Image Description: A selection of Mia’s houseplants in brightly coloured plots; a terrarium
Being a parent is difficult. From watering to misting, soil replenishments to pot changes – our babies require a lot of care. In my case, all twenty-nine of them. But why do we do it? There are, in fact, many reasons. Just the presence of houseplants brightens up our lives. Not only do they help to relieve stress and lift our moods, they also improve our lives physically; with added humidity and cleaner air.
With an increased focus surrounding health and wellbeing within society, plants have become a popular and an integral part of home and office life. Being surrounded by these leafy green things can allow us to take a break from technology, through the watching and nurturing of our newfound love. However, despite their current popularity, humans and houseplants share a longstanding relationship.
The desire for humans to be around nature is not just a new trend, but rather an instinctive trait. This affection can be understood as Biophilia, meaning that our love for plants is a product of human evolution. Biophilia has been recorded throughout human history, being found as early as 2000 years ago within Egyptian tomb paintings. More specifically, the presence of houseplants within the UK first appeared around the 17th century in the form of greenhouses: often marking the more elite in society.
By the 19th century, despite the high pollution levels of the industrial revolution, the houseplant acted as a fashion icon. International plants, such as the ‘Cast-Iron Plant’ imported from China in 1823, were able to survive in these polluted conditions.
However, a shift in the decoration of houseplants occurred within the 20th century towards a more modern approach. This included a transition from an abundance of many plants in the home, to architecturally shaped houseplants such as cacti and succulents which reflected modern interiors. This was enhanced by the popularity of garden-less flats and apartments in the 1950s. Despite the popularity of houseplants waxing and waning since the 1950s, they are now ‘firmly back in fashion’.
Urbanisation has also been a contributing factor towards our love for plants. With an increasing amount of time spent indoors, houseplants have been used to fight back against the domination of our manmade surroundings. The introduction of houseplants into our homes and workplaces allows us to recreate nature indoors, acting as a form of escapism. This has been particularly effective during lockdown, allowing us to feel less lonely with the presence of nature.
The introduction of houseplants into our homes and workplaces allows us to recreate nature indoors, acting as a form of escapism.
Houseplants can be used as a way of making the most of space by covering window sills or through hanging baskets, allowing us to feel like interior designers. They can be particularly useful in rented student accommodation to make the space feel more homely, which I have certainly taken advantage of. Our plant friends do not only make our rooms look good, however – they also make them fresher. The production of oxygen allows for cleaner air, with some plants specialising in air purification such as the Weeping Fig or Golden Pothos.
Plants are therapists. Whether it be a Chinese Money Plant, or String of Hearts, the variety of colours and textures houseplants bring can both reduce stress and energise us. Just their presence can help us focus whilst also lifting our mood – all the more reasons why they should be our best friends during these trying times. The more the merrier, because a greater number of houseplants leads to a further increase in our mood and reduction in boredom.
However, size does matter when it comes to plants. The bigger the better! A study by Desto Jumeno demonstrated that bigger plants cause a bigger increase in “mood, attention, productivity and the perception of air quality of the occupants” in comparison to smaller houseplants.
Houseplants can also act medicinally. Evidence shows that their calming effect can speed up patient recovery time. So, next time you are sniffling and sneezing or have freshers’ flu, surround yourself with houseplants. With their air-purifying powers, houseplants can even help to relieve the symptoms of conditions such as asthma through the removal of harmful pollutants.
To conclude, houseplants can bring many benefits into our lives – through their looks, and therapeutic and medicinal powers. The variety of sizes, colours and textures means houseplants can reduce boredom, lift mood and increase productivity. Therefore, next time you walk past your local plant shop or through the Covered Market, don’t hesitate to treat yourself to a new houseplant: you deserve it.
Image credit: Mia Oxer
 Jumeno, Desto and Hiroshi Matsumoto. “The Effects of Indoor Foliage Plants on Perceived Air Quality, Mood, Attention, and Productivity.” (2016)