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Boost Your Health With an Indoor Garden

Houseplants can help with your well-being and home decor

spinner image An assortment of house plants
Jeff Elkins

Having pretty plants to look at in your home is a nice perk of indoor gardening, but research suggests the activity can boost your health, too.

"Gardening has been shown in multiple studies to be associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline or dementia in older adults,” says David Carr, M.D., a professor of geriatric medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Plants help you become more competent and give you something meaningful to do and take care of,” notes Patty Cassidy, a registered horticulture therapist. Other research suggests that gardening may help reduce blood pressure in older people and improve psychological well-being. One perhaps surprising benefit: Just talking about a common interest in plants helps to create positive relationships with others.

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If you live in a cold-weather region — or just lack yard space — it's easy to grow plants indoors that you can enjoy year round. Here are a few plants to try:

Orchids

While they look delicate and exotic, they are not as high maintenance as you might think. An orchid makes a good gift for recovering hospital patients, as studies show that viewing plants during recovery is linked to less pain and anxiety. Plant an orchid in a container with good drainage; once a week, add three ice cubes to it. Mist it to create humidity, which orchids love.

Rosemary

The scent of this herb may help with memory by boosting a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Clip the leaves to use them in the kitchen, too.

Peace lilies

Not only do they produce beautiful foliage and white hooded flowers; they also do double duty as air purifiers, removing toxins such as trichloroethylene, found in paint and varnish.

Lavender

Grow this plant in your bedroom, as it's said to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.

Spider plants

These hearty houseplants remove formaldehyde from the air.

Tools to care for houseplants

You don't need a lot of equipment. These are the basics.

  • An old spoon, fork or chopstick. Poke around in the soil occasionally to loosen it, which helps deliver air to the roots of the plants.
  • A lightweight spray bottle. Spritz leaves and blossoms once every day or two to add humidity.
  • A pair of cuticle scissors. Use these to cleanly remove dead blossoms or leaves without damaging the plant.
  • A lightweight watering can. Choose one with a long, narrow spout so you can deliver water directly to the roots.

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