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Maybe it’s a holdover from a childhood spent outdoors, a college job at a garden center, or the Girl Scout merit badge I got for growing flowers from seeds, but I love being surrounded by plants. I aim to have at least one plant in every room in the house, and I believe there are real benefits to it. If you’re not a plant person, meaning you think they look great but don’t have experience taking care of them, look no further! Here are some great reasons to get a plant and some tips for keeping them alive and well.
Why You Should Get a Plant
I think plants are the easiest way to get the psychological effects of being in the natural world, but there are mental, physical, and possibly even spiritual reasons to surround yourself with all kinds of nature.
Plants Purify the Air
Number one, NASA says so. They did a big study to figure out how to clean the air inside the space station and, voila! They found that plants do a heck of a job. For real, certain plants purify airborne toxins, meaning they take the formaldehyde and xylene out of the air and absorb it. Super cool. Here are the toxins that are in our air.
And here is a handy graphic that NASA made for us explaining which plants are best for purifying the air.
If that doesn’t convince you to get a plant right away, there are other benefits to living with greenery.
Plants Keep you from getting sick
Houseplants can reduce the airborne microbes in the air and increase humidity. Those two put together mean happier nasal passages, which means less vulnerability to colds. The Bayer aspirin people did a study and -gasp- found that if we all went out to get a plant we would need fewer of their medicines. Take charge of your mucous membranes, people.
Plants Cheer You up
One of the main reasons we feel calm in nature is that we left our cell phone in the car. 🙂 The other reason is that we are surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. I think it’s a holdover from our evolutionary past when we lived outdoors, but that’s just me. There are legit studies that indicate houseplants make you 15% more productive, improve concentration, and boost your mood. Whether it’s because we’re remembering the African Savana or plants improve our overall health physically, the mental benefits of plants can’t be denied. The visual image of a plant is powerful enough that fake plants are a thing. (They should not be a thing. A house with no plants has more integrity than a house with fake plants. Seriously, get a plant. Do not get fake plants.)
How to Live With Plants
But I have a brown thumb, you admit. I’ve killed plants in my past, you say. No matter. I have some good tips for keeping a few plants alive in your house or office so you can enjoy all the benefits and feel none of the guilt.
Get a starter plant.
This plant should be a reliably hardy plant that most people can take care of. (It’s always a good idea to start off with the best possible odds.) Many, many people get a succulent for starters and have good luck with it. And succulents are beautiful and simple, grown in every condition, and require little water.
• Don’t get a tiny succulent. Tiny plants of any variety SEEM easy because they’re so small, but the reality is that a bigger pot holds more moisture, meaning you don’t have to water so much. A tiny pot also makes spillage a reality, which means you’ll have water on your legal pad at work. Get a medium sized succulent for best results.
• A better starter plant is the Monstera Deliciosa, or swiss cheese plant. These are beautiful plants, and they grow quickly and in most places. Though your succulent is beautiful, it grows pretty slowly. This swiss cheese plant monster grows twice its size in about 4 months. How satisfying to see the thing you’ve taken care of growing! This guy will need some peaty, well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes. You also might want to get a trellis or support sticks to deal with the height, plus some Velcro plant ties. Or you could just tack it to the wall in creative ways.
Don’t forget the accessories
• I’ve seen folks get a plant and make the same mistakes: they don’t have the gear. If you buy a plant in the grocery store, it for sure doesn’t have a water-catcher dish under it. Get one of those, either a basic plastic one from the hardware store or put a fancy, but chipped, piece of china under there. Either way, your plant needs a place to catch the excess after you water it each week.
• If you’re someone who forgets to water your plant, try getting some of these glass waterers. You fill them up with water and they stick into your plant. When the plant gets dry, they utilize more of the water in the globe. It’s sort of like they water themselves, but at their own pace. This is good for when you want to put a plant in a very sunny spot and it seems to need constant water.
• If you want to fertilize, use a plant fertilizer, just don’t overdo it because the chemicals can burn a plant. Once a month is really all you need to give your plants a little extra.
Find each plant’s best spot
• Each part of your house is unique in terms of light, moisture, and traffic. I have had plants that did very poorly until I moved them into a new room with better circumstances. Don’t assume that every plant needs direct sun– most houseplants actually do better in filtered light, and moving them to a brighter or dimmer room can make a big difference.
• The pot is very important, because if it’s too small you’ll find yourself replanting too soon. You should be able to see the soil around the plant, giving it a little room to breath at the base of the plant. And of course you can pick out gorgeous pots that make your home brighter and more fun. You could also use some nontraditional containers to pot your plants. But make sure that you have a good drainage, a dish to collect water, and a cork moisture-absorbing mat to reduce the damage to your tables.
• Put the plant in a place where there is already water. If you are a chronic under-waterer, plop that plant in the bathroom or on the kitchen counter. Chances are better that you’ll water it if all you have to do is turn on the sink and hold the plant under it while you’re brushing your teeth.
If you’re a plant newbie, what success have you had with your first plant?