Why I’m Making My House into a Jungle

“When I get older, I want a jungle in my house, mom, just like we have.” These are the sing-song words of my eight-year-old this morning as I happily spritzed the twenty-some plants that sit in our living room bay window.

“We don’t have enough of a jungle yet, kiddo,” I said, admiring the fern and spider plants that doubled in size while sitting proudly on the porch all summer.

“It makes me so happy that our plants loved being outside so much this summer,” my 8-year-old said with serious glee.

I couldn’t imagine a home or office without houseplants.

When I worked in mental health agencies, I always sprinkled my office with a myriad of plants. The first thing my often stressed out clients would say when they walked into my therapy room was, “It feels so peaceful in here.” I gave a sly wink to my plants in those moments, and I think they grew a little bigger each time. Some of my clients would tell me, therapy aside, just being in my office made them feel better. Despite my Zen decor, my plants were the aesthetic that made all who entered my office swoon with delight.

I once dated a man whose child was allergic to houseplants. Before I knew this, I remember teasing him for having so many fake succulents. When he didn’t respond to my gentle jabs, I realized I must have touched a sore spot. “Why don’t you have real plants?” I asked him in an apologetic way. “The dust and bacteria that gathers on them could make my son sick — like so sick it could kill him.” After he spoke there was an uncomfortable silence — a silence that compelled me to gaze upon his well-dusted plastic succulents with an air of compassion. The more serious our relationship got, the more I questioned our co-habiting future together. Yes, my love of houseplants is so very intense that it made me question moving in with a man I loved!

My breakup with that man had nothing to do with plants. In fact, the tropical plants I once rescued from the curb blossomed while they lived on his porch during my month-long journey out west, which only made me fall more deeply in love with him — and them.

Plants are sentient beings. They talk back if you know how to listen.

Here are a few key reasons why I love plants so much:

Plants boost your mood.

When your environment looks good, it gives you a sense of well-being. This is one reason flowers and plants are such popular gifts for hospital patients. When we feel good, our immune system gets a boost. Add to that the fact that plants clean the air, and you have a real reason to hit your garden store or florist and spread the feel-good vibes!

They look so darn good.

Aesthetics, anyone? Ask any interior decorator and they will tell you that an aesthetically pleasing environment stirs up feelings of warmth and comfort. Nature itself has been found to be a balm for the stressed-out soul. Adding plants to any indoor environment can be considered a form of nature-bathing. The term, forest-bathing was coined in 1982 by the then Director-General of the Agency of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, Tomohide Akiyama who knew the people in his country were in desperate need of healing. I have coined the term nature-bathing to mean immersing yourself in the nature around you using all of your senses. Outside, this means I focus on the sounds, sights, and sensations of nature around me. My indoor nature-bathing is more like long lingering looks at the greenery around me. As I gaze upon the wide array of plants that pepper any given room in my home, I feel a deep sense of peace. Sometimes I use my fingers to explore their textures while I’m pruning leaves or dusting them with a gentle mist. Nature-bathing boosts immunity, decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, soothes anger, increases energy, and decreases stress. If this isn’t a reason to get a few houseplants, then read no further.

They make it easier to concentrate.

In the age where Smartphone apps lead to ADD in many adults (or is it just me?), most folks will jump at the chance of improving their focus. Having the soothing influence of nature sprinkled around your home or office has been to increase concentration by 15 percent, according to a study done by the University of Michigan. Study much? Need to work harder? Add a few plants to your regular workspace and watch your productivity amp right up, and feel Zen while you’re at it.

They clear the air of toxins.

When you breathe cleaner air, you feel better. Nuff said. A research study by NASA found that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins within 24 hours. I have struggled with dust allergies and asthma my whole life. I notice when I’m in a plant-less environment, I breathe with less ease. When I started to keep plants in my bedroom, I stopped needing my nightly nasal spray to keep my nasal passages open. Coincidence? I think not.

They’re the cleanest housepet

If, like me, you cringe at the thought of cleaning up animals feces, the houseplant is the cleanest pet you’ll ever have. No litter box or poop scoop needed. Just add some fresh water, delicately prune, and occasionally fertilize to nurture these green souls to blossom. And unlike my cat, my houseplants never wake me up at night by clawing at my feet under the covers.

Plants are this planet’s BFF.

If you can’t afford a flight to the Amazon or a monthly donation or save the rainforest, you can start your own in-home forest, as a reminder that saving the planet starts at home. We can thank plants every damn day for allowing us to breathe fresh air. Heck, we wouldn’t be here without the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees. Why not thank Mother Nature for saving your soul one inhale and exhale at a time with a new houseplant? Want to spread the houseplant love? Start rooting clippings to gift to family and friends. My all-time favorite Christmas and birthday gifts have been plants rooted for me by the ones that I love.

With the fires in the Amazon and California and the threat of climate change, our world needs more green. Green can start at home, one potted pet at a time.

Previously published on medium

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