The beauty and benefits of houseplants


The beauty and benefits of houseplants

Gold club moss and philodendron make a perfect combination for houseplants. photo by Jane Colclasure

Houseplants are seeing a resurgence in popularity, but honestly, at my house they never went out of style. I have them in different rooms to add ambience, help cleanse the air and bring a little nature indoors, which is especially important to me in the winter months.

A well-placed plant can soften harsh lines in a room, and when arranged thoughtfully, can be an important design element. In addition, studies show that exposure to nature — including houseplants — can have health benefits, like reduced stress and lower blood pressure. Who would have thought a philodendron could be so powerful?

Take that a step further, and we find that many of these plants actually clean the air around us. Common items found throughout the home, like cleaners, building materials, paint and even dry cleaning can emit toxins. I don’t know about you, but I feel my blood pressure going up just thinking about it. To combat this, I recommend placing one medium-size houseplant for every 100 square feet in your home. An average-size house will need 15 to 20 plants.

Greenery will give your room a lift and help bridge the gap until spring returns. photo by Jane Colclasure

To make the most of your indoor plants, there are a few key rules of thumb. Most houseplants do not do well in direct sunlight, and in fact, thrive in bright indirect or even low-light situations. Also, avoid placing plants in areas where the temperature fluctuates drastically, like near a radiator or front door.

And probably most importantly, don’t overwater your plants. I once heard a homeowner say that he waters his plants once a week whether they like it or not — maybe not the best attitude to have when it comes to plant care.

Most plants require drying out between watering, which makes drainage in your pots important. Using quality potting soil and making sure your containers have drainage holes will go a long way toward success. And if you’re not sure whether your plant needs water, stick a finger in the top inch or two of potting soil. If it’s very dry, then water well — it’s that easy.

Some of my favorite, easy-to-grow varieties include mother-in-law tongue, pothos, dieffenbachia, schefflera and ponytail palm. But don’t limit yourself to the tried-and-true. I’m often tempted by an unusual plant with an exotic leaf pattern or unusual variegation. That’s part of the fun. So experiment with different plant shapes, textures, heights and leaf color. Adding a houseplant is an easy way to change the look of a room, and it’s good for you, too.

As a pet owner, it’s important to be aware of any animal hazards in your home, and that includes houseplants. For many pets this is not an issue, but if you have a chewer in your house, you’ll definitely want to make sure your plants are nontoxic to animals. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

A list of toxic and non-toxic plants can be found at