Do houseplants benefit mental health and wellbeing?

Over the past few years, houseplants have experienced a huge surge in popularity and are an interior staple for many of us. Studies show that being surrounded by plants can help with purifying the air, creating a sense of calm and wellbeing and just generally enhancing your life. Besides instantly improving a home’s aesthetic, we were keen to know how houseplants have helped to benefit our student’s health and wellbeing. 

Student sat on a chair in her home reading, surrounded by houseplants.

Josi Hengstwerth – Fine Art student

Prior to the pandemic, I had the odd houseplant but always ended up inadvertently killing them and turned my bedroom into a plant graveyard. In 2020, out of lockdown boredom, I started getting more into houseplants; I watched videos on YouTube about how to take care of plants properly, researched specific needs and slowly turned into a plant mum. Although, that quickly escalated into a full-blown plant obsession and I ended up with about 40 houseplants, creating a personal urban jungle.

Plant care is self-care

During lockdown, my anxiety was at an all-time high and I often struggled to take care of myself. But taking care of plants has become a part of my self-care routine, nourishing them and seeing them flourish and growing new leaves brings me so much joy. As I’ve spent the majority of the year studying at home my plants were also a great way to bring my workspace alive and make it feel less clinical.

My favourite plant out of my personal collection is an Anthurium Crystallinum (pictured below), which is relatively rare and had to be imported from Indonesia (I told you the obsession was real). It’s so special because the leaves are very soft and velvety, but it also has details that literally sparkle (that’s why it’s called Crystallinum).

Anthurium Crystallinum houseplant in pot on shelf.

One of the easier plants I would recommend for anyone wanting to start their plant collection is an Aloe Vera, a succulent species. They’re a really handy plant to have in the house as Aloe Vera gel is great for relieving sunburn and can also be used as a skin moisturiser. If you tend to forget to water your plants an Aloe could be a great option for you - they store the water in their leaves, meaning it’s actually important not to over-water them. Whilst we’re on that topic…

Step away from the watering can!

It’s a total myth that you have to water your plants every day, DON’T you ever do that!! Over-watering is one of the worst things you can do to your plants, as it can cause root rot which is going to be the definite end of your plant baby. Your self-care plans are going to rapidly unravel if you fall into the trap of over-watering everything to death. It’s much better to risk slightly under-watering, which might just cause your plant to lose a leaf or two which is no big issue at all. 

If you find the plant obsession really starting to take hold I’d definitely recommend you try propagating, it’s the most exciting thing! Basically, you take a cutting of a plant with a node (those little knobbly bits on the stem) and put it into water. After a short while you’ll start seeing roots establish and soon after the plant will grow. It’s quick and super satisfying as you get to watch the roots grow, and it’s also incredibly easy. Some plants that are great for propagating are Pothos, Monsteras and Philodendrons. Enjoy! 

Sam Flynn – Film Production Technology student

I absolutely love having plants in the house - my room would be a jungle if I could afford it! When I first moved into my uni house it was, like most uni houses, quite empty and ready for me to put my stamp on it. By filling my room with plants it's made the air cleaner, helped it to smell fresh and has made the place feel a lot more like home. It’s an amazing way of being able to decorate your room in rented accommodation and create a relaxing but also productive environment.

Monstera houseplant on windowsill. Plant pride

Having something to care for and watch grow has really improved my mental health as well - the excitement I get when a new leaf appears is that of a proud parent seeing their child grow up. My favourite plant is my Monstera Deliciosa, commonly known as a Swiss cheese plant (pictured above). I have had it for so long and have watched it grow larger with huge green leaves that really bring those jungle vibes.

To people who want houseplants but are not the best at keeping them alive, I'd recommend the Sansevieria (snake plant) as they look very classy and sleek - these plants are almost impossible to kill, need barely any water and actually thrive off neglect. Ivy is also a great shout as it grows super-fast and is really great if you want a plant to hang off a shelf or trail along your wall. Ivy is also a great option if you want to try propagating some new plant babies.

Look after plants, look after yourself

I would encourage any student who is keen on prioritising their wellbeing to consider acquiring a houseplant or two. Do some research and start small. You don’t need to spend a fortune to experience the benefits of nature, especially if you’re a pro at propagating. Also, look out for your mates and if you think they might benefit from a bit of plant-related joy why not gift them a home-grown plant baby?

Two students sat in their house, surrounded by houseplants, having a chat. Image credits: Sam Flynn

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