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The Many Positive Effects of Houseplants

Written by Anna Reid- Eco Hub Eco Rep

Ah, the simple house plant. Most of us have them, whether it be a single cactus your grandma gave you or a miniature jungle you’ve collected over the past ten years (guilty). Still, not everyone realizes they have many positive effects. These positive effects range from scientific to emotional, even to social.

So, let’s talk about science! A study from NASA to gauge the ability of house plants, including the Bamboo Palm, Peace Lily, Ficus, Golden Pothos, Elephant Ear, and Green Spider Plant, to remove different airborne chemicals, done back in 1989, found that these plants and other specific varieties do help clean our air. These potentially dangerous chemicals were benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.

  • Benzene is most commonly found in first and secondhand cigarette smoke and in the air associated with gasoline production. It can be deadly by increasing the risk of leukemia (National Cancer Institute)1.
  • Trichloroethylene is most commonly used to remove grease from metal machines but is also a common element in paint removers and adhesives. Inhaling it causes symptoms ranging from dizziness and headaches to liver damage and death (CDC)2.
  • Formaldehyde is most commonly found in car exhaust, building manufacturing, and cigarette smoke. Some studies have shown that significant exposure to formaldehyde can lead to increased cancer in the upper part of your throat and leukemia (American Cancer Society)3.

The NASA study found a considerable reduction in these chemicals in the air around the plants’ vicinity. Shockingly, the soil housing the plants’ roots and different micro-organisms was most effective in removing benzene (Wolverton, 1989)4. Along with plants’ ability to add oxygen into the air as well as much-needed moisture and humidity, plant caretakers can now breathe more easily.

You might also have heard plant people talking about how taking care of plants can lead to a better mood and less stress, but is it true? An article by the Washington Post5 sums it up nicely:

“It’s important to remember the caveats of many of these studies: Some were carried out in highly controlled settings and primarily among college students. They reflect snapshots of time rather than long-term effects… it’s hard to ignore the volume of research showing that houseplants have a significantly positive effect on mood and physical health”.

(Das, 2022)

Das 2022 contains a long list of examples from studies and even anecdotes about the positive mood effect of caring for or even being around houseplants. I would definitely consider giving it a read. I know personally, when having to be in a space without plants, I immediately imagine what the place could look like with some leafy friends and the possibilities of how it could be a significant mood booster.

And finally, how do houseplants improve your life socially? This topic will primarily be on my views and experiences with owning many house plants, so you can take it with a grain of salt. When I started acquiring house plants about ten years ago, I knew very little about gardening, sustainability, or even tending to plants. This may be because I was around ten, but one silly little cactus helped me foster a new hunger for learning about anything green. I spent hours on my family computer looking up the best care and all the different types of houseplants I could get my little hands on. My shopping trips with my grandmother almost always ended with us going to Calloways, looking at their cacti, and me plotting my next birthday or holiday gifts.

Going into high school, I furthered my knowledge by learning about basic gardening and, consequently, started learning about sustainability. Mint, basil, and sad little pea plants became abundant in our house during the spring and summertime, as well as learning about caring for Bonsai. When I began college, I joined the UT Dallas Community Garden to learn more about sustainable gardening, and soon began to work for the UTD Eco Hub in the Summer of 2022. For me and many others, walking into a building with houseplants is a calming sight, as well as seeing the person in a more positive light if they can care for these plants.

All in all, starting to care for houseplants can be a great stepping stone to wanting to learn about gardening and sustainability. And let us not forget all the positive effects they can have on our everyday lives.


1 National Cancer Institute

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3 American Cancer Society


5 The Washington Post


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