Hello everyone, I’m Charlotte and currently going into my final year of studying Medicine at the University of Sheffield. I run the Instagram account @MedicBotanist in my spare time which focuses on providing help to medical applicants and current healthcare professionals with disease summaries and speciality quizzes. But more importantly, I am the proud plant parent of over 50 houseplants.
You may be thinking that’s a lot of plants!! How does she look after all of them? Or is she ok?
And yes, that is a lot of plants, and maybe I am a bit plant crazy. But I wanted to write this blog post to share why I believe plants are good for you and some easy tips on how to look after a variety of common houseplants.
So, let’s talk about some of the benefits of having houseplants. These are just a few of the positives that I’ve read in studies recently:
- House plants have been shown to boost mood, productivity and concentration. I remember seeing an article in the Independent about how a GP practice in Manchester was giving patients plants to help improve mood instead of the prescribing or increasing the dose of anti-depressants. This scheme seems to have worked really well and is a great example of social prescribing.
- Plants help to reduce stress and subsequently help our immune systems. Meaning we get less colds, feel less tired etc.
- Some plants help to absorb different toxins from the air such as formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide. Alongside this, they also produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in your environment.
- Lastly, they can provide green spaces for people who don’t necessarily have access to them. This is particularly the case for people who live in flats or don’t have any access to greenery.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy (and have so many plants) is the idea that I have to care for something and that it relies on me. As someone who has suffered with significant mental health problems this year. I find my plants a useful reminder to practice self-care and look after myself. I think it’s a lot easier to see when a plant is not being looked after. Whilst it’s not that easy for you to always see that in yourself. Ultimately to look after my plants I need to look after myself and vice versa.
Now that you know a few reasons why houseplants are useful to our mental and physical health. I thought I would go through a few care instructions about how to look after a few of the common plants out there:
- Cactus: they come in all shapes, sizes and textures but the care instructions are basically the same for all of them.
- Light: bright direct sunlight
- Water: in the growing season water every 1-2 weeks allowing the compost to dry out between each watering.
- Feed: feed your cactus with cacti food once a month to keep it happy
2. Spider Plant: if I had to hedge my bets on which house plant would be the last surviving on the planet. I would definitely say a spider plant. If you’re a first-time plant owner this is a great one to start with.
- Light: moderate indirect light. Never put it in bright light as it will burn the leaves!
- Water: during summer and growing months keep the soil moist as this encourages growth
- Feed: feed your spider plant with houseplant food once a month to keep it happy.
3. Succulent: this is a massive category of house plant It contains anything from the trusty aloe vera to a jade plant. They come in all sizes, colours and types. One thing to note with succulents is to make sure you get ones that are for inside use. As lots of succulents are outdoor plants.
- Light: they need plenty of bright indirect sunlight
- Water: they need a surprisingly large amount of water. But too much can easily kill them so it’s a fine balance. I would give them a big drink of water. Let the excess water drain from them and then once the soil is dry again water again.
- Feed: feed your succulent with succulent food once a month to keep it happy
4. Air plant: this is a category of plant that are so rewarding and different. They can easily be created into art pieces like I’ve done to mine.
- Light: to allow your air plant to thrive as much as possible. Put it in a bright indirect spot. An ideal spot is if you have a sunny bathroom as the humidity from the shower will keep the plant well hydrated.
- Water: every 1-2 weeks soak your air plant in cup of water for 10 minutes. Then shake off the excess water to prevent rot.
5. Ivy: this plant makes for perfect decoration and looks perfect hanging off any surface. You can even get variegated ones which are even more beautiful. Ivy’s are easy to look after as long as you follow these instructions:
- Light: Bright indirect light
- Water: they tend to like to be kept slightly dry. Only water them when they feel dry. Make sure your pot has drainage holes as it is very prone to root rot
- Feed: once a month with a houseplant food
6. Monstera Deliciosa aka a swiss cheese plant: this was such a popular plant in the 1980s and is proving to be making a comeback. They are a great plant to have in your house. Make sure they’re in a well-used part of the house as they don’t appreciate a cold or drafty environment.
Light: they like bright indirect light but can deal with partial shade
Water: allow the soil to dry out between watering
Feed: once a month with a house plant food.
I hope you enjoyed the house plant tips and are tempted to get one or maybe another for yourself! Let me know how you get on by sending me a message on the Instagram page @medicbotanist
Hurst, P., 2019. Plants Being Prescribed For Anxiety And Depression In New ‘Feelgood’ Scheme. [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/plants-prescribed-depression-anxiety-manchester-trial-a9078041.html
Lee, M., Lee, J., Park, et al., 2015. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, [online] 34(1). Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419447/
Houseplants: To Support Human Health / RHS Gardening. [online] Available at: <https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=949#:~:text=Indoor%20plants%20offer%20two%20potential,Reduced%20stress%20levels