More Than Decoration, Plants Can Actually Be Good for You
Since the pandemic, even more of us are using our homes as offices. But whether you're returning to an in-office setting or working remotely, finding healthy ways to balance your work and personal time remains important. One way to keep it all in line, while bringing a little life to your desk, is to include room for some strategically chosen plants.
Over the past decade, plants have become a major trend in decor, but indoor greenery could also play a more fundamental role in how we manage stress and our overall well-being.
The roots of improved wellness
Plants have many positive attributes, according to Leslie Halleck, a green industry consultant for Horticulture Marketing.
"Houseplants offer up so many benefits from a mental health and wellness aspect," she said. "I think we all feel better when surrounded by nature, and there is research that supports greening up your home and office space can reduce stress and anxiety, improve productivity and possibly help people heal faster."
Lana Seiler, a licensed clinical social worker and associate director of clinical operations at All Points North Lodge in Edwards, Colorado, agreed that plants are good for you.
"Growing plants asks us to be patient with a natural process and helps us slow down," Seiler said. "We have been drastically increasing the speed of our lives, and our brains and bodies haven't kept up, evolutionarily speaking. We are really set to a slower natural rhythm than we are forcing ourselves to operate at. Plants remind us of this more healing tempo."
'Greening up your home and office space can reduce stress and anxiety, improve productivity and possibly help people heal faster.'
In addition to helping us become more present and relaxed, plants can also be helpful to our central nervous system (CNS). According to Seiler, after tending to plants, we experience parasympathetic CNS activation, in which the body enters a state of relaxation and recovery, including the slowing of our breathing and heart rates and lowering of our blood pressure levels.
"We need to rest and reset our systems, and plants can help us do that," Seiler explained.
Which plants are best for your workplace?
While some indoor plants, such as succulents, thrive in low light, others need healthy amounts of sunshine and water to survive.
Halleck recommended four specific plants for beginners, all of which are low-light tolerant and easy to care for:
1. Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)
This plant, nicknamed "The Sweetheart Plant," begins with bronze-colored leaves that quickly transform to a glossy green. It's easy to find no matter where you live and is perfectly content to flourish even under harsh fluorescent lighting, making it ideal for an office space. This plant requires light watering in the spring through the fall—just enough to keep the soil moist—and should remain drier in the wintertime.
The heartleaf philodendron is mild to moderately toxic to dogs and cats, so be sure to keep it away from animals if placing it in a home office space.
2. Pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
Also known as the devil's ivy, this gorgeous plant will quickly spruce up even the gloomiest of office spaces. Even if you think you don't have a green thumb, this stunning plant is almost foolproof—it can flourish in low light and poor soil or can be grown in a vase or pot of water. It's extremely low maintenance and requires little water or fuss. They won't thrive in direct sunlight, however, so keep this one away from windows.
This plant is considered toxic (but rarely deadly) to children, some adults, dogs and cats. Though ingesting this plant often causes only a stomachache, in some cases, it can cause a serious rash.
3. Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
This may be the most basic of beginner plants but it has a great reputation for a reason. This attractive plant grows long, upward-sprouting leaves and can even be neglected for weeks at a time without issue. Snake plants offer air-purifying benefits and may even remove formaldehyde and benzene from your office space. These plants get along well in low-light settings and do not require frequent watering.
Snake plants are generally not harmful, but ingesting large amounts can cause your tongue to swell, along with nausea and vomiting. It's more toxic to dogs and cats, so be sure to keep this out of reach of domestic pets.
4. ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
The ZZ plant features intense dark, glossy leaves that reflect and brighten any workspace. This plant comes in many sizes and can be easily replanted if it outgrows its pot. It's nearly drought-proof and does well in low-light settings. This plant is also well known for removing harmful pollutants from the air, though you may need to surround yourself with quite a few to reap the benefits.
This plant is poisonous; some horticultural professionals advise wearing gloves when touching it. It can cause skin and eye irritation and may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or an upset stomach if ingested. Keep away from children and domestic pets.
Making the most of your plants at work
Plants in the workplace can help brighten your mood by offering a touch of the outdoors, giving you a living thing to care for and, hopefully, reducing your stress levels. Plants can also offer air-purifying benefits and may boost your productivity on the job.
Start with beginner-friendly plants and work your way up to more specialized plants as you begin to learn the ins and outs of indoor gardening and plant tending. You may just find yourself falling in love with your indoor garden.