When you live in an apartment complex, it’s someone else’s job to tend to the yard, water the plants and prune the trees. But many of us like to bring nature indoors.
Millennials, especially, it seems. The idea of being a “plant parent” appeals to so many millennials that houseplant sales in the U.S. have risen 50% up to $1.7 billion. That’s a lot of ferns! Oh, wait, that’s for baby boomers, right?
Houseplants are good for more than decoration, though. They can actually make us feel better and be healthier! Here are some health benefits of houseplants:
- Bless you: Studies show that rooms with plants have less dust and mold than those without plants. Apparently, plants can act as natural filters that trap allergens and other airborne particles that make us sneeze. Chinese evergreen and the peace lily are good for this and can tolerate low-light situations. Violets and other plants that have textured leaves trap even more allergens.
- Feel good: Plants are good pick-me-ups. Studies show that offices with plants have employees who feel better about their jobs, worry less and take fewer sick days. So it’s got to make us happier in our apartment home, right? Flowers are especially good at promoting happiness.
- It’s a dry air: Given our dry winters, not to mention our “dry heat” in Arizona, it’s worth noting that houseplants add moisture to the air. One study showed that a spider plant collection raised the relative humidity in a bedroom from 20% to 30%.
- Clean air: As you might expect, plants help clean the air by soaking up what’s called volatile organic compounds in carpets, paint, cleaners, etc. Look for English ivy, asparagus fern and dragon tree to best remove air pollution.
- Rest easy: Because plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, which is how they turn sunlight into food during photosynthesis, having them in your bedroom can promote good sleep. Gerbera daisies keep giving off oxygen at night.
- Chill: Studies have shown that being around plants has a calming effect by reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
- Keep focused: For families, plants can help children raise their test levels at school. Really! Studies of students in classrooms with three potted plants show they scored better on math, spelling, reading and science than their peers in foliage-free rooms. Keep a golden pathos or bamboo palm by your child’s desk.
How many plants do you need for good health? To improve your health and reduce fatigue and stress, keep one large plant (in an 8-inch diameter pot or larger) every 129 square feet (we’re not making up numbers; that’s what we’re told). To purify the air, get one large plant (or two smaller plants) for every 100 square feet of space.
Decorating with plants
Besides their health benefits, it’s just pleasing to many to have plants in your apartment home. There’s nothing wrong with setting a potted plant on the windowsill or coffee table, but here are some plant-decorating ideas to consider:
- Plant platform: Use a cart or bench to arrange a collection of plants, a great safe-saving idea for decorating an apartment with plants.
- Clean and simple: If you like to keep your apartment modern or minimalist, choose a variety of eclectic white pots or geometric-shaped pots to scatter around your home.
- Leave ‘em hanging: Sometimes, you can’t beat the tried-and-true macramé hanger to display your draping plant.
Bring the desert indoors
We’re in Arizona, so why not bring some of our best native plants indoors? Cactus plants are especially suited for those of use who want low-maintenance houseplants.Cacti appreciate our dry air and infrequent watering. Some do just fine on three hours of light a day or with the help of a plant light. Here are some cactus suggestions:
- African milk tree, Euphorbia trigona, also known as the cathedral plant. It’s a great cactus for an apartment home becauses it probably won’t grow more than four feet. It’s a commitment, though; it can live for decades.
- Bishop’s cap cactus, Astrophytum ornatum, looks striking with a decorative gravel mulch in a substantial ceramic pot. It likes lots of sun, but infrequent watering.
- Rat tail cactus, Aporocactus flagelliformis, is best suited hanging in front of a sunny window. Native to Mexico, it’s easy to grow, has magenta blooms and thick stems that can trail down three feet or so.
If your heart is set on a more traditional kind of houseplant and you’re not sure you have a green thumb, here are some plants that are easy to care for:
- Aloe, which doesn’t need a lot of watering, but likes a warm space with plenty of light
- Lavender, a beautiful, hardy plant that likes lots of sun and little watering
- Mother-in-law’s tongue/snake plant, stylish and robust, it thrives in low light and dry air
- Heart leaf Philodendron, which thrives in any space, though low or indirect bright light is best
- Pothos, which comes in a variety of colors and thrives in low light, perfect for darker rooms.
You’ll need to consider whether you have a pet that can tolerate plants (or will maul them), which is a whole other blog.
If all else fails, get a fake plant!