Plants are more than just decoration. They make our lives brighter simply by being in a room with us, whether clustered on window sills, congregated in corners or suspended from ceilings in hanging baskets. Their presence is therapeutic and adds color and texture to otherwise lifeless indoor spaces; research shows this helps us to refocus our energy and better manage stress.¹
The practice of collecting and caring for indoor plants is increasingly popular, but there’s nothing new about the human impulse to keep houseplants. What is new is the science that finally confirms what we already knew: plants make our lives happier and our minds healthier.
Plant Therapy Is a Real Thing
Our predisposition to love plants has a name: Biophilia. It’s defined as our tendency to prefer natural environments as a result of evolution. Research shows that because we have such a strong positive association with plants, their absence in our lives can actually cause physical and mental stress.¹
Today, people spend more time inside of buildings than ever before, especially in urban areas, which drastically reduces our interactions with nature, including open skies, fresh air, and lush greenery. With limited access to forests, gardens and even backyards, our only means of spending quality time in nature requires special visits to parks and beaches or day trips outside of the city.
Image: Eco Luxury Hotel by Kengo Kuma Associates
Recreating nature indoors is an alternative that humans have turned to for thousands of years. Ancient cultures were abundant with indoor greenery—from Chinese ornamental plants cultivated as early as 1,000 BCE to the famed (possibly fictional) Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World engineered around 610 BCE. King Nebuchadnezzar II is said to have ordered the construction of the impressively tiered gardens—complete with a complex irrigation system—to soothe the homesickness of Queen Amytis, his wife, who missed the countryside of her homeland.
If you have endured a winter in New York City with its 12-inch slush puddles and miles of concrete buried beneath mountains of dirty snow, you understand the queen's pain. It wasn't until one chilly afternoon in March, when I took myself to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the first time, that I felt instant euphoria being surrounded by plants. As I entered a toasty conservatory filled to the vaulted glass ceiling with tropical plants radiating warmth and life, it felt as if the entire plant kingdom was giving me a steamy embrace, and I had to resist the urge to nuzzle my face into the nearest fern.
Why Indoor Plants Captivate Us
Keeping lush houseplants, erecting moss-covered ‘living walls’ and framing-in glass panoramic views of the world outside makes an important difference to our mental, emotional and physical well-being.
A 2016 study revealed that the presence of more than three indoor plants in homes and businesses enhanced the mood and sharpened the focus of subjects.² And with plants, bigger is better. “The larger the plants, the better the mood of the subjects,” researchers noted. “Also, an increase in the number of plants reduced the feeling of boredom in participants. These facts suggest that plants can be a source of fascination… providing an opportunity for reflection and recovery from direct attention fatigue.”
When placed in hospitals and recovery rooms, plants have the ability to capture and hold the attention of recovering patients, producing a calming effect and accelerating healing time. According to research, rooms with plants are "perceived as more cheerful, pleasant, and inviting” than those without, and plants should be considered not simply as decoration but as therapeutic tools that are “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.”³ Just having a clear view through the window of vegetation outside has proven to boost mood, combat depression and increase overall feelings of wellness.⁴
Though unmoving to the naked eye, a plant's slow and steady growth narrates its life each time its stems perk-up with the intake of water and its leaves unfurl toward the sunlight. Plants are like interactive pieces of art, the perfect embodiment of beauty and life.
At Horti, we’re always looking for simple ways to incorporate plants into our daily surroundings because they make life so much better. Our subscriptions make it easy to cultivate more green space at home and our business services help transform startups, co-working spaces, cafes and retail shops into places of increased productivity and tranquility. With plants, we all grow together.
¹Grinde, B.; Patil, G.G. “Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 6, no. 9, 2009, pg. 2332-2343.
²Jumeno, Desto and Hiroshi Matsumoto. “The Effects of Indoor Foliage Plants on Perceived Air Quality, Mood, Attention, and Productivity.” Journal of Civil Engineering and Architectural Research, vol. 3, no. 4, 2016, pg. 1359-1370.
³Park, Seong-Hyun and Richard H. Mattson. “Ornamental Indoor Plants in Hospital Rooms Enhanced Health Outcomes of Patients Recovering from Surgery.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol 15, no. 9, 2009.
⁴Chang, Chen-Yen Chang and Ping-Kun Chen. “Human Response to Window Views and Indoor Plants in the Workplace.” American Society for Horticultural Science, vol. 40, no. 5, 2005, pg. 1354-1359.