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Winter Blues? Try adding some Green to your House

Even though there are lots of parties and gatherings and festivities around the holidays, psychologists say the holidays and the weeks following them can be a very depressing time of year.  One way to circumvent this is by adding plants to your home.  Not only do they filter the air that we breathe but caring for them can help chase our blues away.

These 2 articles were sent to us by one of our patients and a Master Gardner, Lisa Ethridge.  Lisa helped us when planting our pollinator garden outside and she suggests having indoor plants as well.  She gives some tips and advice on why, which one, and care for indoor plants.

Cheers for Plants

After the holiday fun fades to memory and the decorations are stowed, I like to bring a fresh look to my décor using live plants.  On New Years’ Eve, I dig out my beautiful swan planter, fill it with a variety of green specimens, and place it on my kitchen table.

 It turns out that besides their beauty and promise of spring, indoor plants pack powerful health benefits.  According to research, everyone would breathe easier, enjoy better health, and feel less stressed with the addition of a few well-placed plants in the home or office environment.

In the mid-1800s, Henry David Thoreau admonished us to, “Simplify. Simplify.”  Plants provide a natural and simple method of improving air quality which includes filtering toxins, providing humidity, and increasing oxygen levels.  During the winter, high carbon dioxide levels lead to health complaints such as headaches and drowsiness. Plants become heroes by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen during photosynthesis.

Other health concerns such as fatigue, allergies, and nausea can be attributed to airborne toxins, also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, chloroform, benzene, xylene, and ammonia which appear courtesy of our electric appliances, synthetic materials, paint/solvents, rug fibers, and even grocery bags.  Magically, plants pull the VOCs into the soil where the root system converts the toxins into food.

Humidity is always a concern during the winter months. Lack of humidity can cause dry skin, colds, and respiratory ailments.  Again, the humble houseplant comes to the rescue.  As part of their “breathing” process, plants release moisture vapor into the air around them. Because they release 97% of the water they take in, the dry air becomes comfortable and remains at healthy levels. Simple, right? 

Besides improving the quality of air in the home, plants provide positive emotional benefits.  Research has shown that owning and caring for plants can reduce stress, improve blood pressure, and even lift depression. Dedicating a meager 2% of the room space in a house or office satisfies our innate need to connect with nature and produces feelings of wellbeing and optimism. 

This year try to include plants such as areca, lady, bamboo, and dwarf date palm; rubber plant, dracaena, philodendron, ficus, and peace lily into your home décor.  It’s a simple idea that can bring health and happiness to you and your family in the New Year. 


The Delight of Indoor Gardening           August 2016        

Lisa Ethridge

Indoor plants can add so much to the ambience of a home. Every designer look depends on the inclusion of all types and sizes of plants. Besides adding flair to the décor, greenery purifies the air and adds moisture to the dry conditions typically found in homes. Tending plants can even improve mental health and decrease blood pressure, and a blooming plant can add a lovely fragrance to the room.  Fake plants just don’t have the Zen factor or health benefits of their live counterparts.

Growing plants indoors is not rocket science, but it is science. To overcome “brown” thumb tendencies, one must be more like Nehemiah Grew (1641 –1712) an English plant anatomist and physiologist, aka the Father of Plant Anatomy: don’t give up after one or two dead plants; learn from failure by formulating questions to help the next experiment, i.e., plant, survive and thrive.  These days, anyone can cultivate and grow indoor plants with a few trips to our favorite virtual library, the Internet, and a new mindset.

With some research, you can identify plants to fit your needs and level of dedication. On the easy end of the spectrum, cacti and succulents rule. They can be fascinating, and many of them flower.  Read the plant tags and basic articles for plant care and feeding on the Internet.  As your confidence level increases, the sky is the limit; move on to the more challenging plant specimens. There is no end to the artful and creative vibe living plants add to any home.

Think of indoor gardening as a hobby or pleasurable pastime instead of a chore.  A simple cross-stitch motto posted above my desk asks, “Have you talked to your plant today?” I enjoy the time I spend watering, grooming, fertilizing, and “communing” with my plants. It gives me a chance to appreciate and contemplate nature’s artistry. Success with houseplants can be quite gratifying.

A few brochures of interest at UGA.edu/publications are :

Growing Indoor Plants with Success (B 1318)

Growing Ferns (B 737)

Care of Holiday and Gift Plants (C 951) 

Growing African Violets (C 660) 

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