Healthy Living

Benefits to plants at your desk

Leaves on trees have turned, and a walk to the office often feels like a walk through an icebox. Open windows are a thing of months past. Cooped up, breathing dry indoor air, no one could blame you for feeling down.

But you can brighten your mood and boost your health by adding a plant or two to your workspace. You don’t even need much natural light or a green thumb.

Plants bring a bit of nature inside, along with other good stuff.

They make people happy, and taking care of them can make people even happier. That’s especially true if you’re digging in a garden – horticultural therapy helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills – but desk-side pruning can do wonders for your mental state too.

Plants are also terrific air purifiers.

The air in your office (and home) might be more polluted than air outside – especially if you’re in a big city. Furniture, carpet, plastic items and other synthetic materials are to blame, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plants help by wicking away airborne chemicals and the carbon dioxide we puff out, and then give us oxygen, research from NASA shows.

Four decades ago, NASA scientists found more than 100 volatile organic compounds floating through the air of the Skylab space station. The bad stuff came from synthetic materials off-gassing low levels of chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene – known irritants and potential carcinogens that are in earthly buildings too.

When the chemicals are trapped in an area, people breathing within that same area can get sick because the air isn’t getting “the natural scrubbing by Earth’s complex ecosystem,” as NASA puts it.

Hail plants.

Here are two that demand next to nothing and tolerate very low light (but are just as happy with lots of it). Expect them to live for years and years, without repotting. I speak from experience, but you’ll also find them on plenty of lists and in lots of books about easy-care plants that are good for your health.

Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

A sturdy plant with upright and stiff leaves. Ideally, its soil should dry out between waterings. It will grow bigger and look better if you water it as soon as the soil dries (not wait forever) and if it’s in medium light. But it still will live for months if you ignore it, and spring back to robust happiness when you give it a little love.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
A flowing plant with vine-like stems that can easily take over your desk. Ideally, its soil should stay a little moist. But if you let the soil dry out completely, you can jolt the plant back to life with watering. It’s perfectly happy with all kinds of lighting, including florescent, but it will be fuller with better color when it gets decent natural light.

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