The Extraordinary Power of Plants

Updated: May 26, 2021

It seems like I can't go anywhere these days without hearing about the power of Plants. It could be because I subscribe to a lot of health based instagram accounts! But every where I look it seems like plant based diets are helping people overcome disease, and folks are giving up dairy for new plant based options, I've even been amazed at how the new plant based meats are being offered at places like Burger King, Cheesecake Factory, and Hard Rock Cafe! Places you would never expect them to be! So while it may be common knowledge that we need to eat our fruits and veggies because they are good for our health, did you know that plants are healthy for our homes too?

Houseplants are a great way to instantly make your Home Healthier. We love them for the beauty they add to any room and they can make a boring space seem so much more interesting and alive. But did you know that they freshen up the air AND can eliminate harmful toxins? Considering that the air in our homes can be 2-5xs more toxic than outside, incorporating house plants into your decor is a beautiful way to keep your family healthy! They do this by releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide and they also absorb toxins!

I talked a little bit about VOCs in episode 1 of my podcast: Blooming! a Healthy Home by Design. Volatile Organic Compounds are released into the air in a process called off-gassing. They come from things like particle board or vinyl or synthetic carpets or other synthetic materials or glues made with hazardous toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and other known irritants with potential carcinogens. For a list of common VOC's see this article:

There are a few ways to combat these VOCs but since we are focusing on plants - here's an interesting story you might not have heard before:

In 1973, NASA scientists identified 107 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air inside the Skylab space station. Synthetic materials, like those used to construct Skylab, were off-gassing low levels of toxic chemicals and inhabitants were becoming ill. As more homes in the 70's were becoming more energy efficient like the space stations they were becoming air-tight w/ little to no air circulation. In an effort to try and figure out how homes could stay energy efficient without limiting the use of synthetic products, NASA started an experiment called the BioHome. The BioHome, a tightly sealed building constructed entirely of synthetic materials, was designed as suitable for one person to live in, with a great deal of the interior occupied by houseplants. Before the houseplants were added, anyone entering the newly constructed facility would experience burning eyes and respiratory difficulties, two of the most common symptoms of exposure to off-gassing from synthetic building materials - they even gave it a name and called it Sick Building Syndrome. Once the plants were introduced to the environment however, analysis of the air quality indicated that most of the VOCs had been removed, and the symptoms disappeared. OK that was decades ago when that study was done, and it's so interesting that almost 1/2 a century later we are still using tons of synthetic products and not everyone is aware of off-gassing or of the benefits of house plants! So I'm so glad you are listening to this today and hopefully I'm shedding some light on one of the simple ways we can create a healthier living environment.

You might be wondering, how many plants are needed to detox my home? This is where it gets tricky. In the above study NASA designed an airtight home built for 1 person with a great deal of the interior occupied by houseplants. OK that's not real life - we aren't going to live in a green house - so the idea of house plants eliminating the all the toxic VOCs in our home is probably not really gonna happen with the 2 or 3 plants we put inside. BUT if we vacuum, and clean our air filters, and ventilate the house periodically, perhaps get an air purifier too - these are all great things we can do to help clean the air in our homes. I talked more about this in episode 1 of this podcast so you can go check that out if you are interested.

Ok, so you might be thinking, if I need a whole house full of plants to clean the air in my home it's not worth it! But hold on, even with a few of plants in your home, they are still working their magic. Here's a fun fact: Studies have also shown that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels and boost your mood! making them perfect for your home and work environment!

So even if they don't completely detox our homes by themselves, they are still adding life and color and dimension to our spaces. And this makes you feel good! So plants are still a great way to create a healthier home and there are so many to choose from - I'm definitely not a gardener so I would suggest you go to your local garden store or if you live in No San Diego Co - check out Pigment - they just opened in One Paseo in Del Mar Highlands and they have amazing green walls and all sorts of cool plants and ideas for how to have them in your decor. Such a cool store. Women's Health did a great article on the type of plants to get that describe which ones are easy to grow etc. they included great photos that you should check out too.

My fiddle leaf fig at a client's house

Being a realtor and designer what I love about plants is that they can liven up even the most boring room. The right plants can instantly style up any living space. My absolute favorite is the fiddle leaf fig - I actually sold my house last year and I made sure my two fiddle leaf figs did NOT convey with the house. There are so many ways you can have fun with the pots, and even have a wall of growing greenery and that's super fun.

So you might be wondering, Where do I start? I would suggest starting with one or two plants to begin with and then see how they instantly can pull a space together. Start by looking in your family or living room, do you have space by the couch or in a well lit corner? A indoor tree could be just what your family room needs! Try picking one that is between 4'-6' tall to begin with unless you have really tall ceilings you can go a little higher. Trees take up a lot of visual space in a room and they soften the space by balancing out all the hard vertical and horizontal lines and also adding a pop of color. Green plants by the way go with every kind of color scheme! Just get two plants to feel balanced and I like to try and match the pots in similar color or materials to start with. If you do start with a tree, then get something small for the coffee table or another table across the same room. You can do succulents or herbs in the kitchen. I always have that pot of basil from Trader Joe's in my kitchen. So anytime I want to make Caprese salad or anything Italian, I have fresh basil at my fingertips. OH and the other thing I love to buy from Trader Joe's are the orchids. They are only $12 which is the same as a cut bunch of flowers by the way, and the orchids can last for weeks if not months. I put these on my fireplace mantle or dining room or in my bedroom or master bathroom.

Plants are amazing for your body and mind and also as we learned today they are a beautiful way to improve the health of your home! Still wanting to know which plants are right for you? Check out 15 Rare Houseplants You Will Love from Happy DIY Home!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post! If you'd like more information on how to have a healthier home check out my other blog posts or my NEW Podcast: Blooming! a Healthy Home by Design