indoor plants

Benefits of Indoor Plants

Why we need indoor plants

As you may have noticed when strolling through interior shops lately, nature is a huge 2019 design trend. Increased interest in biophilia – the tendency of humans to seek connections with nature – has resulted in a wave of organic design elements appearing in shops across the country. A vital part of this trend is indoor plants, and for good reason. The science behind indoor plants shows how living decor can greatly benefit your mental health and wellbeing.

The benefits

Air quality

In an industrialised world, completely clean air is becoming a luxury. Indoor plants assist in removing from the air toxins related to air pollution, paints or cleaning products. Volatile organic compounds (or VOC’s) can reach a concentration up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors because of the harsh chemicals we use. These can have a negative effect on health, but just one indoor plant can help by improving your air quality.


The impact of plants on overall wellbeing is well documented. Indoor plants can create a positive and relaxed space, improving mood, concentration and productivity. The saying ‘less is more’ definitely does not apply to the benefits of plants indoors, though. One indoor plant has a minor impact on wellbeing, with the benefits increasing exponentially with the number of plants. Five plants can improve wellbeing by up to 60%, but ten plants can help you reap the maximum health benefits. More complexity in size and species also leads to more wellbeing benefits (and design benefits too).

How many plants do you need?

Different rooms have different requirements. By spreading your indoor plants throughout your home you can achieve clean air and positive benefits in all rooms rather than concentrating them in one. These amounts are based on medium sized plants of about 30cm in height. The general rule of thumb is the bigger the leaves and roots, the greater the benefits.

What to choose

While all indoor plants provide benefits, some are more adept at removing toxins than others. There is a plant to match every indoor space and indoor gardener.

  1. Spathiphyllum (peace lily): This plant was declared the best living air filter in the world by the NASA Clean Air study! The shiny leaves and stark white flowers pair well with modern interiors. Keep the soil moist and place in low light – great for bathrooms or bedrooms.
  2. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (bamboo palm): Bamboo palms are an indoor plant staple and immediately catch your eye, especially tall specimens. Bright rooms are best to bring out the vibrant green colour, and the soil needs to be moderately dry before watering.
  3. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ (variegated snake plant): Nicknamed ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ for its pointed leaves, Sansevieria trifasciata can provide a structural contrast to the softer indoor plants. An added bonus is that it requires very little water and medium sunlight.
  4. Peperomia ‘Zorro’: This compact houseplant has a deep red colour on the underside of the leaves and tall flower spikes for something a little different. They need medium amounts of sunlight and are also quite easy to care for, as long as they are not overwatered.
  5. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana ‘Calandiva’: For those who like a bit of colour, the multitude of calandiva flowers can quickly brighten a room or even be used as a quirky accent colour. Like other succulents, this plant needs a lot of sunlight so only choose a spot with direct sunlight or very bright indirect sunlight.
  6. Ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig): The giant glossy leaves of this tree can really bring the outdoors in as they grow super tall. They need bright, indirect sunlight for good height and perky leaves. To avoid rot don’t overwater or let the tree sit in water.
  7. Bromeliad species: In tropical South African climates, bromeliads provide exotic textures and colours in your indoor space. These bright plants are good for humid climates and have a wide range of light tolerances depending on the variety. Although they may only last a couple of years indoors, they will produce offsets you can use to start new plants.
  8. Philodendron scandens (sweetheart creeper): The sweetheart creeper is a houseplant favourite, especially in a hanging basket, as it is easy to care for and grows quickly. It can be kept bushy and full or left to grow long single stems that look wonderful above the kitchen or tumbling down a shelf.

Sources: RMIT University, University of Melbourne, plantlifebalance.com.au

The Gardener