Indoor plants have many benefits in providing us with a healthier lifestyle and can change the feel of our homes. But have you ever wondered which plant is best suited to you? Or are you unsure as to what plant is best matched to your home? With so many plants on the market it can be a little daunting to know which one is best and what they require. However, once you understand the basic needs and requirements of growing plants, I can grantee you too will be obsessed with having plants in your daily surroundings!
What are the benefits?
How exactly do plants help us? Plants have the potential to improve our health and well-being. They are also extremely effective in removing the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which pollute the air we breathe indoors each day. Everyday objects found around the house, such as televisions, carpets/floorboards, paints, office equipment (printers), glues/adhesives, disinfectants and air fresheners, all emit VOC’s. The silent and deadly gas of Carbon monoxide, which cannot be seen or smelt is usually emitted by fueless gas heaters. This gas can be very damaging to our health (Prof.Burchett, 2016) and can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting. Exposure to moderate levels over long periods of time has also been linked to an increase in heart disease (Control, 2012). Plants are a key to eliminating these organic gases in our homes, as they absorb VOC’s through their foliage and roots. But surprisingly the plants are not the only thing that is eliminating these VOC’s. The microflora found in potting mix also help! Plants support a network of bacteria found in the soil which feed off VOCs (Prof.Burchett, 2016). But you cannot ‘cheat’ the system and place a pot of soil in your home. Why? Because the bacteria will only survive for a short period of time. It is a symbiotic relationship, plants feed the bacteria (Prof.Burchett, 2016), and it is only with each other that they will continue working hard to remove the VOC’s.
Plants can make us happier too. A study on office staff, conducted by The University of Technology Sydney, who were surrounded by plants for a 3-month period had amazing results. The University discovered that those workers had reduced levels of stress and negative feelings by up to 40 per cent (Burge, 2016). We can thank plants for improving our overall happiness, decreased stress levels and better creativity.
How do we choose the right plant?
How do we care for plants and keep them happy? The first step to growing plants successfully indoors is to understand there is no such thing as a ‘indoor plant’. All plants come from a habitat which they thrive and grow in the natural environment. They all prefer certain soils and lighting positions. So, what makes a plant grow indoors? An indoor plant is one that has managed to adapt to an environment which we have provided for them inside, which best replicates their native habitat. A lot of the plants which are labelled as indoor are subtropical. In most scenarios these plants are found growing under the canopies of larger trees and have their roots confined to smaller areas. They are ideal to be grown in containers for longer periods of time before they require re-potting. This is a major reason as to how they are categorised into the ‘indoor’ category.
But another key to the success of plants inside is having the correct light levels and position in a room. Keep in mind a plant which is thriving in your friends or a family members home may not thrive in yours. Your home environment can be very different when compared to theirs. For example, if you have a living room with a large window that faces north, you will have a greater amount of light pouring into the room. That same window during summer will have a greater heat temperature transferring through the class and plants with soft foliage may burn. Examples of these plants would be Epipremnum. spp, Spathiphyllum wallisii and Philodendron. spp. But the intensity of the sunlight pouring through that same window during the winter months will be far less. The heat would be roughly around 20 degrees or less, because the sun sits lower in the sky. This means those same plants will not burn as a result.
If you have heating units or air-conditioners, it is best to avoid placing plants underneath or next to them. This is because the air blowing out from these units can be very hot and dry which can leave a lush plant burnt, damaged and stressed. A plant that is sitting in a brightly lit area should be checked for regular watering. But keep in mind the type of plant, potting mix used and size of the pot the plant is growing in will all affect how often you will need to water. This also applies to fertilising your indoor plants. But as a general rule fertilising your plants once a month during the growing seasons, spring and summer, will be beneficial to their health. Plants placed in a low-lit area should be rotated once a week. By swivelling the pot 90 degrees once a week will encourage even growth. Plants which are exposed to less natural light may stretch towards a light source. So, by rotating the plant/pot we are helping the plant to grow more evenly.
How to use plants in a living space?
Home décor can go a long way but plants can change the way we feel and admire the look of a room. By utilizing the features of certain plants, you can add a lot of fun colours and textures to a room. For example, Ficus elastic, Croton. sppand Cordyline. spp all have vibrant pigmented foliage! In a neutral coloured room, you can use these plants to add a flare and pop of colour to the space. But you can also partner plants up with fun decorative pots and baskets which complement their foliage or flowers! To bring texture into a room you can use architectural plants such as Mother in Laws Tongue, Sansevieria trifasciata, which has strong, stiff upward growth. Or you can use soft delicate plants such the Hares Foot fern Davallia solida var. pyxidata, Spathiphyllum wallisii Peace Lily, or Maidenhair Fern Adiantum raddianum. Which can soften a room with a lot of hard lines and angular furniture. If there is a brightly coloured feature wall try using plants with rich green pigments such as Ficus Lyrata, Kentia palm Howea forsteriana and Dracaena marginata. Using trailing plants can be another great way to bring a fun decorative touch into an office space or kitchen. Pothos, Epipremnum aureum, look great sitting on bookcases, because as their foliage grows it will cascade over the edge of the shelves.
Low lit rooms can be a little difficult to style with plants but there are plenty of low light tolerant plants available to choose from such as Zanzibar Gem Zamioculcas zamiifolia, Monstera deliciosa, cast iron plant Aspidista elatior, just to name a few. If you are wanting to try and re-create a certain type of atmosphere in your home such as tropical, look for plants with large glossy, lush foliage. Try not to shy away from plants with bright colours or pots with fun patterns as all these will contribute to creating a tropical oasis in your home. If a rustic look is more your style, use plants with soft, glossy green foliage and place them in natural coloured pots and baskets. You could place a Peperomia. spp in a terracotta pot, which look great together! Using more organic looking containers and delicate plants this will achieve a country vibe! Do not be afraid to ask your local garden centre what plants might work best in your home to achieve the style and atmosphere you most desire!
The wonderful thing about plants is that there are really no rules, you can use them in multiple ways inside and outside the house. But understanding how to care for them and being able to provide them with the best position possible are just some of the steps needed to help them thrive. Having plants in our daily surroundings does a lot for our mental wellbeing and health. They can add value to our lifestyle and homes. So why not take the step and start creating you own botanical oasis in your home?
Until next time happy gardening! By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs ©BMHPhotographyTheGardener’sNotebook2019
Burge, K. (2016, March 9). Need to reduce indoor pollution? House plants will help you with that. Retrieved from ABC NEWS: http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/how-houseplants-can-help-reduce-indoor-pollution/7230094
C., J. (1989). Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. NASA.
Control, C. f. (2012, April 17). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control, Control and Prevention: http://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showCoRisk.action
Prof.Burchett, D. a. (2016, July). University of Technology Sydney. Retrieved from How Humble Houseplants can Improve your Health: http://www.uts.edu.au/file/52246/transcript