As the days get shorter and the sunlight gets weaker, roughly one in five Americans may suffer from a form of seasonal depression or the winter blues. Bringing houseplants into your home and office can help reduce stress, increase oxygen levels, and boost your mood.
While a few pretty plants aren’t going to cure someone with winter depression, green plants can certainly help make people feel a bit better. With such a huge percent of the world population suffering from depression in the winter months, it’s the least we can do to bring a few houseplants into our living spaces.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Do Plants Really Help?
People who struggle with seasonal depression often sleep more, eat more, and feel less energetic. It’s possible for someone with the “winter blues” in Georgia to develop full-blown SAD if they move to Seattle.
The science on the psychological effects of indoor plants is really mixed and unclear.
News organizations seem to love making claims about indoor plants curing depression — but the scientific evidence really only supports the claim that houseplants increase pain tolerance, improve air quality, and can reduce stress. That’s a far cry from truly curing depression.
Seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are serious. In fact, the only big difference between SAD and major depressive disorder (MDD) is the seasonal timing of SAD.
However, if plants can help reduce stress, a few indoor plants certainly won’t hurt during those long winter months.
If you are struggling with seasonal depression or depression of any sort, please don’t hesitate to get help from an expert.
In summary, putting plants in your room or office won’t cure depression. But they might help reduce stress, especially if paired with full-spectrum lighting. And who doesn’t want less stress in their lives this winter?
The Best Plants for Seasonal Depression
Really, just about any living plant will do, as long as it fits easily into your space. However, it’s nice to focus on plants that are easy to care for and easy to grow indoors. The research on plants and depression just doesn’t specify which species of plant (or how many, or how big) they used. Just go with what works for you, since there’s clearly no formula for success!
So even though lilac bushes are my all-time favorite plant and red pines make me feel like I’m a happy little kid at my grandparent’s place, it’s just not practical to grow them indoors.
Many people prefer flowering plants for their offices and homes because those pretty flowers add an extra pop of cheerful color — but that’s up to you. If you’ve got a really dark office, be sure to check out our list of low-light houseplants.
1. English Ivy
This easy-to-care-for plant grows well in hanging baskets or in pots. It is quite hardy and some varieties have pretty yellow veins or accents. Keep in mind that in many areas, ivy is considered an invasive species. It’s even illegal to purchase English Ivy in Oregon! Check your local ordinances and ensure that you don’t contribute to the problem by letting your houseplant go wild.
2. Chinese Evergreen
Another easy-to-care-for and common indoor plant is Chinese Evergreen. These plants are tough to kill, making them ideal for brand-new plant owners or those of us with busy lives. It will stay bright and green all winter long, an important characteristic for plants that we want for seasonal depression reduction! This plant does well in low light and doesn’t need much water.
3. Peace Lily
This pretty plant is the first flowering plant on this list. With large, dark green leaves and big white flowers, the Peace Lily is a calming presence in your home or office. They grow quite large (up to two or three feet), so be sure you’ve got space for them! Like the other plants on this list, the Peace Lily is easy to care for. Keep in mind that Peace Lilies are toxic for cats, so keep them away from your feline friends.
4. Snake Plant
Short on floor or desk space, but want a bigger plant? The Snake Plant is another tough plant that will stay green all winter. It’s much taller than it is wide, making it perfect for smaller spaces. It has pretty yellow veins and accents to help boost your mood.
5. Jade Plant
This pretty miniature tree is one of my personal all-time favorites. Unlike the four plants above, this is a slightly more challenging houseplant — but don’t worry, it’s still pretty easy to care for! The Jade Plant has thick leaves and is decidedly different from your oh-so-tough, but rather homogenous, typical houseplant. The Jade Plant can grow up to a few feet tall, but it grows slowly. Best of all, you can share it with your neighbors by planting the trimmings! Jade Plants require regular watering and direct sunlight, a big contrast from the drought- and darkness-tolerant plants above.
We all love succulents. With such a variety of small and easy-to-care for plants in this group, you’re sure to find a succulent that you like for your purposes. Many people particularly enjoy planting a little variety of succulents in one planter — the variety of textures, heights, and colors is extra pleasing!
What plants boost your mood the most in the winter months?