply
    • Funny Paul. Yes, there is ample research that plants feel love and that they respond to kind words. Now I haven’t read that book…

      Reply
  8. I love houseplants! And Tammy, I love how you write. You are engaging and fun and informative all in one. Just today, I did some transplanting as some had begun looking bad and others had gotten to big for their containers. Hope I didn’t kill them! They are kind of like my having some kind of animal in the home . . .I just have to have a plant or two or five!

    Reply
    • Transplanting is hard on plants – it’s like moving houses. They may go through some shock but they should be okay.

      Reply
  9. Mine are mostly doing well, with the exception of my orchids, which I tend to murder with kindness.

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    • I’ll admit to being too afraid to try orchids Cindy. They are gorgeous though and I love it when someone does them well.

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  10. Plant tweets and better sleep? I seriously need to consider making this happen. Luckily, my housemate always buys fresh flowers for our place, so that’s something!

    Reply
    • Maybe Plant Tweets and Better Sleep should have been the title! Tell your housemate to look for Gerbera daisies as they bubble to the top of most lists as being good for the air.

      Reply
  11. Firstly, such an honor. Secondly, I concur. A bit of green if well placed looks excellent. Potted plants or house plants are a great idea to cheer up any bland corner. Experiment with ferns (Yes, Tammy, they look gorgeous. When I was living in the hills, my mum made fresh clippings everyday; the ferns were ubiquitous. And she used to set them in brass pots against white walls. What a place to be!), succulents, money-plants, 3-4 flowering plants grouped together in an enameled tin can..the possibilities are endless.

    You gave me a wonderful idea, Tam. As a continuation to your your post, I’ll do my next post on house plants and how they can brighten our spaces- Whatever be the theme of your home. well, ofcourse, it will include a bit of DIY tho, coming from me! My little condo has its fair share of potted house plants too and I love them.

    Great Post. You always come up with the best of ideas and reasons. For real!

    Reply
  12. Maybe I got ahead of myself and am still sleep-typing… that should’ve read:

    Great to see you talking about plants again – I fully agree with each of these reasons to have them in our home!
    And I’m not just saying that cause I’m a florist 😛

    Reply
    • But I remember when I posted before that you actually knew the names of all the plants. That’s so cool.

      Reply
  13. For some reason, I don’t do well with plants, so I stick to a dog, who provides a lot of the same health benefits…except that I suspect she might not be so helpful in case of burns. 🙂

    Maybe I should check out those tweeting plants. If something “talks” to me, I don’t neglect it.

    Reply
    • I think the tweeting plants are hilariious. Try one like a golden pothos somewhere that you spend a lot of time. The kitchen? It’s very forgiving and looks great. You can add from there.

      Reply
  14. Great post Tammy! You are such a good writer.

    Yes, there is research that shows productivity increases of 4-12% in corporate environments. Additional research confirms up to 60% reduction in absenteeism. Although never formally tested in homes, it makes sense that the same benefits will be found there.

    In hospitals Dr. Roger Ulrich found that patients with a view of nature had faster recovery times, less complaints and required less medication than those that had no views. Plants are a must for in-home hospice environments.

    99% of mans (womans) time on earth we have been connected to nature and relied on it for shelter and existence. I believe this innate need is what drives our desire for nature indoors.

    To Souldipper, let your plants dry down, the white fly larve burrow in the top 1/2 inch of the soil and love the moisture, no moisture, no white fly. Also consider sub irrigation (waters from the bottom of the plant through wicking) which helps keep the top of the plant soil dry, white fly will avoid dry soil.

    Reply
    • Joe, I was going to get up this morning to email you that I had mentioned you in a post and was hoping you’d comment and hear you are! Thanks so much. As you can see, it’s a topic that everyone is interested in.

      Reply
    • Thank you, Joe, very much. I put the plant outside and watched to see if the flies would go. They didn’t and the leaves were turning. So I cut it down – there is new growth. I will find out what is a good wick and start watering it from the bottom.

      I’m watching my other plants carefully. I love fresh flowers in the house, especially over winter. Apparently the pests could have come on one of the bouquets.

      Reply
  15. I have a cat that eats my plants! There are only a few varieties that I can keep safey in the house without them being chomped to death. Urg!!!

    Reply
    • Ahh – cats and houseplants are probably worth a post of their own. I have that issue with spider plants and there are some that are not safe for cats. I will try to cover this in the future.

      Reply
  16. Lisa H

     /  May 18, 2011

    I’m so happy to see that you made a t3 report on houseplants! I’ve always had plants where I’ve lived…my bedroom at home as a kid, dorm room, apartments, my desk at work, and now my own home. It wasn’t until your post last year that inspired me to add more plants to our home. The effect has been wonderful! As my plants grow, I make cuttings to start another pot to add to my collection. Thank you for reminding us that a simple houseplant can add so much more to our lives than we could ever imagine!

    Reply
  17. Judy Theman

     /  May 18, 2011

    I’m happy to add my 2 cents, Tammy!

    Yes, house plants are awesome. I am reminded of the “fern bars” of the 80’s and while that style has thankfully moved on, we can still use plants to accessorize our homes.

    To create the more clean, modern or minimalist look that is popular today, consider plants that have clean lines and work with your color scheme. You may also think about contacting a plant service. They will not only help you choose your indoor greenery, but they can come take care of your plants for you too.

    Reply
  18. kjacobs729

     /  May 18, 2011

    I had three house plants in college, and I killed them all in a matter of months. If I try again, I may have to try that tweeting technology! I’ll have to check out your list of easy to grow plants! I’m thinking about trying to grow some basil on my husband’s desk. He LOVES basil and his desk is sitting at the only window in the house that isn’t also a door or in a cramped hall with no room for plants.

    Reply
    • it would be a good spot if it gets plenty of light and if you keep it watered. Golden pothos are my favorite for quick greenery and are easy to look after.

      Reply
  19. such a terrific list, with some “news-to-me” information (i.e.reduced cold incidence, lower blood-pressure.)We are fortunate that our old house has lots of windows and light. Our plants seem to love it. thanks for another great post!

    Reply
  20. Tweeting plants….wonders will never cease! I love house plants but they far better in the school holidays when we’re all around more to take care of them.

    Reply
  21. I really miss having indoor plants. Great post, Tammy. I was not aware of so many benefits. I have a cat, and I’m concerned that he may mistake an indoor plant as alternate litter box. Blessings to you…

    Reply
  22. Sally Mom

     /  May 18, 2011

    WOW! Tammy you did it again. So exciting and interesting and I enjoyed all the responses as well.
    I had to give my giant aloe vera away because it was to huge for my tiny cottage. But I buy pure aloe from the coop and keep it for my smoothies ,cuts, sunburns and wonderful for rehydration mixed with coconut water after heavy exercise and or illness. Both rich in electrolytes.
    Here in the N.W. I am rich in greenery and agree that having it in the home brings beauty and peace.
    Wonderful information and I agree with Joe, You are a wonderful writer. Great Job!

    Reply
  23. This is a delightful website run by my cousin, Nell. Tell her I say Hi when you visit. Her company sells gardening products and supplies and she has a virtual plethora of information when it comes to horticulture.

    Reply
  24. I didn’t know you were a breast cancer survivor. Congratulations! Five years is a milestone. Whoot!

    I used to have lots of houseplants at home and in my law office. I got rid of them all after reading Simplify Your Life. I decided having more time to spend outside outweighed the benefits of bringing the outside inside.

    Now, the only time I have a houseplant is if it is gifted to me ~ usually in the form of a flowering plant.

    My favorite houseplant = the Jade Plant.

    Reply
    • I’m all for spending time outdoors but the air quality benefits of having plants inside cannot be denied.

      Reply
  25. I can’t i get hay fever but i understand what you mean.

    Reply
  26. We really need more houseplants. The only reason we don’t have them is that we used to have cats and one of them used to love to chew the leaves…and then get sick all over the carpet. That was not fun for us. We’ve been meaning to get a few more big ones to green up the place.

    Reply
    • I think you’re the 3rd person to mention the cat issue. I’ll have to dig up some information on that.

      Reply
  27. It’s strange, I love to garden outdoors, but only have one plant in the house (and he’s kind of anemic-looking). Mainly it’s because my house is old and dark and the darkest rooms seem to be the only places I have room to put plants.

    Really liked all the wonderful points you made in the post, though.

    Reply
    • I don’t have as much light as I would like and still manage with philodendron, pothos, and mother in law tongues.

      Reply
  28. I love to have plants at home. Meanwhile, I’m also better in caring for them, so I don’t have merely cactuses anymore. 😉 And a friend as given some of her plants to me when she moved away, so I have several plants in every room now. I love the ambience they bring, and having something lovely at home makes it much more comfortable. 🙂

    PS. I haven’t forgotten your turnip post, btw! Unfortunately, the turnip season is over now, so I couldn’t buy any (we only have them in winter at the stores, and only in peculiar stores), but I still have a recipe from last winter which I haven’t posted yet, and I’ll launch it soon. 🙂

    Reply
    • Looking forward to it and how wonderful that your stores only show seasonal produce!

      Reply
      • Ha, from that point of view, it’s really wonderful! 😉 But they also have a lot from overseas, the seasonal only (PLUS hard to get! :() is unfortunately limited to the good ol’ traditional veggies that I’d rather want to eat than water ballooned “tomatoes” from Maroq in winter. 😐

        Reply
  29. growing up aloe vera was always in full bloom at our house, my mom loves her plants..

    sweetlife

    Reply
  30. We have house plants! Christmas cactus, aloe vera, mother-in-law’s tongue, spider plants. Our daughter has plants in NYC, too. She thinks of them as her children.

    Reply
    • Actually Kathy, although I didn’t include it on my list, there is ample evidence that it is “good for us” to take care of something and plants work just fine.

      Reply
  31. Renee Freund

     /  May 21, 2011

    Love your blog, Tammy! I’ve always been a big outdoor gardener, but now I’m thinking that I need to add a few more house plants to my life–especially to brighten up some dark corners.

    Reply
    • Thanks Renee and it’s so good to see you here! Indoor plants can really improve the energy in a home or office –> that’s the secret message 😉

      Reply
  32. For those of you monitoring comments, in a totally collaborative fashion, Rukmini Roy posted on using plants to decorate. Check out her awesome blog!
    http://trumatter.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/house-plants-a-great-way-to-cheer-up-any-space-up

    Reply
  33. I’m neglectful when it comes to plants, even indoor. I literally forget.

    I look after other stuff better.

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  34. You have insprired me to grow more indoor plants! I really have enjoyed my seedlings, and find myself sitting there watching them… I really believe that we need a connection to nature!

    Reply
  35. I love my aloe vera plants. When I was having radiotherapy I used the sticky aloe to moisturize my skin. It was amazing! It was great for healing the scars too. My aloe vera plants are now growing like mad because I snapped off so many of the leaves last year and they have a beautiful yellow flower too!

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  36. Beautiful!

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  37. Hi Tammy, It’s so good to hear from you again… Hasn’t it been awhile? Time gets away from me!!!!! ha

    Anyhow–what an interesting post. I had never thought of all of the good reasons to have inside plants.. I do have a couple —but during the winter, I had about 10 of my ‘outdoor’ plants inside. All of them did fairly well inside –until I took them back outside… For some reason, they must have liked it inside better since a couple of them died when I put them back outside. Oh Well. ha

    Hugs,
    Betsy

    Reply
    • Seasonal transplanting was part of the household routine when I was growing up but it is a lot of work! I admire your tenacity to do it. Keeping plants indoors has a number of health benefits.

      Reply
  38. I love this post, Tammy, especially being a huge fan of indoor plants – in every room of the house! To me, they bring soul inside 🙂

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  39. Great reasons! We just inherited a rather large bonsai tree, and it looks lovely on the mantel. It just feels good to have greenery in the apartment.

    Reply
  40. This reminds me of a true story. When I was very young, I slept over my grandmother’s house. She had me in a spare room that was filled with houseplants. Geek that I was, I said, “Wow, all these plants will give me lots of oxygen!” When I woke up in the morning, the room was empty. My garndmother removed all of the plants — she thought I said that the plants would rob me of oxygen.

    Oh, well.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Reply
  41. What a great post! This is silly but I didn’t buy any houseplants until we were staging our house to put it on the market. I always wanted to before but never got around to it until I was “forced.” I’m so glad I did- they look good but are also beneficial! (More so than I thought!)

    Reply
  42. I try to load up with houseplants, but sadly I sometimes neglect to water them or something else happens, but I always have the best of intentions. I read with great interest that article on air purification and have since loaded my hubby up at work, who unfortunately has a worse track record than me.

    Reply
  43. After reading your post I recently put in a new spider plant but some of the leaves are going very brown and it’s not looking so healthy , any ideas why?

    Reply
    • It’s odd that you would have this question given your knowledge about indoor greenery. That said, one common cause of leaves turning brown is that the water is too hard. Try watering it with distilled water instead. I have a water monitor and I find it very helpful as it saves me from over-watering which could also be a problem. Finally, I keep mine in the bathroom and in the kitchen next to the sink because I think they like the humidity.

      Reply
      • Simon

         /  October 25, 2011

        Thanks Tammy, I’ve never experienced this before which is why I wanted some advice! I’ve put it away from the window as I think it might have been drying up and as we live in a hard water area I’ve invested in a distiller. Thanks for the tips and I hope it will recover soon.

        Reply
  44. A note about hard water. If you have your plants in planters with saucers (to catch excess runoff) be careful. Visualize what the inside of a salt water filled glass would look like after the water evaporated. It would be coated with salt crystals. This “salt” is what is sucked back up into the plant root systems as the water “wicks” back up into the plant from the saucer. Depending on the plant type, this can cause tipping or spotting of the foliage.

    It is for this reason that it is recommended, to fully leach and drain plants from time to time. Ideally, with smaller plants you can water in the sink and the excess will run through and drain. If that is not possible, leach on occasion. A good rule of thumb is to never allow your plants to sit in water. Roots that sit in water for extended periods always rot. This is different from sub-irrigation or certain wicking systems, which is another topic.

    With the spider, a way to tell if it is too dry is through color. Spider plants lose some of their deep color when they go dry, it can be very subtle but if you pay attention you can notice it. The color returns once watered (to the trained eye, this is great to water). It is also important to water evenly around the entire pot, over time if you are watering “one sided”, water may create a channel from the top of the soil surface to the bottom of the plant thereby only watering the plant on one side.

    Reply

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