These Are The Pros & Cons of Having Houseplants

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I get asked why I have so many many house plants a LOT.

Personally, I just like them. They look cool. I can’t really explain it, I just…like them.

We’re always trying to find a deeper meaning to the things we like, but it’s fine to have hobbies because…that’s the hobby you have.

A lot of the ‘pros’ to having house plants have been exaggerated over the years. House plants are a booming industry, so along with that comes people trying to flog us more using hitting that angle that they’re beneficial to our wellbeing. These benefits are overstated to begin with, and then get repeated over and over, and then exaggerated, and adapted until one could believe that house plants are a perfectly functional (and cheap!) replacement to a therapist and/or medication.

I don’t buy it, and I say that as someone with undulating mental health, likely ADHD, and house FULL of plants. I love my plants, but I’m not gonna straight up lie about their benefits.

There are SO MANY studies with findings like:

  • house plants may reduce stress in some people
  • house plants may help some people concentrate
  • house plants may help you recover from illness quicker
  • house plant may help purify the air (if this is important to you, get an air purifier)

I’ve been a writer for waaay longer than I’ve had plants, and I personally don’t think they help me concentrate.

Obviously, I’m not speaking to everyone, and if a cheap-ass tradescantia will help you knock out that novel, then good for you.

That being said, there definitely ARE tangible benefits to having house plants, and here are some of them:

They force me to dust

I’m one of those lucky, lucky people that is, by nature, phenomenally messy, but cannot function in mess.

For the longest time this stopped me from keeping house plants. They drop soil and after everywhere, and need regular dusting. Also, when I clean e.g. the bathroom, I have to pick them all up and move them, so I can clean properly.

This is waaaaay to much work.

Except I do want to clean, I just struggle to do it. Having plants actually helped me reframe ‘cleaning’ as ‘plant maintenance’.

Now, this isn’t that easy. If only.

I still live in a dusty house, it’s just less dusty. Cleaning takes AGES because I like to stop and fiddle about with my plants.

But the hardest part is always getting started, and I find that if I tell myself I’m just watering the plants I get over that first hurdle.

Provided I give myself enough time for this ‘plant care’ (I mean about four hours), I more often than not (hmm, actually maybe about 50% of the time) will also go on to dust all the shelves and perhaps clean the rest of the house.

At the very least, I’ll vacuum up the mess I made, and then whilst the vacuum’s out, I’ll do the rest of the floor I’m on.

They’re cheap home decor

Sure, all my furniture is cheap Ikea or Amazon BUT the plants really elevate it. I’m terrible at styling, er, anything, but I like having my plants everywhere.

It’s not ideal when I have to cram them all into the one warm room over winter BUT thinking about how good they’ll look in summer if I’m diligent over winter helps me to stay motivated to them healthy in the colder months.

Keeping plants alive is a weird superpower

…At least it is to people that kill all their plants.

When people come over they’re like WOW look at all your plants! Look at that one living in water! Look at that big white one!

It’s the equivalent of having a pencil case full of glitter gel pens when you’re 13. People think I’m magic. No, I just hid the ones that re struggling before you came over.

My particular skill is reviving my friend’s sad plants, so when they see the change in that cactus they were religiously watering every day, they think I’m some kind of wizard. And I’m good with that.

They keep me in a job

Thanks guys. I love plants, I love writing. Writing about plants is the freaking dream!

Downsides to having house plants

I just want to mention here that I find them very distracting, but I don’t want to put that as a universal disadvantage because I’m in a fairly unique situation where I work from home and write about plants. It would be weird if they didn’t distract me.

I just wanted people who feel similarly to not feel like they’re weird because plants do the opposite of helping them focus!

It’s stressful when you can’t take care of them

It can be for a plethora of reasons.

Perhaps you’re away, or ill, or too busy or whatever, but the problem is plants will die if you neglect them for too long. They’re not like pets or kids that require prioritising. They won’t shout or run away. They’ll just shuffle off their mortal coil, and make us feel like we wasted our money and are terrible plant parents.

They also get pests when they’re neglected, which take out your entire collection in one fell swoop.

They collect dust

Which is fine if you can dust like I can. But if for whatever reason you can’t, you’ll end up with a super dusty home.

There are several articles out there that claim that certain plants will help with dust, but that’s not a thing. There are no plants that will remove dust from your home. Trust me, I’d know about it and have five in every room.

Not only do I swear plants make dust, but they’re actually more likely to get pests like spider mites if their environment is dusty.

They take up time

The amount of time they take up depends on the plant, but no plant will take up zero time UNLESS you get a cactus, leave it in an incredibly bright spot and make someone else in your home water it.

If you try to ‘hack’ your plants to make them grow slower, then you increase the risk of them getting pests or looking stunted and weak. If you provide them with awesome conditions, they’ll grow faster and need watering and repotting more often.

If you don’t have time, get fake plants.

They’re not great for the environment

The impact the house plant hobby is having on the environment isn’t fully clear yet, but there are some products, like peat moss, which will probably be phased out in the next few years.

However, I’ve found that learning to care for house plants gives me a greater respect for commercially grown crops.

There is a TONNE of research done into how learning to grow your own food isn’t necessarily great for the environment because we’re not doing it very efficiently – not that it’s bad by any means, just it’s not the silver bullet to rising food costs that a lot of magazines are suggesting.

Instead, I’ve made a conscious effort to not waste food. I do grow tomatoes and herbs, but more for fun and a bit of greenery in our backyard. Our front garden was a hellscape of fake grass but we’ve ripped it up and replaced it with a (very small) wildflower meadow.

In short, it’s never going to be perfect. Do what you can.

They require research and resources

This is something some people simply refuse to acknowledge. I was one of them for the longest time. You need a certain amount of free time. You need decent water (or money to buy it). Good light or grow lights is essential. Plants don’t grow in dark spaces.

They may not be compatible with your pets

I have rabbits, so I’ve actually introduced predators into my home. Although we’ve actually had rabbits longer than plants, so I don’t feel bad.

House plants can be dangerous to pets, and the current trend for climbing plants is a bit of nightmare to navigate when you have pets because all the good ones are poisonous.

I just keep my bunnies separate. We have a big, rectangular living room, so the buns have one half (in an x-pen) and we have the other, filled with plants. When the bunnies are roaming, they can only go in the hall or kitchen, where all the plants are up a height.

This works so well that I don’t even think about it, but if I had a cat or dog, it’d be a bit trickier to navigate. I tend to prioritise pets over plants so if I got a cat/dog that chewed (they may leave your plants alone – loads of influencers have pets that don’t bother the plants)I’d dedicate one room to plants and keep the pet out.

In conclusion

This may be controversial, but I don’t think there are any benefits to having houseplants that are particularly unique.

If you like them, go ahead and buy a house full, but if you think they’ll help you focus or improve creativity but don’t want to actually care for a plant – stick to a fake one.

Fake plants nowadays are really good, so you’ll get all the benefits of having greenery around without the extra work.

If you need your air purifying, get an air purifier. Unless you’re planning on cramming 300 plants into every room, it’ll be far more efficient.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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