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Enter the World of Horticultural Therapy, the Popular Choice for Indoor Green Plants

by Amélie Poulain
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In recent years, there has been a wind of green plants, and many people have begun to plant to add greenery to the environment and purify the air. By understanding plant characteristics and planting needs, you can find a healing pot that suits you, achieve the effect of horticultural treatment, and increase the chance of successful planting. Ancient Egyptians and Greco-Romans believed that garden walks, exposure to plants, sunlight, and fresh air could help heal mental illnesses and benefit physical and mental health. Gardening is therefore consistently ranked among the top ten most popular leisure activities in the world.


Horticultural therapy has become a very popular form of holistic therapy in recent years. (Photo via unsplash.com)

Taipei, TAIWAN (Merxwire) – In recent years, it has become popular to place green plants at home or in the office to heal the body and mind. Planting can add greenery to space and purify the air. Integrating nature into life can enhance the comfort of indoor space, feel peaceful, and have the effect of horticultural therapy. Especially after 2020, when the COVID-19 epidemic spreads all over the world, people spent more at home and began to plant flowers and plants to create the joy of life. Indoor planting has become more popular. It soothes the chaotic mind during the epidemic and adds a sense of natural tranquility to home life.

What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural therapy has a fairly long history. Ancient Egyptian doctors would prescribe a walk in the garden to calm the patient’s mood. Greco-Roman times believed that garden walks, exposure to plants, sunlight and fresh air could help heal mental illnesses. In modern times, it is more recognized that exposure to the natural environment is good for physical and mental health. Gardening is therefore consistently ranked among the top ten most popular leisure activities in the world.

American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) defines “Horticultural Therapy” as the multiple benefits people receive from gardening activities at the physical, mental, emotional, social, cognitive, and creative levels. Even the elderly and people with disabilities can benefit from it as a healing method to improve health and quality of life. “Horticultural therapy” includes gardening, agronomic, medical, psychological, social welfare, and other aspects.

Horticultural therapy is an energy therapy to experience plant life through sensory perception. We contact with nature through vision, hearing, and touch to feel the vitality of plants as they grow. In the process of caring for plants, you could talk with plants, release stress, and improve physical and mental health. From a biomedical perspective, not getting sick is healthy. However, from the perspective of the health concept of holistic therapy, the balance of body and mind is the real health. Therefore, horticultural therapy is classified as a complementary medicine and alternative medicine, which can treat mental diseases and also have rehabilitative effects. According to the actual situation of the individual, it can be combined with psychological counseling, occupational therapy, or physical therapy to achieve a better healing effect.

“Horticultural Therapy” as the multiple benefits people receive from gardening activities at the physical, mental, emotional, social, cognitive, and creative levels. (Photo via unsplash.com)

The Benefits of Horticultural Therapy

  • Learn the cycle of seasons and lives: You can see the changing seasons and the blooming and fading of flowers in plants. As long as we take good care of them, they can come back to life. The same rule in our lives and emotions, if we repair our lives seriously, we can start over.
  • Helps soothe and defuse emotions: Research by Roger Ulrich, a professor at Chalmers University in Sweden, found that just a few minutes in the garden leads to a flatter heart rate, decreased sympathetic activity, and activated parasympathetic nerves.
  • Boosts the nervous and immune systems: Studies have found that the performance of these two systems is closely related to the surrounding environment. The length of time we receive sunlight, the amount of surrounding greenery, the types of microorganisms we are exposed to, and the type and timing of daily exercise all affect the performance of both systems.
  • Makes us feel safe and happy: In a healing study on Danish military veterans, it was found that when they walked in nature, their heart rate and blood pressure slowed. When they sit under a tree, sometimes touching the thick, bumpy surface of the tree, they feel reassured and calm. The research by Richard Fuller, an ecologist, also found that the more species of plants in urban parks, the more vigorous the plants grow, and the greater the physical and mental benefits. Plants can reduce the number of people with high blood pressure by 9%.
  • Improve urban fatigue and neurasthenia: Dr. George Miller Beard in the USA proposed that excessive urbanization causes civilization disease “neurasthenia”. The main reasons for it are excessive fatigue, external stimulation, and life indulgence. Let us have problems such as low physical and mental energy, bipolar depression, and insomnia. Overwork occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate stress. Doctors advise overworked people to stay away from the city and go into nature. They will also create healing urban gardens in the city for those who needed to be cured.
  • Retrieve the rhythm of life and improve depression: The fast pace of the city will disrupt the rhythm of city people, and they cannot find the time and space to repair the pain. Chronic neurasthenia can turn into depression or anxiety. Research shows that depression rates are 40 percent higher in urban areas than in rural areas, and anxiety disorders are 20 percent higher. People living in cities are more likely to experience mental health problems because of their distance from the natural world. If you can bring plants into life, follow the simple planting steps to find the sense of the rhythm of life, activate the most basic five senses, and use plants, soil, water, and sunlight to reconnect with the earth and yourself, and then you can find tranquility and harmony.
Horticultural therapy has a variety of clinical therapeutic benefits for mind and body. (Photo via unsplash.com)

The Notes of Planting

The most basic needs of biological growth are sunlight, air, and water. Sunlight allows plants to perform photosynthesis, generate oxygen, and purify the air. When the light is insufficient, it must be moved to the window to fill in the light. The air allows plants to breathe healthily and reduces the growth of pests and bacteria, so keep the environment as ventilated as possible. Water is necessary for plants to maintain life. In addition to proper watering, we must also notice the humidity. The room temperature should also be adjusted according to the type of plants to avoid being too cold or too hot. Regularly wiping the dust on the leaves can allow plants to perform photosynthesis and respiration normally, and can also reduce insect damage.

If the plants are grown mainly indoors, the first thing to pay attention to is the mosquito problem. You can choose plants that are less likely to grow insects or have insect repellent functions. When purchasing, check whether there are insect eggs attached to the back of the leaves. Please choose soil that has been sterilized and mildly exterminated in time. Because the plant itself has phototaxis, even if it is placed indoors, it is necessary to change the direction of the potted plant regularly and prune it properly, so the plant can grow beautifully and look more pleasant.

There are lots of tips for planting. (Photo via unsplash.com)

Eight Popular Indoor Plants

  • Snake Plant: It has a strong growth force. It needs to be watered when the soil surface is dry and has a good heat resistance and does not need frequent watering in winter. The excellent air purifier can help eliminate carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, suitable for the bedroom or living room, but must avoid pets eating by mistake.
  • Lacy Tree Philodendron: Belonging to subtropical plants, there are many varieties of leaf shapes. It is resistant to cold, shade, and drying and doesn’t require too much water. It is not suitable for direct sunlight but needs a moderate amount of light. Among them, the feather-like leaf shape is popular, and the sprawling appearance makes the interior vibrant.
  • Pothos: It is suitable for growing in a cool and humid environment and can survive in low light. It has poor cold resistance, so it’s suitable for indoor cultivation and is often placed in the bathroom. Having strong growth, not easy to have pests and diseases, and can absorb harmful substances in the air. Its leaves are bright and can climb upwards, which is suitable for hanging.
  • Ceriman: It gets its name because its leaves are split like the surface of a tortoise shell. Like a warm and humid environment, afraid of cold and need to keep warm in winter. The larger the leaves and the more obvious the cracks, the healthier the plant, and the stronger the carbon dioxide absorption and air purification effect. It is often placed in the living room for decoration.
  • Bird of Paradise Flower: It has the title of “royal family” in the indoor plant world, with unique flower shapes and upward leaves, like a bird flying high, full of vigor. Prefers warm, humid conditions and bright light, but not direct sunlight. In addition to proper watering, the leaves should also be wiped to maintain normal photosynthesis and prevent pests. It can be placed in a bright corner at home and enjoy its beautiful look.
  • Spider Plant: In Europe and the United States, it is called “spider plant”. It likes cool temperatures and grows better in scattered light environments. Its leaves tend to dry out, so be careful not to have too low humidity in the air. It is suitable for a ventilated and damp place, such as a bathroom. It helps to absorb toxic gases in the space and is a common hanging foliage plant.
  • Anthurium: It helps to remove carbon monoxide and ammonia, suitable for bright light. The flowering period is long, and the flowering viewing period can reach 8 weeks. Sufficient water is needed to keep the roots moist, and multiple plantings will help keep the moisture. When there is insufficient water, the leaves will appear brown lumps. 
  • Parlor Palm: It is a tropical rainforest dwarf palm tree, which can be placed in a cool and bright place indoors. Don’t be too dry, keep the humidity and soil moist, the leaves will grow greener and healthier. The leaves grow fast and help to keep the air fresh is very suitable for placing in the study. The yellowing of leaves indicates a lack of water and no need for too much water in winter.

The basic skills of horticultural therapy and planting are not too difficult to learn. People of any age and background can enter the world of plants and be healed by nature. In the process of learning to take care of life carefully, experience the moving of plants when they grow. Feeling the different looks of plants when the seasons change as if there are ups and downs in our life stages. Find your own protective space and quiet place in plants, let your heart get healing and find peace.

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