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Emilia Ortiz

The little known wellness benefits of house plants

Wellness editor Emilia Ortiz on how to harness the energy of plants for your physical and psychological benefit

Plants have been one of my greatest loves in life. From the reward of growth to witnessing an indoor bloom, plants can fill you with pride and gratitude. Pride in your ability to be a good plant parent, gratitude for your work paying off and your plant as the reward. Many cultures have plants that they associate with good energy, from the money tree, a tropical wetland tree native to Central and South America, known to bring good luck and good fortune to its carers, to the classic aloe vera which was considered the plant of immortality in Ancient Egypt and used by Cleopatra and Nefertiti in their beauty routines.

According to research, plants can improve air quality by removing toxins from the air through absorption, scrubbing the air of cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene. It makes sense, therefore, they could have equally beneficial effects on our bodies and minds. For these reasons, empaths, sensitive people, or even those experiencing a bit of anxiety, might find that a few houseplants can make a difference. We could all do with reconnecting with nature and be reminded of how it intertwines with our lives. Why not start in your home?

Last week, I went to one of my favourite plant shops in Brooklyn, Rooted NYC, and it was the highlight of my week; I have a bit of a jungle in my own home so I was in my element. For many who are new to plant parenting, however, it can often become overwhelming walking into a shop full of hundreds of species of plant. So, I teamed up with Rooted to put together a few plant suggestions to help you navigate what’s best for you.

Silver Satin Philodendron (Scindapsus pictus)

Also known as silver satin pothos, this plant improves air quality and is great for a new plant parent. It can get leggy, but that can help transform your apartment into a jungle. For any city dwellers who miss nature, this will be great. For many with mental health battles who need time to reconnect with nature, meditating in your sacred space with a few of these can help simulate that. Even in your apartment.

Rooted's how to care for it:

This plant grows heart-shaped leaves that are silky smooth to the touch with stunning specks of silver. It's forgiving and low maintenance – a perfect fit for new plant parents. Keep in low to bright indirect light as direct light will burn its leaves. Water the plant around once a week. Keep away from pets, as it's toxic if ingested. It can be trained to climb up or trail down. Extremely easy to propagate and share with friends. Simply cut off a piece of the vine anywhere from 6″ to 12″ long, strip off the lower leaves, and place it in a glass full of water. Renew water every other day.

Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)

Chinese money plants are one of my favourite houseplants for any plant parent. The coin-shaped leaves are what gives it its money plant name. It can bring the energy of good fortune into your home, it’s also good for meditating on abundance. Visualizing the coin-shaped leaves transforming into gold coins can be a great way to practice meditation/visualisation with it.

Rooted's how to care for it:

This is a low-maintenance and extremely easy-growing, pet-friendly plant. Great for beginners and growing that green thumb. Pileas are extremely easy to propagate and share with friends. Simply cut the new leaves off with a clean knife at the base of their stem and stick them into some fresh soil. Keep in bright and indirect light. Water once a week when soil is nearly dry 2" down. If you rotate them a half-turn after every watering, the leaf structure will grow out balanced and symmetrical.

Neon Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Neon pothos is great for the same reasons as silver satin pothos, but it adds a bright pop of foliage. Neon pothos is great to have in addition to other pothos and trailing plants because they add more foliage but with low maintenance. For many who have a hard time remembering to keep up with plants, this can be helpful. More forgiving so you’re not beating yourself up for killing a plant (it’s a different kind of heartbreak I personally feel) which can teach us to do the same with ourselves, as well as others. It’s rewarding to see growth happen with just a lil’ TLC, it reminds you that you are like a houseplant but a little more complicated.

Rooted's how to care for it:

The neon pothos has vines that grow down and trail over time; it is forgiving and low maintenance. However, keep away from pets and avoid direct light as this will burn its leaves. Water around once a week. Pothos are extremely easy to propagate and share with friends; cut off a piece of the vine anywhere from 6″ to 12″ long, strip off the lower leaves, and place it in a glass full of water. Renew water every other day.

Hedgehog Aloe (Aloe humilis)

Aloe of any variety is amazing for so many reasons! It cleanses the air, is almost impossible to kill and protects both you and your home spiritually with its many “swords” that extend out in all direction, protecting you from energetic harm sent your way by others. A must in my book.

Rooted's how to care for it:

Keep in bright and direct light. The more full sun it gets, the better chance it has of blooming beautiful, fiery red flowers. Water once every 2-3 weeks - long trips away from home are okay. Toxic to pets. Even borderline neglect can't kill this one. 

Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

Money trees are amazing for many reasons. Aside from being low maintenance, they bring you all the good high vibes that invite prosperity and abundance. I suggest gifting one to someone, as it’s believed that you need to be gifted them for them to have the desired effect. Either way, they’re a lovely addition to any home. They invite peaceful vibes even just by looking at them, which can be helpful if you practice meditation with your eyes open. I often suggest that people meditate with their money tree, and thank it for its assistance. Talk to it often, you’ll see the rewards it brings. Not only with financial growth, but it’s own physical growth.

Rooted's how to care for it:

This plant is lower maintenance than your Netflix subscription. You can shape it any way you want to by tying the stems together or pushing them apart as they grow. Most stems have five to six leaves, but if you get one with seven leaves, it's considered to be a sign of incredibly good fortune. Keep in medium to bright indirect light. Water once a week, when the soil is completely dry. It prefers higher humidity, so don't place him next to a heater. Pet-friendly.

Rattlesnake Prayer Plant/Calathea Rattlesnake (Calathea lancifolia)

Prayer plants are one of my personal favourite plants! Not only do they cleanse the air, but they are so cute to watch. They open and close throughout the day – the way our hands do when we pray. I find that prayer plants teach us patience and appreciation for the little things. They don’t need much, although their need for filtered water can remind us of our own sensitivities and that it’s okay to have them – we don’t judge plants for having different needs but rather we respect their sensitivities and watch them thrive when we do. The same can be said for people. I often recommend these for personal altars, as they can add peaceful energy and remind you to pray or meditate with them.

Rooted's how to care for it:

Prayer plants are great for beginners and building that green thumb. Low maintenance. Water once a week and only use filtered water when watering, otherwise, the minerals in tap water will build up at the tip of his leaves and turn them brown. Keep in low to bright indirect light. Pet-friendly.

Snake plant (Sansevieria laurentii)

Snake plants are a must for the home! They reportedly help protect against EMF radiation and cleanse the air of toxins. At night they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Improved oxygen quality has been shown to improve sleep quality so they are ideal for the bedroom. Snake plants grow to be tall and full so can make any corner seem like a piece of jungle paradise.

Rooted's how to care for it:

One of the most popular and hardy houseplants, snake plants are virtually indestructible and adaptable to almost any condition. Whether you throw full, direct sunlight at them or shove them into a low-light corner they’ll grow. And to top it off, they snake plants can go weeks without water. Water once every 2-3 weeks and remember they like to dry out completely (can wait to water up to a month). If you water too much, they may get root rot so don't shower them with too much love. Make sure to finger the soil 2" deep to ensure that the soil is dry before watering. Toxic to pets. So low maintenance it's borderline neglect.

Plant info and Rooted write up by Catherine Mao of Rooted NYC