Are Indoor Plants Good for Mental Health?

Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021

Houseplants are an easy way to bring the outdoors and greenery into your home and workplace. Studies have shown that indoor plants are associated with improved mental health.
Houseplants are an easy way to bring the outdoors and greenery into your home and workplace. Studies have shown that indoor plants are associated with improved mental health.

Like many people, you may have spent more time indoors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Decorating your house with indoor plants not only beautifies your space; it may also have some benefits for your mental health.

Indoor plants and mental health

The average person spends more than 85% of their time indoors. Houseplants are an easy way to bring the outdoors and greenery into your home and workplace. Studies have shown that indoor plants are associated with improved mental health. Here are some specific ways that greenery can help your mental wellbeing:

Reduced stress

Having plants at your home or workplace can help reduce stress. Researchers found that undergraduates who were in a windowless computer lab had lower blood pressure levels when there were plants in the room compared to when there were no plants.

Working on plants can soothe you and lower your stress levels. Researchers asked study participants to re-pot a houseplant and also to do a task on a computer. Participants’ heart rate and blood pressure went up when working on the computer task, but their stress levels went down when they were repotting the plant.

Faster recovery and healing

The presence of indoor plants may help patients heal faster and reduce medication. In a study of 80 patients who had the same type of surgery, researchers found that those in rooms with flowers and plants had shorter hospital stays and needed less painkillers than those who didn’t have greenery in their rooms.

The patients with plants in their room also had lower ratings of anxiety, fatigue, and pain. They had more positive feelings about their hospital rooms.

Improved productivity

Having plants at your workplace is associated with higher productivity, less sick leave, and lower stress levels. Researchers found that having a plant directly in front of you may have a positive effect on your work performance when you are carrying out a creative task.

Less anxiety

Exposure to greenery can improve anxiety symptoms. Researchers studied university students who spent an average of 20 hours a day at home since the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who had indoor plants or a view of outdoor greenery had less anxiety symptoms.

The students said that having indoor plants gave them the feeling that they were away instead of at home. The presence of plants helped them see their homes as places of restoration and rest, which led to better mental health. This was in spite of having to spend more time at home because all their classes were online during the pandemic.

Improved learning environment

Having indoor plants may also help to improve a school's learning environment. In a junior high school in Taiwan, researchers placed several plants at the back of one eighth grade classroom for one semester. Students in this classroom had significantly fewer hours of absence due to sickness and received less discipline for misbehavior. They also felt more comfortable and friendly compared to students in a classroom with no greenery.

Other benefits of indoor plants

Besides beautifying your home and enhancing mental health, houseplants may improve the air quality in your home. Some plants are able to remove air pollutants in your home. These plants include: 

  • Purple heart 
  • English ivy 
  • Waffle plant 
  • Porcelain flower

Plants can also help increase the humidity in your house. This can be useful in places with dry air and cold climates. Researchers say that green jade plants and variegated spider plants can increase the humidity in a room.

Which indoor plants should you choose?

When buying indoor plants, look for plants that are green, small, and have a slight scent. Researchers studying the effect of indoor plants on stress found that these are the types of plants that make people feel most soothed. On the other hand, plants that have bright colors, like poinsettia, may cause eye fatigue.

You may want to try growing these easy indoor plants:

  • Air plant
  • Succulents 
  • Aloe vera
  • ZZ plant  
  • Snake plant

If you have young children or pets, choose plants that are safe for them. There are many common indoor plants that are toxic. Before you bring a new plant home, check with a reliable source like your local poison control center.

These are some common houseplants that may be toxic to young children and pets:

  • Sago palm
  • Aloe
  • Oleander
  • Holly 
  • Lilies
  • Azalea
  • Peace lily
  • Umbrella tree

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Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021
References

California Childcare Health Program: “Fact Sheets for Families: Beware of Poisonous Houseplants.”

Colorado School of Public Health: “Plant Rx: Five of the best indoor plants to keep you company during self-isolation.”

Environment and Behavior: “Influence of Limitedly Visible Leafy Indoor Plants on the Psychology, Behavior, and Health of Students at a Junior High School in Taiwan.”

Environmental Research: “Does greenery experienced indoors and outdoors provide an escape and support mental health during the COVID-19 quarantine?”

HortScience: “Psychological Benefits of Indoor Plants in Workplaces: Putting Experimental Results into Context,” “Screening Indoor Plants for Volatile Organic Pollutant Removal Efficiency,” “Therapeutic Influences of Plants in Hospital Rooms on Surgical Recovery.”

HortTechnology: “Evapotranspiration from Spider and Jade Plants Can Improve Relative Humidity in an Interior Environment.”

Indoor and Built Environment: “The effect of indoor plants on human comfort.”

Journal of Physiological Anthropology: “Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study.”

Michelson Found Animals: “Poison Prevention: Plants Toxic to Dogs & Plants Toxic to Cats.”