Kids that Won’t Stress You Out
By Alyssa Dorland
Filling your home with plants is about more than an aesthetic. Plant care can improve mental health in many great ways!
Leaves are falling and flowers are closing for the winter. The Walla Walla Valley is turning a shade of brown in preparation for winter snow. But inside, greenery abounds! Little habitats of orchid and aloe grow to new heights. Every apartment window holds a new plant catching a few rays of winter sun. And behind each of those windows, a proud plant parent is holding a watering can, smiling.
If you aren’t a person with a natural green thumb, this winter may be the time to create one. Research shows that caring for indoor plants can have impressive benefits for mental health.
For those spending too much time behind a computer screen, planting can reduce stress and increase a sense of calm. Lee et al. said in their 2015 study on psychological and physiological stress that caring for plants helps to regulate blood pressure, promote comfortable feelings, and soothe the body through natural experiences.1
When compared directly to mental tasks on the computer, indoor plant care was associated with reduced stress levels. Lee et al. said, “These physiological benefits may result from multiple natural stimuli acting on the senses of vision, hearing, touch, and smell; this effect is also seen in forest therapy research.”2
Therefore, it is the physical care and nurturing of plants that helps bring plant parents peace!
Caring for indoor plants has also been linked to problem-solving skills. Charlie Hall, Ph.D., and chair of the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University, and Ph.D. candidate Melina Knuth cite that workspaces that have views of nature, receive plenty of daylight, and are “biophilic” lead to greater productivity and attention in employees.3
The moisture that plants release into the workspace is credited for reduced headaches and improved concentration among workers, Hall and Knuth write. Plants also improved worker attitudes toward their coworkers and comfort in the workspace.4
Hall and Knuth also share that people with attitudes associated with caring for nature and plants, such as pro-environmentalist ideals, tend to have “more positive vitality and life satisfaction” than people who are not connected to nature.5
A study from Kuo, et al. in 2004 even noted that symptoms of ADHD can be significantly reduced by spending time amidst plant life and in green spaces.6
The benefits of owning plants are undeniable. But where can someone who isn’t so great with plants begin?
Rachel Lay of the Urban List shares about several plants that are easy to maintain for beginners. She recommends starting with a pothos plant. These plants grow in water or well-drained soil, and only need a little bit of sunlight to stay healthy.7
Her second recommendation is a Ficus lyrata, or fiddle-leaf fig. These need to be watered very little and turn yellow if the soil is too damp. Ficus lyrata should be kept in light spaces, but not in direct sunlight.8
Lay also recommends the Sansevieria trifasciata, or mother-in-law’s tongue. This plant grows tall, needs its soil to dry out between watering, and only needs sunlight occasionally.9
Ray’s final recommendation is Araceae, or succulents. They need lots of sunlight and will change color and reach toward the sun to let you know that they want more.10 Put these in a south-facing window this winter to give them the greatest light access possible.
Pothos are currently available at Andy’s Market in College Place. The other three plants can be shipped to your local Walmart or Home Depot with no additional charges.
As you begin your plant parenting journey and your path to better mental health, remember that not every day will go perfectly. But as you learn and practice, you—and your plants—will grow.
1. Lee, J., Lee, M., Miyazaki, Y., &. Park, B.J. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3kHXc8N.
3. Hall, C., & Knuth, M. (2019). An update of the literature supporting the well-being benefits of plants: a review of the emotional and mental health benefits of plants. Journal of Environmental Horticulture. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/34HtwDt.
6. Kuo, F. E., & Taylor, A.F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3oGl6nv.
7. Lay, R. (November 15, 2019). A guide to indoor plants for serial plant killers. Urban List. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2TNBFA0.