Our need for plants is written into our human DNA, and the joy they bring us is undeniable. For some of us, plants are a pleasant background, for others, a borderline obsession! But what exactly is it that draws us to plants and makes them so important to our well-being? The short answer is that plants provide economic, environmental and health benefits that sustain life on Earth. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits to us and our world.
An obvious benefit of plants is that they are aesthetically pleasing. We love the beauty of brightly colored flowers, the inviting shade cast by a tree, the shimmer of leaves blowing in the breeze, and the various shades of green foliage spread throughout our landscapes. A well-designed and maintained landscape provides our homes and businesses with curb appeal and houseplants can brighten up any room. Both indoor and outdoor plants provide a vibrant and welcoming feeling that is comforting and relaxing.
Plants also provide a number of economic benefits. Residential yards that are well landscaped can increase property values as much as 20%. Well-placed trees and plants can save energy and lower utility bills by as much as 20%. On a macro scale, plants provide raw materials for the fiber industry, lumber industry, and many types of pharmaceuticals. According to a Data Bridge Market Research analysis, the plant-based food market is currently valued at USD $14.3 billion.
Through photosynthesis, plants sequester the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming and provides us with the oxygen we need to breathe. They provide a variety of other environmental benefits including preventing soil erosion, purifying water, cleaning the air of pollutants, and cultivating biodiversity. Plants attract pollinators that are fundamental to supporting healthy ecosystems and provide a source of food and shelter for wildlife. They even serve to cool the air around us, absorbing sunlight and increasing surrounding humidity.
Humans have an instinctual and emotional need to connect with nature, and plants remind us that we are indeed a part of this natural world. Biophilia is defined as a love of life and the living world and the affinity of human beings for other life forms. Studies have concluded that an environment devoid of nature may have a negative effect on the human mind and spirit. As we spend more and more of our time indoors with increasingly limited access to natural spaces, we look to plants to form a living, breathing bridge to our outside world. As a hobby, gardening offers us a way to unplug from our computers, TVs and smartphones and connect with nature.
Plants make us happy and provide us humans with many positive mental health benefits including reducing stress and alleviating depression and anxiety. In the aforementioned studies on Biophilia, plants fill a void in our increasingly human-made environment. When we surround ourselves with plants, it lowers stress levels and improves our mood. Other studies have demonstrated that people who spend more time around plants have increased levels of attentiveness, focus, compassion, and creative energy, and an overall more positive outlook on life. For those of you who are familiar with color psychology, the color green represents feelings of hopefulness, comfort and energy.
Plants promote health and human well-being in a variety of ways. First, plants offer a healthy food source. Planting fruits & veggies in spring leads to a great summer harvest of homegrown food and studies show that when a household grows fresh fruits and vegetables, the entire household tends to eat more fruits and vegetables. Gardening is also great exercise and meets recommendations for daily physical activity. It helps strengthen muscles and improves coordination, balance, and endurance. It is also a great form of therapy and proven to enhance a person’s ability to respond and rebound after difficulties such as stress or illness. Horticultural therapy is used to treat individuals with mental illness, physical disabilities, and health issues, as well as individuals recovering from PTSD, addiction, and other social traumas. Studies also show that proximity to plants can lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system, and lower your risk of illness.
To learn more, the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture has put together a wonderful #PlantsDoThat campaign to show all the great benefits of Consumer Horticulture.
Originally published on April 21st, 2023. Updated on April 27th, 2023.