Putting a plant in your home or office can improve a room’s look and boost your health.

How often do you itch to get outside on a cloudy, or simply busy day? Anything to get away from your desk or stacks of backed-up paperwork and filing. You know, like tax returns…

Maybe you can’t make it outside just yet, but you can turn and take in the sight of a small bloom bursting from your geranium or gently touch the leaves of that favorite fern. Suddenly, your stress level lowers just a little. You take a nice, deep breath and vow to finish the task at hand so you can head out for a walk or garden work as soon as your desk and the sky clear.

Stuff of fantasy? Not at all.

Several studies have shown that ornamental plants lower stress and increase happiness. Plants also improve productivity, concentration and accuracy. These benefits seem to occur whether people step outside and walk through a green park or keep flowers and live plants around their homes or offices.

OK, so we can agree that seeing or touching houseplants makes us happier and less stressed. But science takes it a step further. NASA has worked with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America to study how houseplants purify the air. It turns out that plants actually filter common VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, from the air in buildings. If you live in a new home, or recently painted or installed cabinets, chances are that VOCs are high in your home’s air.

Plants also help control mold and humidity. Best of all for office workers? Plants cut down on noise. If you work in a cubicle, surrounding yourself with a few standing and draping houseplants cuts noise and provides a much better view than those metal-lined fabric or plastic walls.

Here are a few houseplants to consider for your home or office, including some that are easy to care for:

  • Aloe (aloe vera). It’s an easy plant to grow and helps clear formaldehyde and benzene in cleaners and paints from the air. Plus, the gel in its juicy leaves can heal the sunburn you’ll get on that sunny day spent outside.
  • Golden pothos (Scindapsus aures). This draping plant clears formaldehyde and looks great hanging from the ceiling or sitting atop a wall. It can take the lowest light and still remain green.
  • Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii). Another succulent that’s actually a relative of the poinsettia, the crown of thorns is easy to care for. The small, pink flowers come in bunches and are very pleasing. The drawback? Aptly named, the plant has lots of thorns and is poisonous if chewed by children or pets. So keep it safely out of reach and in bright light.
  • Cape primrose (Streptocarcus). Cape primrose is a constant bloomer in the right conditions. It loves indoor temperatures and barely damp soil. There are pink, white, red and purple flower varieties of cape primrose, which needs medium to bright light.
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum). This was the top plant on NASA’s list of air filters. The plant has large leaves and occasionally produces beautiful white blooms. All you have to do is give it some shade and weekly water.

Of course, any plant you like helps make you happier in your home or work space. If it’s doing poorly, move it around with the seasons or adjust your shades. And enjoy a greener indoor environment all year long!

Listen In:

This post is adapted from the April 19, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes April 19, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour One of the podcast.