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Health & Wellbeing / Ali Horsfall

Plant Life: Foliage For Every Room

Having pretty plants indoors is the easiest way to feed your soul. House plants breathe life into the home and inject a bit of feel-good greenery in a space – plus if you’re managing to keep some foliage alive, it’s official, you’re now an adult.

Interior landscape designer Ian Drummond and interiors editor Kara O’Reilly, authors of Plants at Home, believe bringing the great outdoors into our interior spaces has a positive effect on our sense of wellbeing. Particularly if you spend a lot of time inside and don’t have immediate access to a garden or any green outdoor space.

They say, “There have been numerous studies into the health benefits of having plants in the workplace, so you can bet your bottom dollar they will have
 a positive effect in your home as well. Plants are, after all, the Earth’s oxygenators. The byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen, and there can be 
no harm in introducing a couple of natural oxygenators to your home environment. While more special research into the exact environmental and health benefits of each 
plant variety still needs to be done, many initial studies – undertaken by bodies as varied as NASA and a number of universities worldwide – have come to the conclusion that plants act as a kind of ‘pollutant sponge’.

“This means they absorb all kinds of nasties in the atmosphere, from carbon dioxide to the various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from many common man-made products, including paint, carpets, furniture and cleaning products. Plants are able to remove these toxins from the air through their leaves and stems, or through their roots via the potting compost, where small microbes turn the toxins into food for the plant. It’s a win-win situation.

“Plants are good for your mental wellbeing, too; looking after and responding to something living is therapeutic. Again, work-focused studies have shown that having plants around can help reduce feelings of negativity, anxiety, depression and stress. No one particular plant does this job better than any other, so to benefit from the positive psychological effects, choose a plant that you really like or feel connected to. It stands to reason that 
it will make you happy every time you look at it. Put simply, growing green things is good for your health as well as your home.”

But when it comes to choosing houseplants, where do you start? Just like humans, not all plants are the same, with different likes and different needs ­– some will thrive in a sun-drenched kitchen, others will love living in a steamy bathroom. Some plants need extra TLC, while others will grow without much meddling at all.

So to navigate the right plant picks for every room of your home, we’ve created a quick go-to guide to help.

For your bedroom

Your bedroom is your sanctuary, so it’s all about creating an atmosphere to encourage good sleep hygiene. Seek out some of the few plants that are night-time oxygenators ­– plants that release oxygen and improve air quality at night instead of the day. The bonus is that most of these houseplants are also attractive, so will look stylish in pots on bedside tables and shelves. Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plants) – also known as Mother-in-law’s tongue – give out oxygen at night and also combat xylene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, and benzene from the air. Other good bedroom choices include Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), Hatiora gaertneri (Easter cactus) 
and Spathiphyllum wallisii (peace lily) – a hardy plant with lush leaves and a beautiful white flower. Introducing a lavender plant in to the bedroom can also help promote ‘clean’ sleep.

For your kitchen

Plants can thrive in this room because kitchens usually have large windows providing good ventilation and plenty of light and fresh air. However, the heat from the oven, fumes and grease can also make it a difficult place to grow delicate plants.

Having herbs on the windowsill or in a hanging basket will both add a pop of green in the kitchen and on a practical level, you’ll get fresh leaves available to grab while you’re cooking. Try rosemary, lavender, basil, parsley, lemon balm, lemon grass, mint, oregano, cilantro, and thyme – they’re all fairly easy to grow.

For your bathroom

The amount of light available in a room is always important when choosing plants but in a bathroom, you need to be selecting humidity-loving plants above all. Cacti and most succulents (apart from aloe) should be avoided in this room and instead choose orchids, ferns and palms which can handle fluctuations in temperature and like the humidity.  Ferns, such as Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ (Boston fern) and Asparagus setaceus (asparagus fern) work well and the Rhapis excelsa (broadleaf lady palm) is one of the few houseplants to filter out ammonia, a chemical found in cleaning products. As they’re also good with humidity and thrive in low light, they’re pretty perf for the bathroom.

For your living room

You can make a real decorative impact with plants in your living room  – cluster several shapes and sizes together in one place (see #allmyplantsononething for inspo), experiment with hanging plants or make a focal point with a showstopper plant such as the  Philodendron bipinnati dum (horsehead philodendron) or Beaucarnea recurvata (elephant’s foot).

The stems of trailing plants such as Hedera helix ‘Sagittifolia’ (English ivy), Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy) or Rhipsalis paradoxa (chain cactus) look dramatic draped over the edge of shelves, sideboards and coffee tables, and the humble Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant) works well because as long as it gets a decent amount of light, it pretty much looks after itself – scatter a few around for a low-maintenance green fix.

The Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), fights formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, found in furniture, fireplace smoke, and common household products so is also a really great plant to have in the living room.

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