Some of the most nature-immersive experiences accompany the winter season. When conjuring up an image of winter, we often see a glistening snow-covered canopy of temperate rainforest. For those of us dwelling in a city, the scene is usually a little more grey and gloom. Seldom do we see an abundance of lush greenery or budding blooms (until spring).
The antidote to winter blues in urban environments? Indoor greenery! (Along with forest bathing and connecting with nature, as often as possible.)
What is biophilia?
Biophilia is defined as “a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms,” particularly plants. In other words, an intrinsic desire to engage with our natural environment.
What’s super cool about biophilia (other than the lovely definition) is that it’s transforming the way we interact, work, and live in human-made environments outside of pure nature. Many studies have looked at our interconnection with indoor plants, and how plants can reduce stress by supporting the nervous system. Another study shows that the act of merely looking at a houseplant on your desk can help alleviate workplace anxiety.
Greenery and flora have a natural way of inspiring zen. In The Lost Language of Plants, author Stephen Harrod Buhner speaks to plants connecting us as people to the environment of which we are a part, and from which we came.
We know that plants provide oxygen through photosynthesis (flashback to early grade school science). We also know that plants have the ability to communicate through their roots. Having plants in the home and office helps infuse our living spaces with more life – literally.
We chatted with Catherine Yuen, Vancouver-based Interior Designer & host of HGTV Canada’s Worst To First, to share her plant passion with us – plus some design insight on how plants help us thrive.
In your interior design process, how important is the connection between people and plants?
Bringing plants into your interiors is a game-changer. You don’t need to make an indoor jungle, but adding in one or a few pots of greenery will liven up your space and offer even more benefits than just “looking” nice.
Can you tell us a bit about ‘biophilic design’?
In a nutshell, biophilic design is a strategy that aims to connect people with the natural environment, either through visual connections to the outdoors or by bringing plant life into our interior spaces. We have an innate tendency to connect with nature, and we possess a love of life and living systems. People have been bringing plants into their homes for thousands of years, so obviously, it’s a thing!
Why do we as humans gravitate toward bringing plants into our sacred, personal spaces?
Our pull towards bringing plants into our homes isn’t just for aesthetic purposes but intangible ones, too. There are physical, mental, and emotional benefits to surrounding yourself with plants, which is why I encourage my clients to factor that into the design and décor of their home.
Physically, plants create cleaner, healthier air for us to breathe, which improves our comfort and well-being. They make our surroundings more pleasant and visually appealing, and they make us feel calmer. Interior plants and views of greenery outdoors have shown to reduce stress, increase pain tolerance, and improve productivity in the workplace. These are all good things.
Did you always have a green thumb? When did you first feel the positive effect of surrounding yourself by plant life?
Oh, man! I have killed more than my fair share of house plants! I am still learning how to properly care for my plants, and thankfully the ones I’ve chosen are quite forgiving, so that helps. I first felt the benefits once I’d brought a few plants into my home, cared for them, and watched them flourish. Now, I can’t imagine having a home without indoor plants.
Which plants do you recommend for cultivating more calm and zen in the home?
This ultimately depends on your needs for your home. Some factors are the size of the plant (what you have space for), and what level of care you can take on. Some people want a plant that is stylish but doesn’t suit their environment (like tropical plants that require a lot of light and high humidity).
I’d suggest starting smaller and going from there. Do some research, pick an easy to care for plant and build yourself up from there. I’ve listed some resources for great beginner plants, apartment plants, and so forth on my blog.
Do you have a favourite house plant?
Oh gosh! That’s a tough one. I have favourites for different reasons. I love my hanging Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) because it’s the easiest to care for and propagates so well, but the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides) is my favourite looking plant with its little disc leaves. The next two plants on my wish list are the ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) and an Indoor Olive Tree.
For those of us a little apprehensive about caring for plants (and keeping them alive!), do you have any guidance on ‘turning over a new leaf’?
Just go for it! Do some research on what plant will suit your living space and lifestyle – where do you want to put the plant? How much direct/indirect light will it get in that location? How often are you home to care for it?
Plant care 101
- Pick a plant that suits your living space and lifestyle (not just based on looks, but what is realistic)
- Get the necessary supplies to care for it – a larger pot, proper soil, spray bottle (if it likes humidity)
- Enjoy the learning process and reap the benefits of bringing plants into your home!
If caring for a live plant really is out of the question, faux plants are the next best thing. There are some amazing quality ones available through stores that specialize in faux plants, or you can check out home décor stores for some great entry options. Visually, you can hardly tell the difference!
Plants offer a world of well-being. All the more reason to invest in macrame plant hangers and ceramic pots, right? #proudplantmom