Houseplants: Your Best Guest


By Caroline Long

Every fall, there’s a widespread study that floats through casual conversations with colleagues about how Boston residents are typically deficient in Vitamin D due to the dreary winter months and lack of sunshine. The inclusion of this overused fact in conversation is usually followed by a corny joke about how you need a vacation (bonus points if it’s later followed by a “Throwback Thursday” Instagram post of you at the beach). It’s true that with fall comes changing colors, chunky scarves, and chai-ciders—but after we welcome fall, we face the cold decay of green and winter.

Enter the trend of potted plants on windowsills.

I mean, sure, they’re a good statement piece, but you have to admit that houseplants have begun to transcend aesthetic. The benefits they offer make them a necessity, and those dainty-looking succulents can provide you more than just the giddy feeling of spring—they can actually make you feel better from the inside out.

Because plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen (the opposite of what humans do), they make great houseguests, especially at night, when photosynthesis stops and most plants switch the process. Orchids, succulents, and epiphytic bromeliads do the opposite and continue to take in oxygen at night, so keeping some cacti in your bedroom can help oxygen flow while you sleep.

"They can actually make you feel better from the inside out."

If you won't take my word for it, maybe NASA can convince you; According to their extensive research monitoring air quality in sealed environments in the late '80s, plants play a pivotal role in removing toxins from inside tightly sealed buildings. The agency even recommends owning and maintaining one potted plant per 100 square feet of indoor space.

Keeping plants in your apartment or living space will not only prevent bad mojo, but it may also help get rid of it. Kansas State University and Texas A&M University have both done studies on the presence horticulture for hospital patients and for people battling stress. Kansas State found that viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement in physiologic responses as evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms. Texas A&M discovered that just by asking patients to physically interact and take care of their plants experienced a significantly reduced recovery time.

In addition to scientific research supporting theories that houseplants can heal you physically, succulents and flowers offer a pop of green, of life, and of resurgence in places encompassed by cinderblock and brick. Plants have resurfaced as more than just artsy decor for cramped dorm rooms and third floor apartments because they’re a physical reminder to take care of yourself—like every morning that aloe vera plant on your coffee table is cheering, “Spring will come again, hang in there!”