Another summer has come and gone. All the seasons in Canada are beautiful, but you can't help but long for the days of warm temperatures, chirping birds and a kaleidoscope of colours found in outdoor gardens during the spring and summer.
But just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to go without the great smells and sights associated with plant-life, all available within your very own home.
From devils to dragon trees, bromeliads to succulents, indoor plants are diverse. In fact, there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from, each with their own qualities and characteristics that make them truly unique.
No matter which type you choose, however, they're beneficial not only to the homey atmosphere of your living room, dining room, office or den, but the atmosphere in the literal sense of the term. For instance, according to NASA - indoor plants are capable of removing nearly 90 per cent of toxins from the air within a 24-hour period, thanks to the water vapor they emit, which act as a "scrubber," of sorts.
Additionally, indoor plants are light on the wallet, costing even less when you plant them yourself. They're also easy to maintain, requiring little more than regular watering and plenty of sunshine, although care instructions - like plants themselves - tend to vary.
But perhaps the greatest aspect of indoor plants is how good they are for your overall well-being - physically, emotionally and mentally. Here are a few of the ways indoor plants can help you live a healthier, happier life - not just in the fall and summer, but throughout the year.
Natural Stress Reliever
Stress is an equal opportunity offender; virtually everyone experiences it in one form or another. According to a study by Statistics Canada, nearly 75% of working adults report experiencing at least moderate levels of stress occasionally, with 23% feeling it frequently.
Of course, there are various ways to minimize stress, one of which is with indoor plants. In a 2015 study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers found that participants in the analysis reported feeling emotions that help counter the effects of stress when interacting with indoor plants.
"Our results suggest that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work," the researchers concluded. "This is accomplished through suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure and promotion of comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings."
Help Improve Concentration
Whether you're a student or working full-time, getting a job done right requires focus. Having indoor plants may help improve your ability to concentrate. Indeed, as reported by NBC News, several studies have shown that succulents and other forms of potted plant-life can enhance attentiveness by as much as 15% compared to when they're not available.
May Enhance Ability to Heal
Have you ever gone under the knife? Surgery is generally something most of us would rather avoid, particularly the kind that's invasive, as recovery can take several weeks and even months. However, based on a study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, indoor plants may help quicken the pace at which patients recover from certain types of surgery, such as an appendectomy.
"Findings of this research suggested that plants in a hospital environment could be noninvasive, inexpensive, and an effective complementary medicine for patients recovering from abdominal surgery," researchers noted in their summary.
Some of the biggest health-related benefits associated with plants and flowers in hospital rooms included reduced pain, anxiety, fatigue and lower average systolic blood pressure readings compared to patients in rooms without plants. The study's principal investigators also noted that since indoor plants have been associated with reducing stress, this likely played a role in patients recovering at a quicker pace by reducing the production of inflammation and cortisol, the body's natural stress hormone.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common problem for people around the world, including Canada. Health Canada estimates that one quarter of Canadians between 40 and 59 years of age have blood pressure levels of 140/90. But the study found an association between healthier blood pressure readings when people interact with indoor plants. High blood pressure is associated with numerous debilitating conditions or diseases including diabetes, kidney problems, migraines and cardiovascular disease.
If you're not exactly a green thumb, here are a few tips to help you care for indoor plants and maximize their health-promoting capabilities, as recommended by NBC News:
Careful Not to Overwater or Over Sun
Just as people need to balance smart eating with regular exercise, plants need a combination of sun and water to grow strong and vibrant. However, too much of anything isn't a good thing, even when it comes to natural things like sunlight and water. Be mindful of the care instructions that often come with potted indoor plants and follow them closely. Also, you should have a sense of indications suggesting your plants may be getting too much sun, such as leaf burn or leaves falling off. As a general rule, place plants where they're exposed to sunlight but not directly. Signs of overwatering include limp-looking leaves and discolouration.
Be Mindful of Interior Temperatures
Indoor plants aren't all the same when it comes to temperatures - some like it hot, while others prefer slightly cooler conditions. As noted by NBC News, the kokeama - or Japanese moss balls - thrive in moist environments, so you may want to place these ornamental plants in parts of the house where the air is thicker, like sunrooms or bathrooms where you or family members take hot showers and baths.
Pick the Right Indoor Plant
The choice is yours when it comes to the kinds of indoor plants you want. Some plants, however, are easier to maintain than others and produce more growth for the time you commit to them. Ideal options include the Swiss Cheese plant, ivy, spider plants and succulents, NBC News advised. Cacti are great as well. Much like the kind you find in deserts, cacti preserve moisture really well, so occasionally forgetting to water them won't hurt.
This winter, bring beauty and health to your home with indoor plants. Your mind, body and soul will thank you.