House plants don’t just look good, they can improve our productivity and wellbeing increasing the amount of oxygen in the air which allows us to concentrate better. It was in the 80s when scientists at NASA first confirmed plants were proven air purifiers and those findings still stand: “plant roots and their associated microorganisms can destroy the pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and the organic chemicals, eventually converting all of these air pollutants into new plant tissue.”
More recent research led by Dr Fraser Torpy, director of the University of Technology Sydney ‘Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Research Group‘, has found that indoor plants can help reduce carbon dioxide levels by about 10% in air-conditioned offices, and by about 25% in buildings without air conditioning.
We found palms beat everything else for carbon dioxide – said Torpy-. But when it comes to volatile organics everything is the same – it doesn’t matter. A medium-sized plant (anything above about 20cm) in a room will make really big reductions to those particular chemicals.
Bring the outdoor in
Nature is well known to help us alleviate stress, depression and anxiety. Surrounding yourself with plants indoors helps to trigger the same chemical response in our brain on a smaller scale, releasing serotonin, ‘the happy hormone’, which lifts our mood in a completely natural way.
The UK’s leading online florist, Serenata Flowers, has identified 10 plants that are more than just a pretty face, as they possess qualities that can actually improve our mood and the quality of the air.
Best plants for your home office
Bamboo Palm is known for its ability to fight indoor air pollution, promoting clear-thinking and easy breathing. Another top home office plant is Golden Pothos which removes air toxins and absorbs unpleasant smells – the perfect plant to keep by the fridge.
Sleep little helpers
Not getting enough sleep can have a huge impact on the quality of your work and your ability to problem-solve. Whether you struggle to drift off or are easily disturbed in the night, keeping a potted Aloe Vera plant beside your bed could help you see the night through, as it produces oxygen at night to combat insomnia and improve overall sleep quality. Jasmine flower is also believed to reduce anxiety levels which in turn will help you drift off to sleep, and the gentle scent will keep you in a deep sleep throughout the night.
Mental health is a big topic of discussion at the moment and it’s important to take time for self-care. Lavender is known for its stress-relieving qualities: it slows down the heart rate and lowers blood pressure to greatly reduce stress. This is why its scent can often be found in lotions and sprays. Snake Plant is also believed to reduce anxiety, improve respiratory problems and cure the symptoms of a headache as it filters out carbon dioxide.
Removing harmful toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene will keep you happy and healthy. Rubber Plant and Peace Lilies are both incredibly effective at purifying the air around you. Rubber Plants are great for removing harmful toxins, particularly formaldehyde, and these plants become more efficient at cleaning the air as time goes on. Peace Lilies are also believed to improve air quality by as much as 60% and true to their name, bring with them a sense of peace and relaxation which will help you remain focused whilst working remotely. They can also help remove the potential cancer-causing pollutant benzene, plus it’s excellent when a room becomes dry through central heating.
Mint and Basil can be used to keep creepy crawlies and unwanted pests at bay. Mint is known to repel lots of insects including mosquitoes due to its strong smell – it can even keep mice away. Another great insect repellent is Basil, which can be planted around doors and windows to keep bugs from entering your office space.
Which Rooms Work Best?
Once you have found the right house plants for you, one of the clues to keeping them happy is in the placement of those greens within the home. Bear in mind, all of your house plants have one thing in common: they all need sunshine, but each plant will differ in the amount that they will need. Some will thrive off having as much as possible, whilst others will need partial or a full cover of shade for the majority of the time.
For instance, the dragon tree’s spiky leaves need both sun and shade, while succulents, jade plants and aloe vera will thrive best next to a window. On the other hand, spider plants and ferns, will all enjoy steam from the shower. In general, flowering and foliage plants such as some varieties of lily tend to deal well with minimal direct sunlight and with artificial light. So, if you set your foliage plant back from your South facing window a few feet, you will be putting your plant in an ideal position. If you have West or East facing windows, then ensure that your foliage plant remains out of the midday sun, or when there are times of direct sunlight in the room. Plants with large, thick, fleshy leaves will tend to do well in the shade for the most part. Examples of such a plant would be; Jade, Stonecrop and Zebra plant to name but a few.
Each plant will demand a different level of maintenance (from watering and fertilising to trimming leaves and re-potting), so ask for advice when buying if you want to help them grow well.