Mind-Body Benefits of Houseplants: 5 Plants That Don’t Require a Green Thumb

woman arranging plants

Even the most devoted city dwellers can find tranquility in a sunset, stand awestruck at the base of a snowcapped mountain range, and breathe a little deeper in the presence of gentle ocean waves.

Modern life leads many people to spend their days inside—looking at computer screens behind concrete walls. Americans spend so much time as indoor animals (up to 90 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency), that many of us may have lost our vital connection to the natural world. The spaces we inhabit are often poorly ventilated and filled with pollutants (home furnishings and upholstery, synthetic building materials, and household cleaning products) that stagnate in the air we breathe.

Clean Air

It’s in your best interest, then, to bring the outdoors in. The solution? Houseplants. A landmark study conducted by NASA showed that houseplants removed up to 86 percent of benzene (an air toxin) in intermittent 24-hour-period exposures over a six-week period. Plants clean the air by absorbing harmful particulates and microbes in the potting soil. Indoor greenery is one way to reduce sick building syndrome, a collection of symptoms including sore throats, headaches, and fatigue that are caused by indoor pollution.

Other Benefits of Houseplants

In addition to helping you breathe cleaner air, houseplants have also been shown to have other profound effects on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase pain tolerance
  • Reduce stress
  • Boost productivity
  • Improve mood

Even caring for a plant (planting, watering, pruning, etc.) can be a therapeutic way to relax and restore after a long day or week. That is, of course, if the plants themselves don’t cause undue stress. Everyone has a different plant personality (that is, which plants make you happy), so before you choose your plants, make sure they’re right for your home and the level of care you want to provide.

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Picking Your Plant

There are plenty of aesthetically pleasing plants that are easy to keep alive and perform the important task of scrubbing the air clean. Just make sure to consider how much light you have to work with and where it’s coming from. And don’t forget—like any living thing, plants need tender loving care. Water, light, soil, and maybe some encouraging words now and again will ensure that you and your plants live in harmony.

Here are five plants that can help restore a healthy balance to your indoor spaces without requiring much work on your part.

1. Succulents

Think beyond aloe vera (though that’s a great choice, too). There are hundreds of succulent varieties, all with their own unique visual appeal. They’re easy to find at your local nursery or farmers market. One of the most endearing qualities of a succulent is that you can pluck off a stem from a living plant and, in a matter of weeks, find tiny succulent nubs sprouting from the stem, ready to come to life in a whole new plant.

2. Pothos

Graceful, green, and beautiful, pothos can be found dripping from shelves and dressers, work desks, and coffee shop counters. Pothos are also simple to propagate, and they look amazing in the process. Place the stems in old jars, vases, or anything else that can hold water to add some extra green to your windowsills and tables.

3. Spider Plant

The spider plant has leaves that appear wild and restrained at the same time, and it has the added perk of looking equally beautiful sitting in a pot or hanging from the ceiling. They are not labor intensive, and people love them because they have babies called spiderettes. Just like pothos, you can stick the babies in a glass of water for a week or two before planting them to create a whole new plant.

4. Snake Plant

You can tell that some plants are low-maintenance just by looking at them, and this is one of them. This tall, sturdy plant will continue to thrive under rather neglectful conditions. It doesn’t require much light and can remain un-watered for weeks at a time. Give this plant plenty of space to grow tall and strong.

5. Fiddle Leaf Fig

When fiddle leaf figs get growing in earnest, they look like a real tree—right inside of your bedroom or living room. They have big, quirky leaves that resemble a fiddle, and they’ll be music to your soul. Though it requires a bit more work and some patience, fiddle leaves can also be propagated. 

Some people find joy in maintaining a full garden (the bounty of which is often at least partially brought inside), but not everyone has a green thumb. These lower maintenance plants can be just the thing to help you stay healthier indoors.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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About the Author

Jen Stiff

Writer and Yoga Teacher (RYT-200)
Jen is a writer, editor, and storyteller. She lives in California with her mountain man husband and two pugs. When she’s not writing or frolicking with animals, Jen is practicing or teaching yoga, traveling to faraway lands, and cooking up delicious vegan desserts. Jen has healed her own mind, body, and soul through yoga, meditation, and healthful eating, and she loves to share her passion for health and well-being with the world through writing.Read more