Why your houseplant collection isn't helping you relax as much as you think

Updated: 4 days ago

And what to do about it

How has your year been so far? Has everything gone perfectly? Not a single inconvenience or moment of stress?

No? Hmm... Weird. I haven't had any trouble myself. :)

Just kidding! The plumbing broke in my bathroom, I caught a cold that lasted for three weeks and now the heater in my living room won't come on and it's snowing. Oh, and did I mention the nail in my tire?

So stress --- yep, it's a part of my life like it's a part of yours.

Most of us are aware that having plants in our space helps decrease stress. You likely have (or would like to have) a robust collection of houseplants. I encourage you to do so! But, did you know that even with all that greenery, there's more you can do to benefit from plants? Last month I shared scientific findings on the benefits of a high variety of plants.

A new study provides more details. Continue reading to learn the benefits of going beyond just greenery.

The Study

The work I am highlighting today is a pretty cool study investigating what happens to us physically and mentally when viewing flowers at different stages of bloom. The (somewhat intimidating) title is:

"Psycho-Physiological Effects of a Peony-Viewing Program on Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals at Different Phenological Stages" and this study was undertaken by a group of professors in YangLing China: Zhao et al.*

I should note that this study focuses specifically on tree peonies. However, this plant was chosen because of it's common usage in the region where the study took place. Not because of unique qualities of the flowers themselves. Thus it is reasonable to expect similar results from other plant species.

Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way, let's get to the good stuff.

How it worked:

Study participants viewed flowers in a garden setting while their vital statistics were monitored by various senors attached to their body. The sensors measured systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR), fingertip pulse (FP), and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). They were also given a psychological evaluation before and after viewing the plants. Participants' psychological state was measured along the dimensions of anger–hostility, depression–dejection, tension–anxiety, confusion–bewilderment, vigor–activity, and fatigue–inertia.

Participants viewed flowers in different stages of bloom, from an early stage when the flowers had not yet emerged to the final stage when the petals were beginning to fall from the plant.

Credit: Zhou et al. (see reference list)

The Result

Compared to the measurements for the control groups, both physiological

parameters (Systolic Blood Pressure, Diastolic Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, and Finger-tip Pulse) and the scores from the psychological evaluation changed significantly after the peony-viewing program. Compared with the control groups, the negative mood states: anger–hostility, fatigue–inertia, depression–dejection, tension–anxiety, and confusion–bewilderment, substantially decreased from the pretest to post-test. Moreover, the

positive mood state, vigor–activity significantly increased. It's no surprise that the author's conclude that visual interaction with nature or plants can relax people and reduce stress.

Interestingly, the greatest response occurred with flowers in full bloom. This is an important finding. There is vibrant interest in houseplants these days. But the majority of plants in this category are not blooming plants. Plants sold as houseplants tend to be green-leafed plants for low-light conditions. This study shows that we could benefit from adding blooming plants into the mix.

There are limitations to what you may be able to grow indoors without adding grow lights. But there are some plants that will bloom indoors in partial shade. I have had a lot of success with paperwhites this year. And I have little direct sunlight in my home with only north facing windows. This success inspired me to add a paperwhite kit to the shop last month. I encourage you to give these easy indoor bloomers a try if you haven't already. Learn more about paperwhites here.

Make a plan to add other blooming houseplants to your collection. Strive to include a wide variety of plants to receive the greatest benefit from greening your space.

Use the tools in the 5 Steps to Simplify Garden Prep series to get started. Tackle all the very practical decisions you need to get your plan solidified for this year.

Or take a deep dive with the Live Your Best Plant Life Mini Course. This will help with specific growing challenges like limited space and light. It will also help you uncover limiting beliefs hindering your growth.

That's it for this week. I hope you will implement these scientific findings into your own life. Spend more time around blooming flowers both indoors and out and get ready for an amazing spring planting season.

I'd love to know if this study resonated with you. Do you have flowering plants in your home or office or only greenery? Let me know in the comments below!

Plant Love for Life,

Victoria LeBeaux, PhD

Founder, Hortiki Plants

Reference* Zhao, R. L., Zhang, G., Wang, X., Zhang, B. T., Guo, L. N., Niu, L. X., & Zhang, Y. L. (2019). Psycho-Physiological Effects of a Peony-Viewing Program on Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals at Different Phenological Stages. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(3), 439. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/3/439/pdf

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