7 Indoor Plants For A Happy, Healthy Home

I’m calling it now, The Rainforest Cafe’s overzealous decor will become the most replicated interior design decor of 2021.

It seems like the more the plants we have, the happier we feel. Why is this? And are there certain plants that make us feel better than others? 

With stay at home orders, restricted travel, and working from home, more people have been feeling anxiety and finding it harder to concentrate. Being confined indoors is an appropriate measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it also means we’re more disconnected with nature than ever before. To combat this feeling, people are happily reconnecting with nature by talking nature walks, bird watching, and most of all—buying indoor plants!

This time last year the majority of our customers came in on weekends; we’d get 300 to 500 people on a Saturday or Sunday. But now we’re getting 200 orders a day.

Greg Kuga, manager of the Sunset Boulevard Nursery in East Hollywood

Why? Maybe we are all dead inside and are looking to nurture anything that gives us life. Perhaps millennials are waiting to have kids until they’re older, and instead are having “plant babies”. Maybe it’s none of those and yet all of those at the same time. 

The Science Behind Why Nature Make Us Happy

Humans are part of nature and therefore are inherently connected to it. As hunters and gathers, our ancestors survived, thrived, and cultivated the land as a source of life. This biological connection to nature is known as Biophilia—”a human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature.”

When you look at the ocean, rolling mountains or clear desert skies, that feeling of “awe” is actually biological.

According to Dr. Keltner from UC Berkeley, that “awe” moment occurs when people encounter nature beyond their immediate frame of reference. It is mysterious in the sense that your current knowledge doesn’t allow you to understand what you are seeing.

Nature changes our sense of self and stimulates our sense of imagination. That’s what that sense of ‘wonder’ is. It’s feeling of being a part of something much larger than your mind could comprehend and oftentimes it leaves us speechless. 

When we are surrounded by nature our bodies become more balanced and relaxed, which has clear benefits to our physical and mental health such as:

Cartoon watering plants peacefully
  • Heart rate decreases 
  • Adrenaline decreases 
  • Cortisol levels change 
  • Removes “fight or flight” anxiety
  • Returns us to a “calm and be-friend” state of mind 
  • Plant symmetry reduces stress
  • Reduces blood pressure  
  • Positive effects on mood
  • Positive effects on cognitive function
  • Rooms with plants have less dust and mold than rooms without any foliage

To prove these findings, Stanford University conducted a study that compared people going for a 90 minute nature walk with people going on an urban walk in high traffic areas. Researchers found that the folks who went on a nature walk had reduced activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a.k.a. the part of your brain that is responsible for anxiety and rumination—repetitive thought focused on negative emotions.

LA Times Coverage of the Standard Study on how plants scientifically make people fell better

This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation—something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better.

 Gregory Bratman, a graduate student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab and the Center for Conservation Biology

Even playing with soil for five to ten minutes reduces our stress levels and brings us peace. And this is besides the benefit that houseplants remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours!

Plant Basics

Before we soil this post with which plants to purchase for your own indoor bio-intensive garden or Rainforest Cafe, let’s get the basics of how to take care of plants. 

lots of succulents at a nursery
  • Start small – pick one or two plants to start with 
  • Get a good container with lots of drainage 
  • Use high quality soil 
  • Don’t over or under water
  • Ensure plants have the necessary amount of sunlight to thrive

7 Indoor Plants To Bring You Happiness

Photo of an Orchid

Orchids 

Orchids are a show stopper of a plant and easy to maintain. These gorgeous flowers have pops of color, can last several months with proper care, and the bloom year-round.They also add sophistication and “mood enhancing colors” to even the gloomiest of winter days. These plants are also remarkable at improving air quality and produce oxygen.

Here are some tips for keeping your orchid alive:

  • Use containers with excellent drainage 
  • Place it in a room with moderate light. Try putting it near an east-facing window or an unscreened south-facing window. 
  • Water your orchid moderately, depending on the soil moisture.
Photo of an Ivy Plant

Pothos or Ivy Plants

Pothos are one of the most popular houseplants because they are incredibly easy to grow, and come in several different deep foliage colors. They’re great plants for kitchens, bedrooms, offices, and bathrooms. Yes, I am biased as I have two Pothos Ivy plants and they are thriving. These plants are great at filtering air pollutants too (because my skin needs all the clean air it can get!)

Here are some tips for keeping your plant alive:

  • Pothos do well in low-light conditions. Avoid putting them in direct sunlight which can cause sunburns on the plant.
  • They require moderate waterings, but be sure to let the soil dry out in between waterings. 
  • Pothos can grow up to 30–50 feet in their natural habitat so you might need to prune them every now and then to keep them full and bushy.
Photo of a ZZ Plant

ZZ Plants

If you need a plant that thrives off neglect, then ZZ plants are for you. These beautiful, neolithic, column-like plants are among the most popular indoor plants. They require such little care that if you’re new at building an indoor garden and need to boost your plant parenting confidence, then ZZ plants are a great place to start.

Here are some tips for keeping your plant alive:

  • Keep your ZZ plant in low light conditions. Avoid direct sunlight. 
  • Water every 2–3 weeks, allowing soil to dry out between waterings.
Photo of a Snake Plant

Snake Plants

These beautiful, proud plants with their structured leaves that reach into the air happen to also be excellent plants for improving air quality and producing oxygen. Fun fact: the Snake Plant is actually part of the succulent family, which means it’s also incredibly easy to maintain.

Here are some tips for your plant alive:

  • Snake plants perform great in low-light conditions. 
  • Water these plants infrequently—aim for every 2–8 weeks.
  • Use a fast and well-draining soil mixture to prevent root rot.
Photo of a Spider Plant

Spider Plants

Air conditioners and furnaces can zap the moisture out of the air making folks more prone to catching the flu or itchy, dry skin. Spider plants are uniquely well-suited to add moisture back into the air. One study found that a collection of spider plants “boosted the relative humidity in a bedroom from 20% to a more comfortable 30%”. If you’re sensitive to dry conditions, that extra 10% added humidity could greatly improve your physical health. They also replicate quickly, making it easy to give a new baby spider plant away!

Here are some tips for keeping your plant alive:

  • All soil to dry between waterings.
  • Place in bright to moderate light in a room.
  • Heavily chlorinated water or water that’s been run through a water softener can cause brown tips. If you suspect this is the case try using collected rainwater or water from another source.
Photo of a Peace Lily

Peace Lily

Peace Lilies are incredibly easy to maintain and are a home run of a plant if you’re looking to reduce air pollutants in your home! Fun fact, NASA also uses these plants to filter out air pollutants in their offices. Moreover, these sophisticated plants come outfitted with deep green glossy leaves and pure white flowers.

Here are some tips for keeping your plant alive:

  • Place in moderate indoor light. 
  • Try to keep it in cooler temperatures. 
  • Allow soil to dry in between waterings.
  • This plant will wilt if it is thirsty but a good dose of water should perk it right back up.
Photo of Herbs

Mixed Herbs

Indoor plants do not have to be confined to the traditional variety. We can expand our definition to include plants we cook with everyday! Using the leaves from an herb garden can bring an unmatched flavor profile to everyday meals. It may also save you a few bucks from having to purchase herbs at your local store.

In more good news, most popular herbs can be easily grown indoors. This includes: Basil (because who doesn’t love pesto), Rosemary, Cilantro, Chives, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Thyme & Mint.

Here are some tips for keeping your plant alive:

  • Choose a container with excellent drainage and add rocks at the bottom to create a drainage reservoir.
  • Use rich organic soil.
  • Indoor herbs need at least 6 hours of sunlight to grow well or supplement light with fluorescent bulbs.
  • Herbs grow best inside with temperatures around 65 F. (18 C.) to 75 F. (24 C.)
  • Water herbs regularly—don’t allow the soil to dry out.
  • Humidity is important for herbs, so misting your herbs once a week with a spray bottle will keep them healthy.
  • Here are some indoor planter ideas!

Use Cuttings & Save Money

Don’t want to spend money on an entirely new plant? No problem. Simply get a cutting of a plant and replant it. This is known as plant propagation and can be a great way to grow your indoor plant garden. Here are some tips & benefits of using cuttings:

  • Choose a healthy parent plant
  • Prepare the container with soilless mix
  • Cut green stems with new buddings (about 4-6 inches or 2 leafs & one node)
  • Scrape the bottom of the stem to increase the chances of roots emerging
  • Make the soil hole slightly larger than the stem and plant
  • Wrap the plant in plastic with air flow to keep the heat & humidity up
  • In 2–3 weeks, take the plastic off and watch your plant grow
Photo of a person wondering through a field of sunflowers

Get Outside & Smell the Flowers

Or fill your home with plants!

The physical and emotional benefits of being surrounded by plants is astonishing. Even the slightest bit of greenery or getting your hands in soil can drastically improve our overall well-being.

It makes sense—we are part of nature. The more we connect with our ancestral roots, the more wholesome we can feel, especially after 2020. So get outside, go for a walk, and smell the flowers. There is good chance you will feel better.

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