By Elaina Hundley
If you’ve never dug in the dirt, maybe you don’t know what a balm the feeling of moist soil between your fingers is. For many, gardening is synonymous with spring or summer, known together as the "growing season"—and the feeling of accomplishment after planting a robust vegetable garden or even simply repotting a beloved house plant is truly incomparable. You don’t have to have a large plot of land, many tools or even that many plants to benefit from the act of tending to greenery. Repotting, seeing plants grow and thrive and even watering are all part of the plant care regimen that can have a soothing effect. Whether you live in a townhome, detached house or in a tiny studio apartment in a big city, there are ways to bring the healing power of plants and gardening into your life and, more specifically, your bedroom. We explored both the science behind why plants and gardening can make people feel good and gathered a list of some of the best indoor plants for the bedroom.
Plants And Gardening For Relaxation, Wellness And Healing
While it might be common knowledge or merely a matter of taste to say that most interior spaces seem more visually striking when they have plants in them, there are many reasons why striving to create indoor jungles isn’t simply about aesthetics. In fact, there’s scientific evidence to support both the positive effects of gardening for urban dwellers and the benefits of bringing the outdoors in with houseplants.
In a study based in Minneapolis, the emotional wellbeing (EWB) of 370 participants was measured using an app after each engaged in a variety of activities. The EWB calculations looked at multiple factors—average net affect, average happiness, average meaningfulness and frequency of experiencing peak positive emotions (meaningfulness and happiness) as a result of each activity. From this study, researchers were not only able to show that gardening results in positive feelings (it ranked in the top 5 of 15 activities measured for increasing emotional wellbeing), but they were also able to liken gardening to biking, walking and eating out in terms of emotional response.
While this study is focused more on outdoor gardening, another study from 2015 honed in on the positive impact of indoor plants. In this study, published by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, the researchers main goal was to examine psychological and physiological benefits of interaction with indoor plants. More specifically, the researchers were looking to see the difference in psychological and physiological reaction in 24 young adult males after doing a plant-related task compared with a computer-related task. They divided the group in half, assigning some participants the project of transplanting an indoor plant and others the task of working on a computer and then the groups swapped so each participant did both activities. Researchers measured how each activity made participants feel using a semantic differential method and assessed the physical impact by measuring heart rate and blood pressure. Unsurprisingly, the transplanting activity felt different for participants than the computer task, with the majority reporting feelings of being more comfortable, soothed and natural while completing it. Interestingly, the physiological differences between the tasks were significant too. Upon completion of the indoor plant transplant activity, researchers noticed that participants' diastolic blood pressure dropped during the task as compared with the computer activity, with participants exhibiting reduced sympathetic nervous system activity.
Another study also showed why it’s beneficial to bring flowers or plants to the room of a loved one who is sick or someone recovering from surgery. In this study, plants were found to directly contribute to lower blood pressure and lower levels of reported pain, anxiety and fatigue among individuals recovering from surgery, as compared to patients recovering from the exact same surgery who did not have plants in their room.
Not only does simply being around plants result in positive physical and psychological outcomes, but the actual act of planting a garden or even just some indoor plants provides people with comfort and results in a sense of accomplishment—it feels incredible to see a new leaf or a bloom on a plant you’ve been diligently caring for.
There are also other benefits intrinsic to plants: many can help purify the air, create humidity in the winter and some even give off soothing fragrances. Don’t take our word for it though. In the 1980’s, NASA took the time to write this report on how indoor plants can contribute to pollution abatement. For these reasons and the fact that they can add style and texture to your decor, it stands to reason that plants belong in the bedroom just as much as they belong in the garden.
Plants In The Bedroom: Plants With Specific Benefits To Help You Wind Down
If you want to get started with gardening, we recommend starting with indoor plants. Low commitment and often-budget friendly, all you’ll need to tend to your indoor garden is some pots (with drainage holes), soil and of course, the plants themselves. You don’t even have to repot newly purchased plants right away. They typically come in what is referred to as a grow pot (that plastic pot it lives in at the store or nursery), and it’s totally ok to set the grow pot itself on a saucer to catch excess water for a while, or in a pot before replanting. In fact, it’s often recommended that you allow any new plant friends to get acclimated by keeping them in that grow pot for a week to two weeks before repotting them into the permanent vessel.
Another big tip to keep in mind before investing in houseplants is to consider a few key requirements: light, watering needs and hardiness. Before you buy a plant for your bedroom or anywhere in your home and garden, think about the amount of light you get—is it direct (rays through the window, you’ll see shadows on the floor and wall) or indirect (light filled, but no rays through the window)? Lighting and plant placement are critical to the health of your plant.
And, if you’re new to raising plants, do your research! Don’t start with a tricky plant—its demise could kill your enthusiasm.
Below we’ve rounded up plants with benefits that make them particularly good for the bedroom (air purifiers, nice fragrances, soothing to look at) while also including details on their care needs. Most of what we’ve included here are fairly easy plants to grow. Without further ado, here are some best plants for the bedroom plus some tips to help them thrive:
The Snake Plant
Snake plants are super hardy and do well in almost any light, but prefer not to be in direct light. These tend to thrive on neglect; you only really need to water them once a month or every other week. There are quite a few looks and variations, this article provides plenty of images to demonstrate all the different varieties. While snake plants purify the air by converting harmful substances into harmless ones, be careful about where you place them as they are toxic to pets and kids if nibbled on.
Pothos And Philodendron Varieties
Pothos and philodendron look very similar but are different types of plants. That said, we’ve lumped them together because they have so much in common. Both are super easy to grow (and propagate). They require low to bright indirect light, which is great for the bedroom if you have curtains for privacy or simply don’t get a ton of light in your home. They both really only need to be watered once a week (and their soil needs to fully dry out in between watering). Note that pothos and philodendron will grow quickly when placed in the right light conditions and will look a bit droopy when they are ready for a drink. Definitely listen to the plant when it comes to water; overwatering can be especially harmful to this plant—it needs well draining soil and doesn’t enjoy sitting in moisture.
Palms make a big statement and there are quite a few varieties, most of which can help remove toxins from the air, including xylene, formaldehyde, ammonia and more. Do your research before bringing one home—some can be super large, others on the smaller side. They generally need to be watered regularly and the light needs vary. Additionally, some palms are toxic to pets while others are not. Areca palms are an especially appealing palm because they are non-toxic to pets, are pretty large and remove benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene from the air.
Peace Lilies are beautiful air purifiers, but they are toxic to pets. If you have a chewer you may not want to bring them into your home! But if you don’t, Peace Lilies make an ideal companion as they remove benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene from the air and are very easy to care for. Just water them weekly and consider a slow release fertilizer in the spring. They don’t like direct light but in bright to medium indirect light they should flower and they can survive in low light but might not look as nice.
The fern family is very large, but as a whole, they love humidity and can help create it, are largely pet friendly and many of them also help purify the air. Some ferns are hardier than others though, so note that ferns like the Maidenhair are fairly temperamental. Additionally, ferns can thrive in indirect sunlight to partial shade. Boston ferns are an example of a fairly easy to grow fern that has especially strong air purifying abilities. They remove xylene and formaldehyde from the air, are pet friendly and enjoy living a few feet from a window so they can soak in some indirect rays. Plus, all ferns have such delicate and interesting leaves, they’ll add texture and style to any room. Most of them like to stay moist (so if you like to water, this one’s for you) and also tend to enjoy being misted.
Spider plants are super easy to grow and propagate. They tolerate a number of light conditions (apart from strong direct rays) and while they like to be watered about once a week, they won’t die if you forget them once in a while. Spider plants are also pet friendly which is a plus. Under the right circumstances, they will shoot off pups that can be used for propagation and sometimes even bloom.
If you have strong direct sunlight and not a lot of indirect sunlight, succulents might be your ticket. Thriving on neglect, succulents are also air purifying plants, many are pet friendly and they are more apt to do well if they receive strong rays of sunlight throughout the day than some of the other plants included in this list. (Note: if you need to filter direct rays to help your plants thrive, a translucent curtain can help.)
There are so many great plants out there and so many of them offer terrific benefits inside the home, so here are a few honorable mentions: Lavender (can be grown indoors), Aloe (so many healing properties, but also not pet friendly), purple waffle plants, rubber plants, ficus, pineapple plants, dracaena, chinese evergreen, ivy and many more!
If you remain convinced that you have a black thumb, there’s dried foliage out there that can do double duty by contributing to your soothing sleep space with relaxing scents and sprucing up the aesthetic of the room. Integrate some of these dried plants into your decor to keep your space smelling fresh: lavender, eucalyptus, chamomile and basil. You can also use these dried plants and others to make potpourri (another bedroom staple).
If you find yourself more stressed and anxious these days as we are faced with a global crisis, consider taking our advice and making your space more lush! It’s a low-cost way to create joy in your home, help you relax, boost emotional well-being and purify the air. Who knows, maybe during this time you’ll get a chance to forge a deeper connection with the earth and its leafy inhabitants. And remember, if you are nervous about killing your new plant babies or if you want to take your green thumb to the next level, there are tremendous resources across the internet, as well as plant delivery subscriptions to help you garden while also staying safe.
This story originally appeared in eNews. Click here to get Sleep Retailer eNews delivered straight to your inbox.