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Fed up with winter/lockdowns/the living room? Just add plants.

‘Forest Bathing’ [Shinrin-yoku] is the Japanese practice of relaxing among trees. Getting some quality time to reflect and breathe deeply while enjoying nature is celebrated as a fantastic way to calm the mind and de-stress. The benefits of soaking up fresh air and daylight are well known; it gives the immune system a lift and improves mental wellbeing, as well as physical health. But the presence of plants is equally important.

It might be tricky to find much foliage at this time of year but the core principle is still crucial: greenery is a great way to unwind. With the emphasis remaining on staying at home as much as possible, outdoor adventures beyond the local park are on hold. But looking after your own little indoor forest can be a fantastic outlet. Science backs up the popular thinking that houseplants make you happier and healthier. They reduce dust and airborne allergens. Add humidity to rooms dried out by air conditioning. And gardening on any scale improves focus. Not to mention that they look great. 

woman sitting with plants
Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels

Working with plants

It’s been impossible to ignore all the little things we dislike about our homes over the past few months. So much time indoors has highlighted the importance of making the best of wherever and whatever we have. But as the initial novelty of working from home has worn off for most of us, things have started to get pretty dull. It’s difficult to stay productive in January at the best of times, but a lacklustre environment helps nobody.

If you’re doing the 9 to 5 from home, it can help to add some flora to your space. Plants in the workplace have been reported to help boost productivity by as much as 15% while they’re prettying up desks. They also oxygenate the air, keeping your office[/kitchen table] from getting stuffy. Adding some leafy colleagues can create a less stale, calmer environment, allowing you to keep your wellbeing and work in check. 

Finding your new friends

But where to begin? If you’re a house plant aficionado, you’ll have your faves already. But if you’re new to the whole thing, it can be pretty daunting working out what to get. We’ve put together a few of the hardest to kill and easiest to find plants that make a great foundation for any beginner’s collection. 

Aloe Vera

You can find these guys just about anywhere. They’re not fussy, as long as they’re watered well, and prefer to dry out a bit rather than getting soaked. As well as looking fab, they’re useful for treating skin irritation and burns, so sticking one in the kitchen could be handy.  

Spider Plants

Excellent if you’re after something that multiplies. These will throw out tiny versions of themselves you can break off and start a new plant with, but you might find yourself getting overrun. Water well but don’t let them get soggy and avoid too much direct sunlight. They trail brilliantly and look great in hanging baskets or perched on top of shelves.

three plants in front of a pink wall
Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels

Sansevieria

Thrives on neglect. This lot are pretty indestructible. Again, they’re not big water drinkers, so a good splash every 1.5/2 weeks will do the trick. They’re great if you’re pressed for space as they shoot up vertically without any trailing leaves; Ideal for gloomy spots, they don’t mind low light.

Cacti

If you’re thinking ‘but I bought a little one once and it didn’t do anything?’ chances are you made a couple of rookie mistakes. They might be desert plants but cacti DO need water; once a week, with plenty of drainage should do the trick. Avoid buying novelty ones as they’re not generally very healthy to begin with [unless you fancy a rescue project.] 

Jade Plants

Can survive for a couple of weeks without any attention, as long as they’re getting enough light. Water these when the soil feels dry and enjoy having a little tree in your home! Any leaves that snap off can be stuck in the soil and stand a good chance of taking root and giving you a 2nd plant. One of the most resilient succulents around. 

If you can’t get to your local garden centre or plant shops right now, find them online! You get great items AND help support small businesses while they’re closed. But help might even start a lot closer to home. Swapping with friends and family can be a good way to go, just make sure you keep things contactless.

Find fresh air

While you’re getting your daily exercise in, try and find the greenest spots in your local area. Even though the trees are looking pretty bare at the moment, immersing yourself in nature is a lot better for your health than spending time next to roads and urban spots. You’re not only surrounding yourself with nicer scenery, you’re reducing the amount of air pollution you’re exposed to as well. If you’re still heading to work, picking a greener route to walk or cycle will set you up for a better day than navigating more built-up areas. Time spent around even the smallest amount of natural space has been shown to help lower blood pressure and stress hormones like Cortisol 

Get creative

Space is at a premium, and few people have access to huge gardens. But getting creative can allow you to bring greenery into your home, no matter the size. Window boxes and pots on even the narrowest of balconies are a great way to bring some life to otherwise uninspiring views. Urban environments can be pretty bleak, but creating your own tiny oasis can be as easy as a few evergreen plants and some fairy lights. If you’re working on a tight budget, it’s worth remembering that plants will grow just about anywhere as long as you treat them right. Enough soil and water, and you can set them up in whatever’s to hand. Jars, cans, cups, tins… if it’s lying around empty, it’ll do the job. Not to mention the decorating opportunities; let your imagination [and Pinterest searches] run wild.

Man holding tomatos on vine
Photo by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

Plant food

If you’re not a fan of transforming your flat into a botanical wonderland, or just want something a bit more practical, try veg. Ideal for small outdoor spaces, it’s a functional way to embrace a bit of nature. Plus it comes with delicious rewards. Herbs make a fragrant addition to any kitchen; Tomato vines add life to sunny spots. Wherever you’re putting them, the possibilities are pretty endless, from carrots and potatoes to avocado and kale. Doing a bit of research will help figure out what’s likely to work best for you, and if you can get growing from seeds or whether picking up some plants is easier. Either way, it’ll add an extra dash of accomplishment to your cooking.   

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