Posts Tagged ‘indoor plants’

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently someone who read my Indoor Air Quality post asked me how to know how much humidity to provide indoor plants to maintain good air quality. I don’t honestly know!  So I thought I’d do some research and provide you with some of the best answers I’ve found.

How Stuff Works has a great article on how to care for indoor plants here.

Our House Plants has a good guide on humidity here.

Want to know how exactly plants increase indoor humidity? Check out the Ambius article here for more info.

And if you want to know which plants can help decrease indoor air humidity, check out Doityourself’s article here.



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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

As Fall unfolds and winter approaches, it’s time to think about giving your home and your family a boost of fresh air, reduced stress and visual beauty. How can you do that? With indoor potted plants.

Some plants are known for their ability to remove harmful chemicals from the air. Overall, plants and nature have shown to reduce stress levels and improve mood. And for most people, plants are visually appealing and give our minds a break from “hard attention,” the kind we use when we read, solve problems at work or focus on a task.

To send a friend or relative a burst of healthy air and the gift of stress reduction, you can send them a Potted Peace Lily Plant (Spathiphyllum) for about $40 (with shipping) from Proflowers here.

In Chicago, you can find locations to buy air cleaning plants here.

Breathe deep and enjoy your indoor plants! They may help keep you from getting cabin fever.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Workspace Without Plants

More good news about indoor plants: Researchers at Washington State University found that indoor plants decreased stress of computer workers and improved productivity.

The  study was conducted in a computer lab at Washington State University.  Subjects were asked to participate in an experiment to measure stress levels in people using computers.  They were randomly assigned to be tested in the computer lab when plants were absent or when they were present.  In the room with plants, the interior plants were placed around the sides of the room. Then the blood pressure and emotions of subjects were monitored while they performed a slightly stressful computer task that measured reaction times in response to seeing and decoding the shape of a simple object on the screen.

When plants were added to the lab, people were more productive (12% quicker reactions on the computer task) and less stressed (systolic blood pressure lower).  They also reported feeling more attentive when the plants were present.

Workspace With Plants

Again, yet another study shows that adding a little “nature” to your indoor life can actually not only make your work space or living space more aethetically pleasing, it can also help you feel better and think more clearly!

The research study was partially supported by the American Floral Endowment and the Horticultural Research Institute.

Source: Lohr, V.I., C.H. Pearson-Mims, and G.K. Goodwin. 1996. Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment. J. of Environmental Horticulture 14(2):97-100.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

We know that nature has a stress relieving effect. Read more about the effects of nature on stress in our post, “A Cure For Burnout and Stress–As Simple as a Walk In The Woods!” here. But working indoors and living in cold climates like Chicago often means a lack of contact with nature. How can we help reduce our stress, interact more with nature and still work to pay our bills?

Add indoor plants to the workplace and home!

Not only can it help with stress relief, but indoor plants have been shown to improve indoor air quality too. Read more about the study of indoor plants and air quality from United Press International via EcoWorld in the   article that follows.

Top Indoor Air Cleaner Plants

ATHENS, Ga., Nov. 5, 2009 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have come up with five ornamental plants that do a superior job of removing indoor air pollutants.

The study of 28 types of plants, published in HortScience, found Hemigraphis alternata known as purple waffle plant; Hedera helix or English ivy; Hoya carnosa or variegated wax plant; and Asparagus densiflorus or Asparagus fern had the highest removal rates for all five volatile organic compounds introduced.

Tradescantia pallida or Purple heart plant was rated superior for its ability to remove four of the volatile organic compounds.

Study leader Stanley J. Kays of the University of Georgia in Athens placed plants in gas-tight glass jars, exposing them to benzene, octane, toluene and alpha-pinene. The researchers analyzed air samples and then classified plants as superior, intermediate and poor in their ability to remove the five volatile organic compounds from the air.

“The volatile organic compounds tested in this study can adversely affect indoor air quality

and have a potential to seriously compromise the health of exposed individuals,” Kays said in a statement.

Kays said benzene and toluene are known to originate from petroleum-based indoor coatings, cleaning solutions, plastics, environmental tobacco smoke and exterior exhaust fumes seeping into buildings; octane from paint, adhesives and building materials; TCE from tap water, cleaning agents, insecticides and plastic products; and alpha-pinene from synthetic paints and odorants.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Find original article in EcoWorld here.

Caring for your Indoor Plants

• Purple waffle plant-care instructions here.


Purple Waffle Plant from joeysplanting's photostream on Flickr

• English ivy-most effective plant for removing formaldehyde,  the most common indoor air pollutant, from your indoor atmosphere. English Ivy care instructions here.


English Ivy. Image from Loghome.com

• Variegated wax plant-care instructions here.

Hoya carnosa-varigeated-809

Hoya-varigeated wax plant. Image from plant-care.com

• Asparagus fern-care instructions here.


Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus. Image from Pandorea's photostream on Flickr.

• Purple heart plant-care instructions here.


Purple Heart or Purple Heart Wandering Jew. Image from University of Wisconsin Horticulture

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Aside from achieving better Fitness by hiking and exercising in the Forest, there is ample evidence that exercising or interacting with nature (even having live plants in your work environment) helps combat burnout, reduces mental stress and reduces mental fatigue. Read on for more about this research and it’s implications for our daily lives.

A Walk in the Woods

By John Lofy in Michigan Today, a publication of the University of Michigan


University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. Photo from JM Olsen Corporation

Professor Rachel Kaplan’s office at U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment looks out over a large oak tree. Potted plants crowd her window sill. Beyond these small patches of nature loom the buildings of central campus. But, she says, a little bit of nature goes a long way.

She would know. Kaplan and her husband, professor Stephen Kaplan, were among the first academics to study the psychological benefits of nature. Colleagues and collaborators for decades, they have shown that natural settings—trees, grass, gardens, and the like—have a profound, positive impact on both mental and physical health.

Both Kaplans hold joint appointments: Rachel in SNRE and Psychology, Stephen in Psychology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. They both take particular pride in graduate students they have mentored over the years. Students working with the Kaplans have made some striking discoveries:

• Studies by Bernadine Cimprich showed that the psychological health of cancer patients “improved dramatically” after they spent 20 minutes a day, three days a week, doing restorative activities such as gardening or walking in the woods. A control group that did not do the activities showed notably less improvement.

• Studies by Frances Kuo and William Sullivan found that residents of public housing projects who live near trees “showed all kinds of benefits,” says Stephen. “More civility, less aggression—and girls were more likely to study” their schoolwork.

• A study of AIDS caregivers by Lisa Canin found that the single most powerful factor in avoiding stress-related burnout was “locomotion in nature”—such as walking, running, biking, or canoeing. (The quickest route to burnout was watching television.)

Better yet, says Rachel, the natural setting “doesn’t have to be big or pristine” to have a positive effect. “Most of all, it has to be nearby.” A study by Ernest Moore of prisoners in Milan, Michigan, showed that simply having a view of farmland from a prison cell reduced inmates’ need for health care.

What’s so powerful about nature? Stephen theorizes that it comes down to brain function. The source of much mental distress, he says, is overuse of “directed attention”—such as concentrating on work. “Sustained directed attention is difficult and fatiguing. When people talk about mental fatigue, what is actually fatigued is not their mind as a whole, but their capacity to direct attention.” And it can make people “distractible and irritable.”

To escape the discomforts of mental fatigue, people often turn to activities that “capture” their attention. They find external events to distract them, so they don’t have to concentrate so hard. Watching TV, for instance, requires little willpower: the programs do the work, and the brain follows along.


Watching t.v. doesn't allow for mental rest. Image from salviaforme

Similarly, says Stephen, “many people find an auto race fascinating.” Fast motion, loud noises, and smells captivate the brain.

The Kaplans refer to activities like watching TV or sporting events as “hard fascination.” The stimuli are loud, bright, and commanding. The activities are engaging and fun, but they don’t allow for mental rest.

Soft fascination, on the other hand, is the kind of stimulation one finds on, say, a stroll along the beach or in the woods. Nothing overwhelms the attention, says Stephen, “and the beauty provides pleasure that complements the gentle stimulation.” The brain can soak up pleasing images, but it can also wander, reflect, and recuperate.

Most people, say the Kaplans, intuitively know this. But often, they either don’t do it, or they may not have opportunities to get out in nature. That’s too bad, because the Kaplans have shown that if you’re upset, frazzled, or suffering, an easygoing walk in the woods or even along a tree-lined street is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Read more about the Kaplans and their research here.

Ways You Can Increase Your Interaction with Nature


Gardening for stress relief. Photo from IVPeaceFest.com

• Plant a garden. Even in the city if you have an outdoor porch you can plant a small garden in pots and window boxes. Weeding the garden,  “playing” in the dirt, and taking the time to nurture your plants, nurtures your own nervous system and allows you some peaceful moments free from everyday stress.

• Bring live plants into your workspace. Live plants help clean the air and make your environment naturally beautiful and less stressful.

• Go for regular walks in nearby forest preserves or parks.

• Make after dinner walks around your neighborhood part of your family routine. This is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family, get regular exercise and get away from the stress of the TV, telephone and temptations of junk food.

• Volunteer in a nearby community garden.


Cabrini-Green Community Vegetable Garden (taken by Strannik45).

• Try snow shoeing, sledding, cross country skiing or walking in the fresh fallen winter snow. (It’s coming soon to Chicago so be ready with warm layers and waterproof hiking boots!)

Snowshoeing at The Basin Phippsburg 08

Snowshoeing. Image from outdoors.mainetoday.com

• When possible, alter your driving route to go through area parks, forest preserves or stretches of the road that gives you a view of Lake Michigan, trees and natural bodies of water like rivers and ponds.


Fall Colors at Argonne

• Plant an indoor herb garden in a well lit window for the winter. It gives you the double benefit of fresh herbs for your meals and the moments of stress relief you get when tending your mini-garden.

• As much as possible, exercise outdoors. Run and hike in the park or forest preserves.

• When time permits, work outdoors. Take

your laptop to the beach or park. In inclement weather find malls or indoor public spaces with plants and trees.

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