With plant popularity on the rise—terrariums and succulents, anyone?—you may want to hop on the bandwagon, and not just because they add a little greenery to your home. Potted plants have been shown to have benefits on people’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If something as simple as a plant can help improve your family’s health, why not adopt one (or two or ten)?
From removing chemicals in the air to helping your kids with their homework, here are nine reasons your family should bring a few houseplants into your home.
Some common houseplants can improve your indoor air quality.
“Although indoor plants can have a positive impact in any space, they’re especially beneficial in urban environments, where indoor air pollution is on the rise,” says Erin Marino, director of brand marketing at The Sill, a plant store in Manhattan with locations on the Upper West Side and Lower East Side. Common houseplants such as snake plants, peace lilies, and spider plants actively reduce levels of chemicals commonly found in indoor air such as formaldehyde and ammonia, according to the 1989 NASA Clean Air study. With indoor air quality more polluted than outdoor air, plants are useful tool for making your home a healthier place.
Being exposed to nature, even a small plant, can help your kids with their homework.
A study by the University of Michigan showed that exposure to nature improved participants’ memory and attention by 20 percent when performing cognitive tasks. Researchers have also found that exposure to nature can improve cognitive, emotional, and social development in kids, as well as helping children with ADHD. Playing in nature daily can be a challenge for urban kids, but you can bring a little bit of the outside indoors with a potted plant.
Houseplants have a calming effect and can lower your stress.
Having plants and flowers around has been scientifically proven to make you feel calmer and less stressed. A Japanese study found that touching foliage had a calming effect on participants, and a 2018 study in the journal of Hortscience found that stress levels after doing a horticultural task were significantly lower compared to after working on a cellphone.
Plants and soil can boost your microbiome.
Some studies have suggested that the presence of plants indoors could improve microbial diversity, thanks to both the soil and the plant itself. So next time little hands knock over a pot and spill dirt on the floor, you can (literally) breathe easier knowing that you’ve helped their gut at the same time!
Caring for a houseplant camp improve your mood.
A common bacterium found in soil, mycobacterium vaccae, has been linked to improved mood and mental performance, acting like an antidepressant. A 2016 study found that injecting mice with m. vaccae made them more able to deal with stressful situations. Taking care of a plant can also be a very meditative process.
Picking out a new plant is a great way to spend some screen-free time with your kids!
A visit to a plant store is a fun activity with kids. With more and more sprouting up across the city, there are plenty to choose from. Some of them offer added extras like great coffee (PlantShed UWS) and workshops (The Sill). Outside Manhattan some of the bigger nurseries even offer kids play areas, arts and crafts, and seasonal festivals. While you’re choosing plants, ask your kids which ones they like and why? Come up with fun names for the plants colors—instead of a succulent being green, perhaps it’s Prospect Park Green or guacamole green.
Having plants teaches kids about taking care of other living things.
Even young kids can help with watering and repotting, and they will love to see how plants grow and flower over time. A houseplant is a great introduction to the idea of caring for something else, without the stress and upkeep of a pet.
They are very easy for beginners.
You may feel like the green thumb gene skipped you, but taking care of houseplants doesn’t have to be so hard. The key is to choose the right plant for the right environment—and following the care instructions. Each plant needs a different amount of light, water, food, and upkeep.
“I find that a lot of customers tend to over care for their plants, especially during the winter months when most common houseplants are semi-dormant,” Marino says. “Although it’s great to check in with your plants daily, they probably won’t need you to ‘do anything’ (water, prune, move) to them on a daily basis. They appreciate a pretty stable environment, if possible! Water only when dry.” If this is your first foray into plant ownership, she recommends starting out with something hardy such as a snake plant, pothos plant, or ZZ plant.
There is a plant for everyone, even tiny New York City apartments!
With more and more plant stores opening up across the city, there is no shortage of expert advice on what to choose. If you want to go deeper, why not sign up for an introductory plant course, too?
“I recommend that wannabe plant parents first identify what type of light their space receives (bright, moderate, low), then choose their plants accordingly,” Marino says. “A great tip is to look up the plant’s native environment, to get a better sense of how much light it needs to thrive.”