20 evidence backed benefits of indoor plants for your health and well-being

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

benefits of indoor plants

Those of us who fill our homes with plants probably know instinctively about the benefits of indoor plants.

We know that house plants are good for us.

And we know, somehow, that we get some indefinable positive vibe from looking at our plants, nurturing them and displaying them with care.

But, extraordinarily, what we plant lovers know instinctively is also backed up by the scientific research.

Our plants really do seem to be good for us – and, what is more, they are good for us in lots of different ways.

In this post I look in detail at the following two research papers and bring out what they tell us about the benefits of indoor plants:

These papers are both literature reviews. In simple terms, this means they have reviewed the results of many other pieces of research on the same subject and have drawn some conclusions from those results. There is more detail about the research method below.

Benefits of indoor plants
Benefits of indoor plants are more than just beauty

20 benefits of indoor plants: physical and psychological

So, what are the unseen benefits of indoor plants?

Take a look at this incredible list of 20 specific physical and psychological benefits drawn from the two research papers (with details of the underlying studies relied on):

1. Reduced blood pressure

A study by Park and Mattson1 discovered that when recovering hospital patients were exposed to indoor plants, they showed significantly lower systolic blood pressure readings, indicating a more relaxed physiological state.

2. Improved mood and positive feelings

Multiple studies, including Thomsen and colleagues.2, administered mood assessments and found exposure to indoor plants created more positive emotions, improved mood, and boosted feelings of cheerfulness and friendliness.

3. Decreased perceived stress

Raanaas and colleagues3, Shibata and Suzuki4, and Beukeboom and colleagues5 used stress scales and assessments to determine that the presence of living indoor plants or even posters and images of plants helped reduce feelings of subjective stress in environments like offices and waiting rooms.

4. Higher pain tolerance

The hospital patient study conducted by Park and Mattson1 demonstrated that those exposed to indoor plants reported higher pain tolerance levels on standardised pain scales following major surgery.

5. Decreased fatigue

Both a workplace study by Fjeld6 and the hospital patient research by Park and Mattson1 provided evidence that having indoor plants present reduced subjective feelings of fatigue among employees and recovering patients.

6. Lower anxiety levels

Hospital patients in the Park and Mattson study,1 who were exposed to plants during recovery, had decreases of up to 37% in self-reported anxiety levels based on standardised anxiety instruments.

7. Lower common health complaints

A workplace and school environment study by Fjeld6 tracked employee and student health complaints and found the introduction of indoor plants reduced headaches, coughs, fatigue, skin irritation and other common issues by 23-37%.

8. Quicker recovery time

Research by Ulrich7 discovered that surgical patients assigned to hospital rooms with windows looking out on natural scenes featuring vegetation recovered faster with shorter hospitalisations.

9. Increased pain tolerance

A hospital patient study conducted by Park and Mattson1 demonstrated that those exposed to indoor plants reported higher pain tolerance levels on standardised pain scales following major surgery.

Evidence shows the benefits of indoor plants in hospital settings

10. Greater workplace satisfaction

Raanaas and colleagues3 used questionnaires to assess worker opinions on workplace design and found that female employees in particular expressed greater satisfaction with indoor environments that had incorporated plants.

11. Faster reaction times

Lohr and colleagues8 found that when indoor plants were present in a computer lab, participants in the study had reaction times that were 12% faster on computer tasks measuring productivity, indicating increased speed and accuracy.

12. Increased productivity

Studies by Bringslimark and colleagues9 and Larsen and colleagues10 found that offices and workplaces that incorporated more indoor plants had employees who demonstrated higher levels of workplace productivity.

13. Increased creativity

In assessing the impact of indoor plants on creative task performance in workplace environments, Larsen and colleagues10 discovered that spaces with more incorporated plants were associated with higher self-reported levels of creativity amongst employees.

14. Improved workplace attitudes

Shoemaker and colleagues11 surveyed employee attitudes about their work environments and determined that adding indoor plants resulted in more positive feelings and attitudes about the workplace.

15. Increased attentiveness

Cognitive assessments administered by Lohr and colleagues8 determined that participants felt more subjectively attentive and alert on tasks when they were in the presence of indoor plants.

16. Enhanced well-being

In workplace environment studies by Thomsen and colleagues2, employees self-reported a significant enhancement in overall wellbeing in spaces that had incorporated indoor plants.

17. Improved air quality

Multiple studies demonstrated scientifically that common indoor plants can effectively remove volatile organic air pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde as well as CO2 and particulate matter through natural bioremediation properties.

18. Increased comfort

Igarashi and colleagues12 used questionnaires and EEG recordings to determine that both live indoor plants and displayed images of indoor plants induced self-reported feelings of comfort amongst participants.

19. Enhanced task performance

In their study evaluating workplace task performance, Shibata and Suzuki4 found that having indoor plants present, especially for female participants, improved focus, attention and accuracy on assigned computer tasks.

20. Higher satisfaction

Raanaas and colleagues3 and others, measured participants’ satisfaction levels with environments incorporating plants and discovered increased satisfaction, comfort, and positive opinions related to the indoor spaces with plants.

Evidence-based benefits of indoor plants

Bringing all of these individual benefits together, Aydogan and Cerone conclude that the presence of plants in indoor environments can lead to improved physical and mental well-being, mood, and behaviour in the following ways.

Physiological and cognitive benefits of indoor plants

The studies show that:

  • Exposure to indoor plants enhances comfort, reduces physical discomfort, and leads to fewer reported illnesses. It also correlates with decreased perception of pain and aggressive moods, and quicker stress reduction in plant-rich environments​​.
  • Indoor plants are linked to increased positive moods, decreased anxiety, and heightened prosocial behaviour (i.e. acting for the benefit of others)​​.
  • Interaction with plant life leads to improved mood, energy, and happiness, and decreased frustration, sadness, and fatigue.
  • Consistent access to green environments has been associated with better mental health. The visual and physical exposure to plants improves energy, cognition, pleasant feelings, and reduces anger, fear, and stress. Floral displays and natural beauty have been linked to more positive moods and prosocial behaviour.

Of particular interest to us plant lovers is that Yeo (2021) found that active engagement with plants, like watering or touching them, provides greater stress restoration than passive viewing.

Workplace benefits of indoor plants

The studies reviewed also show that incorporating plants in workplaces can significantly improve job satisfaction, performance, and efficiency.

Indoor plants create a biophilic environment. A biophilic environment is one where characteristics of the natural world are brought into the built environment, such as homes, offices and shopping centres.

Interestingly, the researchers believe that this actually aligns with our evolutionary needs and increases the overall well-being of employees​​, leading to increased job satisfaction and performance.

Studies have found that plants in workplaces improve the social climate, mood, concentration, physical well-being, and even perceptions of workplace competitiveness. These findings suggest a significant positive impact on employee well-being and the overall work environment.

benefits of indoor plants in workplace
There are many proven benefits of indoor plants in the workplace

A study by Nieuwenhuis and other (2014)13 is worth calling out here, because it measured the effect of plants in the workplace in the moment and over several weeks.

In this study the authors measured the impacts of two different types of workplace – lean spaces (no plants) and green spaces (plants). They did 3 studies in 3 separate locations in the UK and Holland.

Across all three studies, a consistent pattern emerged:

  • Workers in green workspaces exhibited more positive orientations to their work environment and their work than those in lean workspaces.
  • Enriching a lean office with plants significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, perceived air quality, and actual productivity.
  • A green office leads to more work engagement among employees, which positively impacts their satisfaction with the workplace, their concentration, and their perceptions of air quality.

Cognitive and productivity enhancement

The research also shows that plants can alleviate attention fatigue and symptoms associated with ADHD. They contribute to improved performance on tasks requiring directed attention. Hence, the effect in workplaces of increased productivity, efficiency, and reduced sick leave​​.

In workplaces, the presence of plants has been correlated with a 12% increase in productivity and reduced stress, leading to fewer sick leaves. While the impact varies depending on vegetation density and placement, the overall influence on productivity and cognitive processes is significant​.

Benefits produced by particular plants

So, if we know that there are all these benefits of indoor plants, it seems like it would be helpful to know which plants were involved in producing which effects.

Fortunately, we can find this information in Yeo’s study.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as saying ‘plant A directly causes health benefit X’.

Firstly, it is notoriously difficult to prove causation in any scientific study, without rigorous controls that enable researchers to separate the effects of different conditions that are present in the experiments.

Secondly, as you can see from the data in the tables below, in most cases, a range of different plants were present. So, it is mostly impossible, from this information to identify the contributions of each plant to the effects observed.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging and exciting to see so many of the familiar plants that we grow in our homes represented in these lists.

In my opinion this gives helps to add some strong anecdotal, if not evidence-based, support to the case in favour of the benefits of indoor plants.

As I said at the start of this article – as plant lovers, we grow these plants and we know they make us feel good!

Below is teh information showing the plants involved in the various outcomes described.

Attentiveness, reaction time and blood pressure

Type of Plant SpeciesAglaonema sp., Chamaedorea seifrizii, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena deremensis ‘Janel Craig’, Epipremnum aureum, Homalomena siesmeyeriana, Hoya sp., Philodendron scandens, Sansevieria trifasciata, Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’, Syngonium podophyllum
SettingsFloor, table, and hanging potted plants were placed in computer lab.
Type of ImprovementFeeling more attentive, rise in blood pressure was less, increases in post-task attentiveness and reaction time on a computer-based productivity is increased by 12%.
AuthorsLohr et al. (1996)8 

Fatigue, cough, dry throat, dry skin

Type of Plant SpeciesAglaonema commutatum Schott, Dracaena deremensis ‘Janel Craig’, Epipremnum aureum, Philodendron hederaceum, Dracaena fragrans, Philodendron cordatum
SettingsSite 1: Potted plant placed on the window bench (office); Site 2: On top of the film viewers (radiology department); Site 3: Planter box near wall with bio process system
Type of Improvement23 to 37% decrease in complaints regarding cough, fatigue, dry or hoarse throat, and dry or flushed facial skin.
AuthorsFjeld (2000)6

Performance and mood (male – female comparison)

Type of Plant SpeciesDracaena fragrans cv. Massangeana
SettingsSite 1: Room with potted plant; Site 2: Magazine rack with book; Site 3: No plant and no magazine rack
Type of ImprovementFemale participants performed better than male with the presence of plants; under no objects condition both male and female felt less confident and less energised; mood of male participants was better with the plant.
AuthorsShibata and Suzuki (2004)4

Sick leave and productivity

Type of Plant SpeciesDracaena fragrans, Dracaena concinna, Epipremnum aureum, Ficus benjamina, Spathiphyllum wallisii, Beaucarnea recurvata, Schefflera arboricola
SettingsPlants were placed on shelves, the tops of filing cabinets, and on the floor in office environments.
Type of ImprovementPlants were associated with less with sick leave and greater productivity.
AuthorsBringslimark, Hartig & Patil (2007)9
benefits of indoor plants
Draceana, Calathea, Epipremnum, Ivy, Cactus, Cane Palm

Hospital patients: pain, fatigue, anxiety, blood pressure

Type of Plant SpeciesDendrobium phalaenopsis, Spathiphyllum ‘Starlight’, Epipremnum aureum, Syngonium podophyllum ‘Albolineatum’, Pteris cretica ‘Albolineata’, Vinca minor ‘Illumination’, Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Ogonnishiki’
SettingsPotted plants were placed in hospital room.
Type of ImprovementPatients exposed to plants during recovery had significantly enhanced physiological responses: improved mood, lower systolic blood pressure, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and feeling more satisfied in the hospital room.
AuthorsPark and Mattson (2009)1

Satisfaction with surroundings

Type of Plant SpeciesDracaena reflexa, Rhapis excelsa, Schefflera arboricola, Dracaena surculosa, Epipremnum aureum, Liriope muscari, Aglaonema commutatum, Dracaena fragrans ‘Janet Craig’
SettingsPotted plant placed on floor in a rehabilitation centre.
Type of ImprovementThe plant intervention had a positive effect on satisfaction with the facility, with women more satisfied with the interior design than men. No direct effect on self-report health outcome, probably due to the participants being mobile and receiving a variety of treatments and activities at the centre.
AuthorsRaanaas, Patil & Hartig (2010)3

Stress reduction

Type of Plant SpeciesZanzibar Gem, Tradescantia spathacea
SettingsPotted plant and posters of plant in a hospital waiting room.
Type of ImprovementBoth real indoor plants and posters of plants were equally effective in reducing stress in patients because they improved the attractiveness of the room.
AuthorsBeukeboom, Langeveld, and Tanja-Dijkstra (2012)5

Satisfaction with office environment

Type of Plant SpeciesPelargonium odoratissimum, Alocasia Rhizome, Mentha haplocalyx, Lavandula (Lavender), Sansevieria trafasciata, Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia), Dracaena deremensis
SettingsPotted plant in an office environment.
Type of ImprovementParticipants’ satisfaction increased with slight scent plants (Lavender, S. trafasciata, Poinsettia, and A. rhizome) and small-sized plants (Lavender, M. haplocalyx, P. odoratissimum), followed by medium and big-sized plants.
AuthorsQin et al. (2014)14

Psychological benefits of real plants vs plant images

Type of Plant Species
Dracaena deremensis 
SettingsActual potted plant and picture of plant.
Type of ImprovementViewing actual plants may have psychological benefits not replicated by the image through increased Oxy-hemoglobin concentrations. Real plant and picture of plant both induced feelings of comfort and relaxation.
AuthorsIgarashi et al. (2015)12

Positive emotions and attention

Type of Plant SpeciesEpipremnum aureum
SettingsVertical green system in a lab.
Type of ImprovementViewing foliage plants associated with positive images and feelings, but the density does not really affect people’s physiological parameters. Active engagement with plants provides greater stress restoration. Active and passive interaction with plants increases self-reported attention restoration. Distance of plant is not associated with positive impacts.
AuthorsChoi et al. (2016)15

Stress and attention restoration

Type of Plant Species
Aglaonema commutatum, Epipremnum pinnatum 
SettingsPotted plant in classroom and hallway.
Type of Improvement
Active engagement with plants provide greater stress restoration. Active and passive interaction with plants increase self-reported attention restoration. 
AuthorsHan (2017)16

Research methods

The two studies principally relied on in this article are:

Aydogan, A., & Cerone, R. (2021). Review of the effects of plants on indoor environmentsIndoor and Built Environment30(4), 442-460.

Yeo, L. B. (2021). Psychological and physiological benefits of plants in the indoor environment: A mini and in-depth reviewInternational Journal of Built Environment and Sustainability8(1), 57-67.

These papers are both literature reviews. This means that they review the conclusions of previous experimental studies on the subject and combine those findings to try to establish which conclusions are well supported by evidence.

With these kinds of reviews, we do need to bear in mind that the robustness and reliability of the underlying studies, can vary.

For example, studies may not measure effects over time, they may rely simply on what participants report without any independent measuring or they may be based on small or unrepresentative samples.

Therefore it is best to think of these kinds of results of indicative rather than conclusive.

References

  1. Park, S.-H., & Mattson, R. H. (2009). Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(9): 975–980.
  2. Thomsen, J. D., Sønderstrup-Andersen, H. K. H., & Muller, R. (2011). People-plant relationships in an office workplace: perceived benefits for the workplace and employees. HortScience, 46(5): 744–752.
  3. Raanaas, R. K., Patil, G. G., & Hartig, T. (2010). Effects of an indoor foliage plant intervention on patient well-being during a residential rehabilitation program. HortScience, 45(3): 387–392.
  4. Shibata, S. & Suzuki, N. (2004). Effects of an indoor plant on creative task performance and mood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45: 373–381.
  5. Beukeboom, C. J., Langeveld, D., & Tanja-Dijkstra, K. (2012). Stress-Reducing Effects of Real and Artificial Nature in a Hospital Waiting Room. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(4): 329–333.
  6. Fjeld, T. (2000). The effect of interior planting on health and discomfort among workers and school children. HortTechnology, 10(1): 46–52.
  7. Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224(4647): 420–421.
  8. Lohr, V. I., Pearson-mims, C. H., & Goodwin, G. K. (1996). Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment. Journal of Environmental Horticulture Article, 14(2): 97–100.
  9. Bringslimark, T., Hartig, T., & Patil, G. G. (2007). Psychological benefits of indoor plants in workplaces: Putting experimental results into context. HortScience, 42(3): 581–587.
  10. Larsen, L., Jeffrey, A., Deal, B., Kweon, B., & Tyler, E. (1998). Plants in the workplace: The effects of plant density on productivity, attitudes, and perceptions. Environment and Behavior, 30(3): 261–281.
  11. Shoemaker, C. A., Randall, K., Relf, P. D., & Geller, E. S. (1992). Relationships between plants, behavior, attitudes, and work satisfaction in an office environment. HortTechnology, 2(2): 205–206.
  12. Igarashi M, Song C, Ikei H, Miyazaki Y. (2015). Effect of stimulation by foliage plant display images on prefrontal cortex activity: a comparison with stimulation using actual foliage plants. Journal of Neuroimaging, 25(1):127–130.
  13. Nieuwenhuis, M., Knight, C., Postmes, T., & Haslam, S. A. (2014). The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied20(3), 199.
  14. Qin J, Sun C, Zhou X, Leng H and Lian Z. The effect of indoor plants on human comfort. Indoor Built Environ 2014; 23: 709–723.
  15. Choi, J., Park, S., Jung, S., Lee, J., Son, K., An, Y., & Lee, S. (2016). Complementary Therapies in Medicine Physiological and psychological responses of humans to the index of greenness of an interior space. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 28: 37–43.
  16. Han, K. T. (2017). Influence of passive versus active interaction with indoor plants on the restoration, behaviour and knowledge of students at a junior high school in Taiwan. Indoor and Built Environment, 0(0), 1–13.

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