Houseplants: A guide from someone with a not-so-green thumb

by Breanna Callahan, Marketing Coordinator

I have a coworker who has an office with several windows. And several plants. I love visiting her office (and her of course) because of the ambience. It’s fresh, it’s energetic, and it’s happy. The plants bring an earthy vibe to what could be a boring, stale office.

The fact that I am a champion plant killer aside, I do enjoy them. So I decided to look about the benefits of plants as well as if I have any options for having a no-kill plant that would survive in my windowless office. Maybe if I learn a little more and get a little more comfortable with the idea, I can try it out.

According to Virginia I. Lohr, from the Deaprtment of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, there are several benefits of having plants indoors.

Improved Air Quality

Plants can help rid the air of pollutants, which are unhealthy. They can also raise the relative humidity. As you know, in the winter when we are heating our homes, the air becomes quite dry, which can cause colds and can make our skin feel dry and itchy.

Want less dust in your home? Having plants can reduce the amount of dust in your home. If having plants means I can break out the dusting cloth less frequently, I’m all for it.

Improved Well-being

Lohr discusses a study performed that showed when plants are present, our outlook and feelings can be positively impacted. We feel happier, friendlier, and are more productive in an office or room with plants compared to a room without plants. Being able to focus better, react quicker, and have more mental energy are all a part of being more productive. This sounds good, especially for an office.

Plants can help calm our bodies during times of stress. Similar to being exposed to nature sounds or pictures of nature, it has been shown that when we are dealing with stressful situations, our body’s systolic blood pressure doesn’t rise as much when there are plants in the room than when there weren’t plants.

Improved Health

It’s hard to believe something as simple as a plant can have effects on our physical body without us having to do anything extra, simply just have plants around us. Plants have been shown to reduce pain. Lohr discusses a variety of situations in which this was tested. People in the hospital were shown to request fewer pain medicines if they had a view of greenery. Also, it was found people who are in pain can withstand more pain, or have a greater pain tolerance, if there are plants present.

Keeping Them Alive

As I mentioned before if I have one talent, it’s killing plants. I’m not sure why. Overwatering? Underwatering? Not the right amount of light? I don’t talk to them enough?

Now that I am convinced there are plenty of benefits and it would be fun to have a plant, I better figure out how to get started.

Location, location, location. Select the location you are going to put your plant, see what type of light is available there, and then find a plant that is shown to thrive in that type of light. I would love to have a live plant in my windowless office. Is there one suitable for that type of environment? A few suggestions I found include Devil’s Ivy, Snake Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Lucky Bamboo, and Chinese Evergreen.

Choose the correct pot. Things to consider when selecting a pot include the size and the type of the container. The pot should contain drainage holes so the roots don’t get over-watered. There are many cute options for pots, or you could make a pot out of something unique, like a bowl or cute teapot! If your plant gets too big for its current pot, be sure to repot it. I have tried to do this before and failed miserably. So, I looked into it and found a local florist who helped me. What a plant life-saver she was!

Water correctly. I think this is the most difficult part for me. How do I know how much water to give a plant? A few signs a plant needs water include having the dirt pull away from the edges of the pot, the leaves are wilting and the dirt feels dry, even when you stick your finger down a couple inches.

I did read that it’s better to underwater a plant than to overwater it. Different plants do well with different amounts of water. The most common tip I found was to stick your finger in the soil a couple inches; if it feels dry, water it.

You know it is time to water but not sure how to water or how much? Use room-temperature water and water around the whole plant (not on just one side). Water until the soil around the plant is moist a couple inches down (not just on the top) and not so you are flooding the plant. Pay attention to how much water you put in there so when you find the right amount, it can be less of a guessing game. If you overwater, you will notice the leaves look bad. Either they are discolored or falling off. The key, and the part I find most difficult, is to try and adjust and learn as you go.

Lastly, search the internet to learn more about caring for your plant. There are so many resources to help you get to know about your plant. Armed with this information, I am ready to try my hand at this again. If you are looking for a way to add some greenery, fresh air, and happy vibes to your life, I hope this helps you get started!



Lohr, V.I. 2010. What are the benefits of plants indoors and why do we respond positively to them? Acta Horticulturae 881(2):675-682.



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