best plants for stress

10 Best Indoor Plants for Anxiety and Stress Relief

Imagine your favorite tech company launched a new gizmo that claimed to clean your home’s air; help you recover from sickness faster; prevent you getting sick in the first place; and above all, make you happy. Let’s say the launch price was 700 dollars. Would you place an order?

Of course you would! And of course you know where this article is going – the benefits of this new wonder product are all offered by the ‘humble’ house plant.

Here at Complete Home Spa, we love hot tubs, home saunas, and feature-rich massage chairs. But all we really want is a space in the home to relax, a good night’s sleep, and a feeling of well-being.

In the past, when I used to get overwhelmed, I’d unwind by taking a long walk in a park. The trees were towering, the wind rustled through the branches, and my stress would just trickle away. I’m a very visual person and all that growing green would immediately soothe me.

Which is why I fill my house with indoor plants.

Philip and Jane have a large garden, so they get to potter around on real grass and touch actual trees. Me? I live high up in a tower block in a concrete jungle – no grounding for me! But no matter – I got creative and decided to bring the outdoors, indoors.

How Indoor Plants Improve Your Health

Houseplants reduce stress and anxiety. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology stated that active interaction with plants significantly improved heart rate and blood pressure. The study subjects felt more soothed and comfortable.

Plants make people happy. Clas Bergvall, an ethnologist from the Umeå University in Sweden, had a wife who was very passionate about her plants. Because of her, Clas dedicated his doctoral dissertation to the effects of plants on people.

His study revealed that plants make people more self-reflective and contemplative. They remind people of the passing of time and help them stay in tune with their surroundings.

Houseplants help with healing. A research study at the Kansas State University advocates using potted plants as a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.”

It concludes that hospitals should use greenery for improved healing environments of convalescent patients.

And also, did you know that horticulture therapy is a real thing?

Houseplants improve air quality. According to the American Lung Association, indoor air can be very polluted – even more polluted than the air outside. The culprits are mold, asbestos, benzene, and carbon monoxide, just to name a few.

Symptoms that your indoor air is polluted include asthma, dry eyes, or persistent coughs or headaches. Houseplants, however, are natural air purifiers and can decrease airborne mold by as much as 60%.

How To Choose Indoor Plants

If you’re already suffering from anxiety, taking care of your new houseplants should not be a new source of worry. The whole point of this exercise is to help you manage your stress, anxiety, and maybe even depression.

Because of this, you can’t choose houseplants just because they’re pretty.

Stick to plants that are:

  • Hardy
  • Easy to take care of
  • Suited to living indoors
  • Suited to the amount of direct or indirect light that you have

The Best Plants For Stress And Anxiety

I’ve never found any plant to be ugly so I don’t really find aesthetics to be an issue. What might be more of an issue is if if you have a leaf-munching pet or small child at home. This is why I’ve added in toxicity information for each plant below.

I’ve also included care instructions because I still vividly remember almost killing my grandmother’s succulents. I thought they looked thirsty every time I checked on them. The owner of the gardening shop I frequented scolded me and I’ve built up my own knowledge on plant care since then.

Aloe Vera for night-time oxygen

What it is

The aloe vera is a fleshy short-stemmed succulent.

This plant played a memorable role in my childhood as my auntie used it on her bald spots, and my grandma used it on burns.

How it works

One interesting thing about the aloe is that it is a CAM plant. CAM stands for Crassulacean acid metabolism. It means that it conserves energy during the day and thus releases oxygen at night instead.

On the aesthetic end, the aloe vera is small and can easily live on a work desk or a coffee table. Put it in a cute pot with white pebbles and it will brighten up any room.

As an added bonus, aloe vera plants can filter pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde from your home.

Care Instructions

The aloe is one of my favorite plants because it is very low-maintenance and can tolerate neglect.

  • It can do with indirect sunlight or artificial light. Bright light is better as dark light will make your plant scraggly.
  • Water every 3 weeks, and less than that during winter. Never water if the potting mix is still moist.

Toxicity

If (accidentally) eaten in big amounts, it will cause diarrhea or abdominal cramps.

Areca palm is a natural humidifier

What it is

The Areca palm is an ornamental plant native to Madagascar and India. It’s also called a “butterfly palm” because of the way its multiple stems and leaves arch gracefully. In the summer, it produces pretty yellow flowers.

How it works

The Areca palm is a natural humidifier. A plant that’s around 6 feet in height can transpire (give off water vapor from its leaves) 1 liter of water every day.

The name “butterfly palm” is also very appropriate. The plant itself is very pleasing to the eye with its light green coloring and the graceful way the palm fronds would stir with a slight breeze. The aesthetic is very pleasing and soothing.

It also cleans indoor air. It can filter formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from your home.

Care Instructions

This plant can grow up to 6 or 7 feet, and can be kept indoors for up to 10 years, their full lifespan.

  • It likes bright but indirect light. Direct sunlight will make the leaves go yellow.
  • As a humidifier, it needs water so keep it moist but never soggy.

Bonsai for artful beauty

What it is

A bonsai is an artfully pruned and trained plant grown in shallow containers. The beauty of the bonsai lies in how it is a miniature replica of a full-grown tree in nature.

You can buy a ready-made bonsai tree from a shop, or you can buy a pre-bonsai and learn how to cultivate it yourself.

How it works

If you’ve ever seen a good specimen of a bonsai tree, this needs no explanation. Looking at an impeccably trained and pruned bonsai is very meditative, similar to when viewing art. One can appreciate the fissures and flowing lines of its trunk, and admire its miniature branches and leaves.

Apart from the aesthetic of the bonsai, it is also very calming to prune and maintain. And if you do pick up on a new hobby, you will have the chance to meet new and like-minded people.

Here’s a little preview of how to make a bonsai tree from a starter kit.

How to make a Bonsai tree, from a starter kit

Care Instructions

  • If receiving full sun, water your bonsai once a day.
  • Trim and pinch back new growth to keep your tree small.

Fiddle-Leaf Fig for energy

What it is

The fiddle-leaf fig is a very interesting (and rather intimidating) plant. It can grow as a regular tree, but a variety can also start out as an epiphyte that grows on top of another tree. As it matures, it sends roots all around the tree until it has it slowly enveloped and strangled.

Despite this rather gruesome back story, fiddle-leaf fig trees are currently the “it” plant right now. It’s the Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift of houseplants. When I was with my aunt last month, all she could talk about was finding fig trees for her home.

How it works

There’s obviously something special about the fig tree that has gardening enthusiasts into getting their hands into one (or several). In fact, I’ll share with you the first moment I saw a fig tree in somebody’s home and I suddenly decided I NEEDED it in my life.

That’s right. I was doing Yoga Camp with YouTuber Adrienne and my eyes fell on this beautiful houseplant. If you play the video below, the plant immediately shows up right behind Adrienne. (I was hesitating whether to just pop in a photo but decided to put in the whole video in case I can sucker you into a healthy bout of Yoga Camp. It’s fun and easy, I swear! Very appropriate too since we’re talking about wellness and relieving stress.)

Yoga Camp Day 1 – I Accept

If you played the video, you’ll see that the fig tree has large and bright waxy green leaves that look brimming with health and energy. This plant really has a way of brightening up a room.

You also know when this plant is happy. Its leaves perk up towards the sun and it just grows to humongous proportions.

Care Instructions

Fortunately, this plant is tough and can adapt easily to most living conditions.

  • Put your fig tree by a sunny window. It likes bright light.
  • Coming from a rain forest, it likes still and warm environments so keep it away from drafts.
  • Water your tree when the soil is dry to the touch.

Okay, story time. I was looking for a really good bonsai video and I found a video about a lady who “grew a jungle” in her New York apartment. It was awesome. Her name is Summer Rain and I almost had a heart attack when she turns and talks about the plant that started it all — her fiddle-leaf fig. Talk about coincidence!

She mentions her fig tree very briefly at the 1:45 mark.

Look at her apartment. I can practically see the oxygen bursting out of her place.

Growing A Jungle In My New York Apartment

Golden Pothos for tenacity

What it is

The golden pothos is a rather common creeper plant, and you might have seen it in different settings. It’s also called the devil’s vine because it is nearly impossible to kill and can keep its green coloring even with very little light.

How it works

If taking care of plants stresses you out then there is only one plant for you, and it’s the golden pothos. Even if you were cursed with the black thumbs, this hardy vine will still thrive.

This plant grows fast and has a vibrant green color that definitely gives a refreshing splash of color and life to your indoor space. If you live near busy streets, it will also absorb and clean your indoor air of formaldehyde from car exhaust fumes.

Additionally, the golden pothos is also known as a cash plant or money plant in feng shui. It is said to support positive energy flows and is a bringer of good luck and fortune.

Care Instructions

  • This plant can tolerate all sorts of lights (dim, indirect, or bright) but keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • It can grow in both water or dry soil so you can grow them in a pot or have them in water. They also look great suspended from baskets.

Toxicity

When ingested, this plant is toxic to cats, dogs, and children. It will make them sick, but not fatally.

Jasmine for healing fragrance

What it is

The jasmine is a shrub with small white and fragrant flowers. The blooms grow in clusters with a minimum of three flowers each. In some countries, the flowers are threaded into garlands and sold. Jasmine tea is also a staple in China.

How it works

Growing up in the suburbs, we used to have bushes and bushes of jasmine. When nighttime came, without fail, the jasmine flowers would start to send out their sweet fragrance. It smelled so heavenly that it would just put you in a calm and blissful state of mind.

Years later, I would stumble upon research that discovered how it is as “calming as valium”. The researchers found that it has the same calming properties but minus the side effects. Brain scans showed that inhaling the fragrance from jasmine boosted GABA, a chemical on nerve cells that improves mood, promotes rest, and reduces anxiety.

Care Instructions

  • Place your plant near a south window. It will thrive with 4 hours of direct sunlight.
  • It likes a well-lit or sunny room with a cool temperature.

Chamomile for soothing calm

What it is

The chamomile plant is an herb with white and yellow daisy-like flowers.

Even if you’ve living under a rock, you can’t know the humble chamomile. I can’t count the number of soaps where a distressed lead gets offered some chamomile tea to calm her nerves.

How it works

First off, the foliage of the chamomile plant is very bright. Reminiscent of daisies and little sunflowers, they add a dollop of cheer and sunshine to any room.

Secondly, their sweet scent is very calming and pleasant. The flowers themselves are herbaceous and apple-like. The tea, in the meantime, is particularly relaxing for the senses.

Speaking of tea, you can use your plant to make chamomile tea which has so many benefits. It can ease nerves, soothe an upset stomach, and even help you sleep.

How to make real chamomile tea 1.avi

Care Instructions

It’s easy to take care of a chamomile plant indoors.

  • Place your pot near a south-facing window.
  • Water once a week and keep the soil moist, but not wet.
  • After 60 days, your plants can be harvested for tea.

Tilandsia for lightness of feeling

plants for anxiety

What it is

A tillandsia is an airplant. They cling to anything from the bark of trees to telephone wires. They’re not parasitic though, which is good news. In trendy homes, you will see tillandsias attached to artsy driftwood, pretty seashells, or inside terraria.

terrarium with airplants
A terrarium with some airplants. Photo Credit: Etsy

How it works

A tillandsia is a beautiful addition to any home. Find any pretty pin on Pinterest about indoor plants, and you will more likely see an airplant.

Suspended in the air or clinging onto beautiful surfaces, airplants give a feeling of freedom and lightness. And because of their diverse varieties, each plant feels full of personality. It’s almost like a pet, but hardier and more low-maintenance.

This airplant shares the aloe vera’s unique CAM trait. Because it keeps its stomata closed during the daytime heat, it releases oxygen and even moisture during nighttime. This makes them perfect indoor houseplants, especially for the bedroom.

Care Instructions

Good news! As expected of epiphytes, airplants are very hardy and don’t need as much attention as other houseplants.

  • If the air is dry, give the occasional bath. Submerge in water for 2-3 hours every two weeks. If your home is unheated, a soaking mist once or twice in summer is fine.
  • They like bright and filtered light.

Holy Basil for clarity

plants for anxiety

What it is

Holy Basil or tulsi is not the basil you use for your pesto or your breakfast burrito. The basil we often use for cooking has deep green leaves with round edges. Holy basil, on the other hand, has grey-green leaves with ridged edges.

It is a sacred plant for Hindus and is often planted in the central courtyard of Hindu houses or near Hanuman temples.

How it works

While regular basil has a spicy aroma, holy basil has a sweet and refreshing fragrance that is pleasing to the senses. As such, the leaves can be dried and made into potpourri.

When it blooms, tulsi has small beautiful lavender flowers.

In Ayurvedic medicine, this plant is known for reducing stress, and promoting mental clarity and longevity. A known adaptogen (a substance that helps the body cope with stress), it can help balance and reduce the effects of stress on the body.

Holy basil is edible. You can chew 10-12 leaves twice a day or drink tulsi leaves on a regular basis.

Tulsi Tea For Quick Weight Loss – Holy Basil Tea/Drink To Reduce Stress & Anxiety – Health Benefits

Care Instructions

  • Holy basil will thrive if it gets 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, but it will grow in partial shade, too.
  • You can mist the plant or water when the top 1 inch of the soil is dry.
  • The more you use this plant, the more it will grow. When you see the tops forming five or six pairs of leaves, pinch the tops off to make your plant grow more lush and bushy.

Succulents for fresher air

plants for anxiety

What it is

Succulent plants are plants that have fleshy and thickened parts. They store water in their leaves and stems. The aloe and the cactus are two examples of succulents.

How it works

Similar to several of the plants on our list, succulents are very easy to take care of. You can have as many succulent plants indoors and not have to worry too much about fussy plant care.

The amazing variety — both in number and genus — of succulents make them a collector’s dream. Even if you only start out with just one plant, you will ultimately find yourself adding more and more as you frequent plant shops. The joy of collecting and growing living things is beneficial to your mental health.

An added bonus is that succulents are also natural air purifiers. They can remove volatile organic compounds from the air and make your indoor air fresher. They also release moisture, thus improving the humidity in your home.

Care Instructions

  • Most varieties thrive on half a day to a full day of sunlight. Rotate your plants often so they don’t lean towards the sun.
  • Over-watering kills them so only water when the top 1.25 inches of the top soil are dry.

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Conclusion

There are many houseplants that can do well indoors and require only minimal care. The boost these green living things provide to your mental health makes it worthwhile to bring them into your home.

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