Indoor greenery good for health

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Pretty pot plants 

House plants are the ultimate multi-functional decorative item.

Well-placed living, breathing greenery injects life and colour into interiors and, when well cared for, has a host of psychological and physical benefits.

There is no shortage of evidence showing that time spent amongst nature reduces anxiety and relieves tension, so it follows that bringing the great outdoors inside, will have a similar effect.

Studies have shown that patients in hospital rooms with a garden view often recover more quickly than those with no view, and there’s surely a reason so many people spend hours tending gardens which produce no edible goods.

For those who have neither a garden nor a view of nature, it is particularly beneficial to place plants around the home – or office – to enjoy some of their natural benefits.

It has long been known that plants absorb carbon dioxide and pump oxygen into the air as they photosynthesise. When kept indoors they can therefore prevent that stuffy, headache-inducing feeling of a poorly ventilated room.

More recently, though. scientists have discovered that plants are powerful, living air purifiers: they have the ability to absorb pollutants and scrub harmful gases from the air.

Science aside, on a human level we also know that walking into a room filled with plants fills us with a sense of wellbeing. It makes a space feel alive and therefore makes us, as individuals, feel more vital, energised and uplifted.

Many people give up on keeping house plants because they require a certain amount of care and attention in order to thrive. It’s worth remembering, though, that all house plants were once wild plants, growing in the great outdoors, with access to deep soil, space, sunlight and rain.

 “Any house plant was originally an outdoor plant that has been removed from its natural environment and placed in a totally alien one, and it needs extra care and nurturing to ensure it survives,” Henrik Lindhardt, owner of Power Flower points out.

“A house plant depends on you, its owner, entirely for its survival.”

House plants, he explains, have to be acclimatised for indoors living. You cannot simply take an outdoor plant, put it in a pot and take it indoors. Plants are living things, and the move to a new environment has to be gradual and careful.

“If you go to a garden centre to purchase house plants, select plants from the shade house, where they have already become accustomed to less direct sunlight and life in a pot,” Henrik advises.

“You may pay 30 per cent more for an indoor plant than for its outdoor counterpart, but that is because it has been transitioned to the indoors and given extra special care.”

All plants are different and while some thrive in direct sunlight, others will literally burn in the same conditions, so it is important to find out, when purchasing house plants, where to place them in relation to windows.

All plants need some natural light, however, even if it is indirect light. Light bulbs – unless they are special UV bulbs – will not have the same effect.

The “Goldilocks effect” also applies to watering; too little and they will become dehydrated, too much and roots will rot.

“It’s better to water less frequently but enough to moisten the whole root ball area, than surface watering frequently, which doesn’t reach where it is needed,” says Henrik. He also recommends watering slowly, so that the soil has time to absorb moisture all the way through.

Dust and dirt will clog up the pores on the leaves of a plant, so periodic “cleaning” of the plants will also boost their health. Leaves can either be wiped with a damp cloth or sponge, or plants can be put in the shower and sprayed, taking care not to saturate the soil. 

Even indoor plants can get pests and disease so keep an eye out for telltale signs, and be sure to fertilise house plants, following label instructions exactly.

It may sound like a great chore to keep plants thriving, but just as you would not bring a pet home and then leave it to fend for itself, a living plant needs care and nurturing. It’s a small price to pay for something that brightens an interior space, keeps the air clean and lifts the human spirit.