Houseplants help moods

The Best Times Digital Edition
Dennis Patton

Dennis Patton

Oct. 26, 2021

By Dennis Patton

Are you suffering from the COVID-19 blues? Feeling downcast and ready for this pandemic to be history? Trust me. You are not alone. We are all ready for a return to normal.

This past year, researchers have proof of a simple way to lift people’s spirits. You may have already discovered this secret. Houseplants. Yes, houseplants bring a boost to wellbeing and make the home a happier place to live.

Researchers have found many benefits of plants in the home. You may not realize the improvement in your mood, but your subconscious does. The most direct benefit is aesthetics. Who doesn’t like flowers or foliage? Plants brighten up a room and visually stimulate us as we go about our daily lives.

Think of houseplants as a vacuum cleaner for the air. Plants remove volatile organic compounds and up to 90% of the formaldehyde circulating in the environment. Just a few plants can increase the humidity in a room, making the home more comfortable.

Emotional support

Houseplants provide emotional support during stressful times. Nurturing a plant brings a sense of purpose and helps us feel better. Research at the University of Michigan showed plants in the home increases mood, concentration, memory and productivity.

It is estimated 66% of all households in the nation have plants. Thanks to the millennial generation, houseplants are more popular now than ever. This generation has embraced the concept of being a plant parent by caring for another living organism.

Are you a plant parent? It is easy to adopt a plant and start reaping the benefits. Houseplants come in all sizes and shapes. There is a plant for every location. Houseplants are not a lifetime commitment. On average, most house plants last two to five years.

Consider a houseplant as home decor, one that you add water to from time to time. When the plant fades, discard and purchase a new one. Think of the houseplant as a bouquet of flowers for the kitchen table. With low light and timely watering, this investment can last up to a year.

Plants need light

House plants

Houseplants in a corner near windows

If you want to beat the odds and have your plants last longer, more care is needed. The driver for healthy plants is light. Plants conduct photosynthesis taking the sun’s energy plus carbon dioxide from the air to make ener gy for growth releasing oxygen.

The best indoor plants for homes with low light include the ZZ plant, sansevieria and cast iron plant. Low light plants provide green foliage. Plants with variegated, more colorful leaves and flowers, will require brighter light.

Sunlight coming in from a south or west window provide needs for a wider variety of plants. Chinese ever green, peace lily, dieffenbachia, dracaena, monstera and ficus are some of the most popular. As the light level increases, you can add more colorful foliage and varying sizes of plants.

The brightest light is direct sun coming into the home, which allows for flowering plants. Sunlight is necessary to drive the plant processes to develop flowers. Keep in mind, just like outdoor plants, houseplants cycle in and out of bloom. Favorite flowering house plants include orchids, Christmas cactus, African violets and hoya.

Selecting a houseplant should start with accessing your light levels and then pick a plant suited to the location. A common mistake is placing a higher light plant in a low light situation. The good news is low light plants will tolerate and probably thrive in higher light. In other words, it is easier to move a plant into higher light than lower.

When to water

The other tricky part of growing plants is watering. Most plants fail from overwatering as opposed to for getting to water. Excess water eliminates oxygen in the soil and leads to roots rotting. Remember always to have a pot with a drainage hole and not allow water to sit in the catch tray.

Houseplants need water weekly, but some can extend to every two weeks or more. It is better to err on the side of not enough water than too much. Take your finger to dig around in the soil. If it’ s dry an inch or two deep in the soil, then it is time to water . If it feels damp, hold of f. It’s that simple. After a few months, you will figure out the frequency between watering.

Don’t get hung up on fertilization as it is overrated for plant health. They do need some fertilizer, but only occasionally during the summer when there is plenty of light.

Everyone can succeed with a houseplant. There is no black thumb. Houseplants can be a long-term investment or enjoyed for a short period of time. Plants lift our spirits, helping us to also thrive in this pandemic.

Dennis Patton is horticulture agent at the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension Office.