Two groups of patients in a nursing facility were included in a study to determine whether a responsibility as simple as caring for a plant made a difference in their health.
Each senior in the study, conducted by E.J. Langer and J. Rodin and published in 1976 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, selected a plant from a large box. In one group, the staff member who cared for the person took care of the plant. In the other group, the person who chose the plant took care of it.
After 18 months, the group that took care of their own plants showed improvement in a wide variety of physical and mental health measurements, as well as becoming significantly more active and involved with others. What was most remarkable was that the mortality rate in the plant-care group was only half that of the other group!
We don’t know if it was having responsibility, as the researchers concluded, or attention to life, or building a relationship with a living thing that made the difference.
I’ve had many clients cringe at the thought of having to care for plants. In many cases, this reaction is because of the disappointment that comes with having plants die. Plants in a home environment are not the same as plants in a greenhouse. Plants deteriorate in a home because of the lack of UV light and moisture. Caring for a plant is not as difficult or mysterious as it seems. The key is a little knowledge of two critical plant needs: Light and water.
When buying a plant, ask if the plant requires low, medium, or bright light. Before placing the plant, check to see what direction the nearest window is facing and if there is an overhang keeping the sun’s light from entering the room.
Next, make sure you have a water gauge to check the plant and be sure to use it each time before watering. Your finger can not go deep enough or be sensitive enough to know. Most plants die from over watering, not under watering. Under watering can be more easily reversed but over watering is usually detected after it is too late.
It’s important to remember that plants do not have to live forever. We buy fresh flowers knowing they will only last a short amount of time. Plants, too, have a limited life span. When a plant begins to look distressed, it is time to purchase a new one.
A room is not complete without at least one living plant in it. Be willing to take care of it, buy the appropriate plant for the light that you have and baby it if necessary.
Rooms Have No Feelings, YOU Do!