When the pandemic altered the world as we knew it, some people coped with the stress and spare time by retreating to long-forgotten hobbies. Some took up exercise, others turned to the kitchen, and still more found relief by way of a green thumb. For new plant owners, caring for plants is equally therapeutic and aesthetically pleasing.
According to Psychology Today, being around plants can provide mental and physical health benefits, including reduced stress and depression, higher levels of creativity and production and stronger memory retention. Horticulture therapy, the practice of using plants and gardening to improve mental or physical health, applies these benefits in a controlled therapeutic setting.
Patrick Byers, a horticulture field specialist in Webster, says some of the benefits of horticulture therapy can be achieved simply by surrounding yourself with plants. A 2015 study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology shows that working with and being around plants makes you feel more comfortable and reduce stress. “Plants and people are a great team,” Byers says. “There are well-documented connections between human well-being and the presence of plants.”
Plants help humans by releasing oxygen and purifying the air, Byers says. Research shows that plants absorb toxins and improve air quality and overall health. “After the fifth or sixth Zoom call of the day, I can look over and get a lot of pleasure out of plants that are on the desk,” Byers says. “It’s very calming in my environment, and I know that those plants are physically helping me.”
For Elizabeth Ustinov, an MU senior studying journalism who has acquired five plants since March, buying greenery was a way to feel better. “It kind of gives me that responsibility to make sure that something I own doesn’t die or wither,” she says. “It helps me because I feel like I’m doing these plants good.”
With winter approaching and outdoor activities becoming less frequent, it becomes difficult to get outside and enjoy nature. To counteract the winter blues, it might be time to get that succulent or fern you’ve been wanting for your nightstand or desk.
Before picking your plant, find out which kinds will do best in your home this winter. With help from local experts, Vox came up with a list of plants that are perfect for newfound green thumbs.
Beautify your workspace:
These cascading houseplants make a statement in any room. Whether in a hanging basket or on a bookshelf, pothos are happy when watered after the soil has dried and do “beautifully” in indirect light, Byers says, making them great for your single-window bedroom. These plants are not suitable for households with cats or dogs.
For a plant that multitasks:
Not only is the aloe plant great for beginners, but its leaves also have healing purposes. A type of succulent, this medicinal plant can be used to relieve burns and heal wounds, though it is not suitable for households with cats. “If I could only keep one plant, it’d be this,” Diana Denman, owner of Columbia plant shop Wolf’s Point Studio says. Put an aloe plant on an end table near a window to spice up your living room.
Doubt your green thumb capabilities?
cactus or succulent
If you’re not confident in your ability to keep a plant alive, a cactus or succulent might be perfect, particularly because they thrive on neglect, Denman says. This winter, stick your cactus or succulent in a windowsill so it can soak up as much light as possible.
Want a bit of a challenge?
Ferns can be tricky if you don’t know the environment they need. Byers recommends putting them in your kitchen or bathroom for high humidity. Boston ferns need moisture and low light, so keep the soil damp by misting it once or twice a week.
Want some color?
If you want a plant that flowers, the Christmas cactus is perfect for the holiday season. Byers says they are “tried and true” indoor plants and reliably flower every winter if you cut back on watering. They can handle low and high light but will flower more readily in a brighter environment.