Living in Western New York during the cold months we start to pick up habits and best practices to make the most of this time of year. Think special lights to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and taking bundled-up walks to encourage regular movement.
One trait that bloomed in popularity during the pandemic and continues to grow across our area is adding more greenery in our living spaces. We asked Johanna C. Dominguez, owner of the Buffalo plant store Put A Plant On It, for her professional opinion on this topic.
When we asked Johanna about the best plants to affect our physical health, we were a bit shocked by her response: The truth is, unless you’re living in a greenhouse, adding plants to your space is not enough to make a significant impact on your overall health.
“We like to look at the science, and while science says that while plants are good for air quality, a 2019 study done by the Journal of Exposure in Science & Environmental Epidemiology, found that one would need somewhere between 100-1000 houseplants per square meter within a room for them to do anything at all in regards to purifying the air. Therefore, physically, plants do very little to help our physical health,” say Johanna. “All is not lost, however, as there are several studies that show that plants do wonders to improve our mental health.”
We know by now that when our mental health is thriving our physical health does too.
Johanna agrees, sharing that “several studies have shown that plants in workplaces help productivity. It doesn’t even have to be real plants either. A Japanese study showed just looking at pictures of plants showed decreases in stress and anxiety levels. This in turn does help our physical health as it reduces blood pressure, pulse and muscle tension.”
So, if even fake plants can improve our mental health, which plants does Johanna recommend?
“I find that the best plants that give us the maximum benefit are plants that we can communicate with and understand their needs better. Plants that also reward us with dynamic and explosive growth also prove to be satisfying,” she says. As we reckon with another winter in a pandemic, investing in plants that double as companions is a good start.
“In this case, I like to recommend plants like spathiphyllum, commonly known as the peace lily. These plants are remarkably communicative in regard to letting their caretaker know of their needs. When they are thirsty, they drop dramatically. When they are hydrated and happy, they perk upright. When they are really happy they produce flowers, which in turn make us happy.”
Expressive plants are the best plants. As Johanna mentions, caring for them is as simple as being present and attentive, reacting to any drooping with extra TLC and giving ourselves a pat on the back when new flowers bloom.
If you’re a bit hesitant and new to caring for plants, that’s okay too. “Other plants I like to recommend to folks of all levels of experience are monsteras. There are few plants more joyful to watch grow than these vigorous plants. Their growth habit and their foliage keep both the newbie and most advanced plant parent engaged and happy,” she says. Not only are monsteras aesthetically pleasing, they brighten up any space and make the perfect photo op.
Ready to improve your space and health with new plants? You can head over to Put A Plant On It on Elmwood in Buffalo, and if you’re not completely sure, go the faux route. The science says you can’t go wrong!