It has been known for a long time that many kinds of houseplants will not only make you feel good, but will also clean the air in your home or office. In 2012 Charles R. Hall and Madeline W. Dickson from the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University summarized all the peer reviewed research on the economic, ecological and health benefits of plants (indoor and out) and landscaping. Plants by nature produce oxygen while consuming carbon dioxide, and they also filter toxins from the air, specifically Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, and Benzene. These gases leech out of a room’s manufactured products like carpeting, paneling and furniture. NASA has done extensive research on the ability of houseplants to replace these toxins with oxygen. In a recent NASA study (looking into methods of cleaning the air aboard spacecraft) scientists found that spider plants, pothos, English ivy and philodendrons filter toxins most efficiently. They determined that a single Spider Plant can rid a 10' x 10' room filled with formaldehyde gas in just over a day.

 Fortunately for most of us, many of these beneficial plants, also, thrive  on neglect. Plants like the following will clean the air, clear your mind, and survive under tough conditions: Dracaena, Aloe Vera, Areca Palm, Reed Palm, Dwarf Date Palm, Boston Fern, English Ivy, Peace Lily and Bamboo Palm.  Chinese Evergreen, Ficus, Weeping Fig and Dumbcane are also air-cleaning wonder plants for your living space.


And according to Hall and Dickerson, plants just keep on giving by increasing the value of your property.  Home improvements can add significant value to a property, but seldom yield a 100% return on the money invested. Landscaping, however, yields, on average, a 109% return on every dollar spent, much more so than other home improvements.


But the greatest benefit of a life spent surrounded by plants and flowers is the well-being of the individual. Among some of the quality of life benefits are:

Concentration and memory. The calming influence of natural environments is conducive to positive work environments by increasing a person’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature. The influence of plants can increase memory retention up to twenty percent, stimulating the senses and improving mental cognition and performance.


Learning. Keeping plants in a child’s learning environment enhances learning capabilities by helping them to focus and concentrate. This improves their ability to learn new things and makes it easier for them to absorb and retain information. Ornamental plants are conducive to generating a positive
learning environment, reducing children’s tendency towards distraction and helping them to be better able concentrate on school work. Specifically for children with problems paying attention, adding plants to the classroom can have a dramatic positive effect on the way they learn. For example, for children with Attention Deficit Disorder, learning in a natural environment can help them to engage more in the classroom, improving their focus and concentration on the task at hand. The soothing effects of natural aesthetic beauty help to minimize the distractions that would otherwise occupy their minds. By altering the environment in which children learn, plants can help them to learn better.

Flowers generate happiness. Many studies have proven that natural aesthetic beauty is soothing to people, and keeping flowers in and around the home and workplace environments is an excellent way to lower levels of stress and anxiety. People who keep flowers in their home feel happier and more relaxed. As a result of the positive energy they derive from the environment, the chances of suffering from stress-related depression are decreased as well.

Reduce stress. Participation in gardening and landscaping activities is an effective way to reduce levels of stress. Studies have shown that people who nurture plants and garden have less mental distress than others. Gardening provides people with a positive way to channel their stress and frustration into something beautiful that provides them with comfort and joy. Part of the effects of gardening come from the satisfaction people get from nurturing and helping a living thing grow. Plants and gardening soothe people because they help them turn their stressful feelings into something positive which gives them pleasure. By helping them transform their stress into a more positive emotion, gardening also gives people an excellent coping mechanism for their daily frustrations. Nurturing plants reduces stress levels and gives people a way to cope with their negative feelings.


Accelerates healing process. Plants and ornamental shrubs and flowers have a practical application in hospitals: the presence of plants in patient recovery rooms has been shown to reduce the time necessary to heal. The soothing effects of ornamental flowers and plants are so great that simply having daily views of flowers and other ornamental plants in landscaped areas outside patient recovery room can also significantly speed up recovery time. (These findings have resulted in the creation of "Healing Gardens" at many hospitals throughout the country including the one at Moore Regional, shown on the left). Another technique to decrease recovery time is horticulture therapy, where patients care for and nurture plants themselves. Many patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures.


Therapeutic effects of gardening. Gardening can have therapeutic effects on people who have undergone either mental or physical trauma. The act of nurturing a plant can provide victims with a way to work through difficult issues and heal their wounds. Gardening is a therapeutic tool that can be used to help put people in a better psychological state during recovery and help them to work past the mental  barriers that could impede their healing.

NOTE: Recent studies have proven that the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae found in garden soil can stimulate the
production of serotonin in the brain and act as a natural anti-depressant.

Improves relationships/compassion. Ornamental plants affect the level of compassion that people feel towards others. Studies have shown that people who spend more time around plants are much more likely to try and help others, and often have more advanced social relationships. People who care for nature are more likely to care for others, reaching out to their peers and forming shared bonds resulting from their common interests. Extended exposure to nature and wildlife increases people’s compassion for each other as it
increases people’s compassion for the environment in which they live. In short, being around plants improves relationships between people and increases their concern and empathy toward others.


Improved human performance/energy. Spending time in nature gives people an increased feeling of vitality, increasing their energy levels and making them feel more animated. Their performance levels are, in turn, increased by this improved state of mind. Natural environments induce a positive outlook on life, making people feel more alive and active. Plants can help people to improve their performance at work and at home by increasing their perceived vitality and giving
them more feelings of added energy.


These are just some of the benefits of human interaction with nature and plant life. There's a lot more and, if you wish to read the entire report from Hall and Dickson, just click on the image to the right.


Note: There is evidence that historically cavemen brought plants and flowers into their caves to improve the air. Click on the caveman to the left below for a brief but interesting history of our love affair with houseplants.