Why your houseplant collection isn't helping you relax as much as you think

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

And what to do about it

How has your year been so far? Has everything gone perfectly? Not a single inconvenience or moment of stress?

No? Hmm... Weird. I haven't had any trouble myself. :)

Just kidding! The plumbing broke in my bathroom, I caught a cold that lasted for three weeks and now the heater in my living room won't come on and it's snowing. Oh, and did I mention the nail in my tire?

So stress --- yep, it's a part of my life like it's a part of yours.

Most of us are aware that having plants in our space helps decrease stress. You likely have (or would like to have) a robust collection of houseplants. I encourage you to do so! But, did you know that even with all that greenery, there's more you can do to benefit from plants? Last month I shared scientific findings on the benefits of a high variety of plants.

A new study provides more details. Continue reading to learn the benefits of going beyond just greenery.

The Study

The work I am highlighting today is a pretty cool study investigating what happens to us physically and mentally when viewing flowers at different stages of bloom. The (somewhat intimidating) title is:

"Psycho-Physiological Effects of a Peony-Viewing Program on Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals at Different Phenological Stages" and this study was undertaken by a group of professors in YangLing China: Zhao et al.*

I should note that this study focuses specifically on tree peonies. However, this plant was chosen because of it's common usage in the region where the study took place. Not because of unique qualities of the flowers themselves. Thus it is reasonable to expect similar results from other plant species.

Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way, let's get to the good stuff.

How it worked:

Study participants viewed flowers in a garden setting while their vital statistics were monitored by various senors attached to their body. The sensors measured systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR), fingertip pulse (FP), and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). They were also given a psychological evaluation before and after viewing the plants. Participants' psychological state was measured along the dimensions of anger–hostility, depression–dejection, tension–anxiety, confusion–bewilderment, vigor–activity, and fatigue–inertia.

Participants viewed flowers in different stages of bloom, from an early stage when the flowers had not yet emerged to the final stage when the petals were beginning to fall from the plant.

Peony Flowers in different stages of bloom
Credit: Zhou et al. (see reference list)

The Result