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The healing power of plants

By Rider University Eco-Rep, Muriel Baki

Originally Published: April 20, 2022

All across campus, Broncs are enjoying the signs of spring. Sunshine, flowers blooming and longer days are just a few of the signs of spring returning to Rider after a long winter.

“It’s so good to see everyone out on campus– it feels like everything is coming back to life,” said Carol Nicolson, Rider professor of philosophy.

Another way to bring more life back into your days is to incorporate plants into your home and living space. Greening up your space is an easy way to improve your mental and physical health, and plants make great sustainable decor. Indoor plants have been proven to help reduce stress levels.

In a study by the American Psychological Association, individuals who entered a plant-filled room following a stressful task had 50% lower stress levels than those who didn’t interact with plants. The act of caring for houseplants has also been shown to be therapeutic and helps fight anxiety and depression. At a psychiatric hospital in Ohio, residents who worked in the on-site greenhouse reported significant improvement in their mental state and three of the 10 patients studied were able to lower their dosage of SSRI medications.

Including plants in your living space can improve your physical health, too. Plants improve the quality of the air around them. In the 1980s, NASA researchers discovered they could improve the air quality inside a sealed spacecraft with plants. The roots, soil and leaves of plants reduce harmful organic compounds in the air through a process known as phytoremediation. When including plants in your space for air quality, it’s important to know the facts. Many plants stop emitting oxygen at night when photosynthesis is no longer possible, and instead, they release carbon dioxide. For air purification at night, opt for plants like orchids, succulents, snake plants and bromeliads. For first-time home gardeners, snake plants and succulents are excellent low-maintenance options that are beautiful and have lots of benefits.

One cost-effective low waste way to increase the green in your life is through propagation. Plant propagation is the process by which new plants grow from a variety of sources: seeds, cuttings and other plant parts. A highly sustainable option, propagation, allows you to use parts of living plants to create new ones without harming the original plant. The methods for propagation vary, but generally, the steps include taking a leaf, stem or root cutting from the original plant, allowing it to heal and callus, and then planting it in fresh soil. Some gardeners opt to use a rooting hormone, as well. The next phase is encouraging growth through water, sunlight and humidity– amounts of which are generally specific to each plant species.

At a recent Green Team meeting, Broncs enjoyed propagating and repotting both pothos and snake plants which they kept to start their own home gardens.

Rider junior nursing major, Emily Gonzales said, “I didn’t even realize you could just make more plants… you could just keep propagating forever.”

Continual propagation is also an opportunity for fun and meaningful mementos. For housemates, families or groups of friends, a propagation from one singular shared plant can become a special, living keepsake for an important group of people.

Whether you have a green thumb or just want to purify the air, whether to boost your mood and focus or just brighten up a room, a houseplant (especially one you propagated yourself.) might be the answer.

Stop by the Office of Sustainability’s Earth Day Celebration on April 21st between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the Campus Green and Cranberry’s Patio for a live propagation workshop and take home your own houseplant. The rain location is in the Student Recreation Center Atrium. What better way to celebrate spring than with some fresh and healthy plants in your living spaces?

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