This week is National Gardening Week. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the many benefits of spending time outside and getting your hands dirty. However, for those with no outdoor space and/or little time, gardening can feel like a distant luxury. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to making your indoor space a little greener.

The benefits of houseplants

If you don’t have access to a garden, investing in some houseplants is a great way to make your space greener and cleaner. It’s often thought that houseplants take a lot of work to maintain, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on what type of plant you choose and where you put it, you might only have to water it once a month. What’s more, you might just find that after a little while, plant care becomes something of a ritual, helping you to unwind.

A lot of research has gone into understanding why it is that houseplants are a worthwhile addition to your space.

Why houseplants?

  • Houseplants boost mood and wellbeing – caring for plants takes your mind off the usual daily distractions. What’s more, when you look after the wellbeing of something else, you improve your own wellbeing too.
  • Plants naturally purify the air – if you walk into a florist, you’ll likely notice the change in air quality. It feels cooler, fresher, and as though it’s easier to breathe. This is because plants take in carbon dioxide when they photosynthesise, releasing oxygen as a waste product. You only need a few plants in a room to really notice the difference, and some plants are better at purifying air than others. Spider plants and peace lilies are such examples.
  • Your productivity and creativity will improve – some studies suggest that houseplants can improve your productivity by as much as 15%. As great stress-reducers, plants may help you keep a calm head, even during exam season and deadline days.
  • Plants look good – it might sound superficial, but ensuring your space looks appealing is a key factor in your enjoyment of a space. Even the plainest of rooms can be lifted with a plant or two.

Which plants should you choose?

Choosing the right plants for your space and time is important. If you are busy or away a lot, a high-maintenance plant that needs daily watering is probably not for you. Similarly, if your room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, then try picking something that thrives in the shade. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Swiss cheese plants, or Monstera deliciosa, are very good at purifying the air. They’re also fast-growing, so great if you’re looking for a centerpiece in the room, but perhaps less so if a small desk plant is what you’re looking for. Cheese plants only need watering once a week or so, plus they’re quite hardy. In the winter months, they sometimes won’t need watering for weeks at a time! Take caution if you have pets or young children, however. The leaves of cheese plants are toxic if ingested.
  • Lavender is known for its soothing scent and beautiful lilac flowers. It’s very easy to grow, thriving in window boxes, and the flowers have many clever uses. You can use them when fresh or dried in tea, or when the season ends and they start to dry, collect the heads to make clothes fresheners.
  • Snake plants are the hardiest of them all. Leave them for months at a time, even in the harshest of sunlight, and your snake plant will probably survive. They need very little water and regularly propagate baby snake plants, so you can quickly grow a small family.
  • Peace lilies are majestic yet surprisingly low maintenance. Their beautiful white flowers appear periodically throughout the year – just snip them at the base when they turn brown. Peace lilies don’t like direct sunlight, otherwise, their large leaves get sunburnt, but when healthy, they are excellent air purifiers. Just water your lily once a week and it’ll be happy. When neglected, peace lilies will droop quite dramatically. However, they’re quickly revived with a splash of water.

Houseplant hacks

Houseplants are notoriously expensive, but there are many ways you can make your space greener on the cheap.

Propagation is a great place to start. Jade plants are very easy to propagate, provided you have a friend who is happy to sacrifice a small cutting. Just snip a small branch (about 3-4 inches long) and leave the cutting to dry for a week or so. After the wound on the branch has developed a small callous, you can place the end in a small pot of soil with perlite, keeping the soil slightly damp. You will soon have a small, rooted jade plant of your own.

Cuttings can be taken from many different plants. Try cutting a section of ivy the next time you find some growing wild. Strip the bottom leaves from the branch and place the stem in a bottle of water with a little liquid fertilizer. The ivy will root in the water and grow very fast, provided you change the water and fertilizer every two weeks.

The next time you eat an avocado, consider keeping the stone. With just four toothpicks and a cup of water, you can prompt the stone to germinate. Use the toothpicks to suspend the stone over the cup, ensuring the base stays in contact with the water. After a few weeks, you’ll notice roots appearing, at which point you should plant them in a small pot of soil. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll grow an avocado, the plant itself has lovely leaves. You can grow many different plants from seeds you might have otherwise thrown away. Lemons, garlic, melons, and lemongrass are all simple to grow from seed or a single bulb.

It’s easy to add a little greenery to your space, and the health benefits are manifold. Particularly in stressful periods, getting lost in your own indoor jungle can provide a peaceful escape and a positive way to use your downtime.