Sick of Winter? These Houseplants Will Perk Up Your Mood (Yes, Really)

Yes, there are plants for depression, and here’s how they work.

Image: Libby Walker for HouseLogic

Real talk: “JanuFeb” can be grim. The holidays are a distant memory, and now you have to slog through a barrage of dark, frigid days until spring makes its glorious appearance.

To escape that persistent winter funk, shake off that heated Snuggie and take a trip to the garden center. Studies suggest that stocking your home full of humble houseplants can boost your mood, big time — not to mention make your space feel cleaner, brighter, and healthier.

The Power of a Flower

Scientists agree that houseplants likely improve your outlook. Research suggests that plants have a positive effect on stress reduction, pain tolerance, and physical discomfort — but environmental psychologists aren’t exactly sure why this happens. It could be that plants simply make a room more colorful and attractive. Or, an indoor brush with nature may provide the same natural high and stress relief people feel in the great outdoors. There’s even a name for the phenomenon — biophilia (a love for nature) — and entire buildings have been designed to recreate it.

Succulents in a homeImage: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Keeping all those green guys alive is good for you, too. Research has shown taking care of plants can increase a sense of well-being and reduce stress.

Nature's Air Freshener

Winter means tightly closed windows and stuffy quarters. Plants reduce stale air by producing oxygen. But also, according to research done by NASA back in the late 1980s, certain plants will even filter harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia from the air. Some folks get headaches, asthma, or have chronic health issues from these VOCs (volatile organic compounds) — which could be off-gassing right this minute from your furniture, cleansers, and flooring! Just knowing that could make you pretty depressed.

To combat stale air, try some of these air-scrubbing horticultural heroes: Boston fern, English ivy, spider plant, bamboo palm, weeping fig, flamingo lily, peace lily, and cornstalk dracaena.

Dracaena plant in a homeImage: Kristina Held

The Best Plants to Beat the Blues

What other plants can bring your spirits ‘round this winter?

Anthuriums. These beautiful flowering plants are super easy to care for. “They do need a decent amount of light, but they bloom consistently — especially during the February-March doldrums,” says Rebecca Bullene, founder of Greenery NYC, a botanic design company experienced in indoor plant installations and living plant design. “They’re big and beautiful. Those with red, pink, or white flowers are most common.”

Anthuriums in a homeImage: Zaktari on Flickr

Ferns, particularly the Kimberly Queen (Nephrolepis obliterata) and Boston (Nephrolepis exaltata) varieties. ”They need a bit more water and a decent amount of light, but they put a lot of humidity back in the air and will help make your space comfortable,” Bullene says. Plus, the Kimberlys are a little easier to care for than the average fern. “If you forget to water for a day or two,” she says, “they won’t crash out.”

Hanging fern inside a homeImage: Christie Chase

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum). This hardy plant can handle the low light of winter. “It can be in a dark corner and still look amazing,” Bullene says. “The blackest of thumbs can take care of this plant.”

Aglaonema plant in a homeImage: Anthony Serra

Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum). This plant is also a hardy one that’s hard to kill. Bullene recommends it for anyone without much experience with plants.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Sword Plant, or Snake Plant (Sansevieria). This houseplant of many names is really drought-resistant. You can water it once a month and it grows in high or low light. “There are a lot of varieties that have cool shapes and colors,” Bullene says.

Mother-in-law's tongue in a home officeImage: Kristina Held

So when the weather outside is frightful, make way for some greenery and invite some friends over. Call it a Houseplant Happy Hour. You just may be surprised by how genuinely happy your greener home makes you all winter long.

Related: The Link Between Clutter and Depression