Make a Home for Houseplants
Six reasons to grow a houseplant (or two)
Houseplants are good for you. Sitting next to a tropical palm, a serene orchid, or a cool-looking succulent actually makes you feel better.
"I know I work harder and better when I'm surrounded by plants," says Justin Hancock, a spokesman for Costa Farms, a large-scale grower in south Florida that grows 1,500 different indoor and outdoor tropical plants. "It's just this calming effect," Hancock says.
Studies on houseplants and health, especially research by Bill Wolverton, who worked with NASA on plants and indoor environments, show that houseplants also remove volatile organic chemicals from the air. It turns out that houseplants play many healthful roles. Here are some of them:
The natural world is itself an antidote to stress, research at the University of Washington shows, and it works even in a high-rise. Mark Martin, an interiorscaper and owner of Interior Tropical Gardens in Chicago, supplies palms, bromeliads, dracaenas, pothos, and other tropical plants to offices, hotels, and homes. "In an 80-story building, you lose your touch with nature." Tropical plants restore it, and make employees feel better. "There is a study that states that a company that has tropical plants has three fewer sick days per employee than a company with no plants," Martin says.
A study by the University of Michigan showed that houseplants help people concentrate -- which makes them a good choice for a desk, in a study hall or classrooms, Hancock says. The results "caught a fair amount of attention" when they were reported. "We can be helping our kids with plants -- it resonates with people," Hancock says. Keeping a plant on your desk or in a classroom also gives kids an opportunity to develop nurturing skills, and to learn about responsibility. Learning to water and care for houseplants is a good way to grow young gardeners.
Peperomia is an easy-care houseplant with interesting foliage. Needs bright light, but away from direct sun.
Clear the Air
Wolverton's research showed that houseplants improve the air in a sealed, non-ventilated structure. Good ventilation is the best way to improve indoor air quality, but houseplants produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air, which is good in any situation. Professionals in the interiorscaping business, and Costa's 02 for You program, recommend one houseplant for every 100 square feet in a home or office Hancock's desk, with 10 houseplants on it, proves it's not that hard to accomplish.
Houseplants just make you feel better, says Dan Giannoni, owner of Great Plants Inc., an interiorscaping business in south Florida. "People may not notice what it is that makes them feel good, but plants have a psychological and emotional impact," he says. "They are relaxing. In a home, office, or hotel, people gravitate toward areas with plants, Giannoni says. In his own home, there is a large potted palm tree behind the sofa where he reads. "It's like being in a hammock," he says.
"Plants change your outlook on the whole day," Mark Martin says. "They bring a smile to your face." If you're just getting started with houseplants, try something easy, such as bromeliads, which look great and need little care. Read the labels on houseplants at a garden shop and look for especially low-maintenance plants. You'll quickly learn what kind of light is best and how to water properly. Overwatering is usually the biggest problem.
Above all, thriving, healthy houseplants look good, and make you look good, too. They are cheering accents, the finishing touches in indoor decorating. Succulents are popular now, Giannoni says, for their striking, sculptural appearance. Orchids are classically, stylish plants for an important spot in your home. "You just need a few key plants," he says. "It doesn't have to be overwhelming, like you are a complete gardening nut." Choose great-looking pots to match your decor, and then find a plant that will fit right in. "You can have a different style in every room," he says, or try keep the overall style consistent.
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