House Plants as Meaningful Ornaments

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A peace lily (spathiphyllum bellini) in bloom.

I write a lot about living life intentionally. Your personal surroundings should be as intentional as you live rest of your life. For me, that means plants. Lots of them. Plants are an attractive feature to any home, and unlike ornamentation they have several practical purposes:

For one, They clean the air. My peace lily (spathiphyllum wallisii) is a good remover of harmful airborne particles. NASA found this out during tests conducted in 1989 for possible future cultivation in space. The tests were conducted in sealed chambers and the peace lily successfully removed high quantities of benzene, trichlorethylene and formaldehyde from the air. [1]

They help to reduce stress. Speaking from experience, I’ve found that I’m a lot happier sitting at my desk at home when there are plants in view. My peace lily sits in a pot next to me, and I’ve many other plants in view on windowsills throughout the house. Unlike a designer vase or a sculpture, they look attractive without breaking the bank.

My sokan style Buddhist pine (podocarpus macrophyllus) at home on a south-facing windowsill, along with a gynura aurantiaca, ceropegia woodii and red aglaonema.

They’re an opportunity for mindfulness. Bonsai have long been an integral part of zen meditation. Not just as something to meditate while observing, but also using the act of pruning, watering and training the branches as a form of mindfulness practice. By concentrating on a peaceful task it helps to ground our thoughts in the present moment, rather than letting our minds drift onto something we’ve been worrying about. It doesn’t have to be bonsai trees either since gardening creates an enjoyable pastime. Whether it’s on a small balcony or in a huge country garden, it can be very rewarding, especially when plants we grow do so much for our physical and mental well-being. Most of my meditation practice in gardening can be traced to the book Gardening for Mindfulness by Holly Farrell [2]. It encourages us to consider how plants engage all of our senses through their pleasant appearance, the texture of the leaves, their smell, the sounds they make as they rustle on a windy day, and ultimately how we can taste some of them by adding them to different dishes. This sensory monopolisation proves to be entirely positive, unlike some other diversions (such as technology) that often have negative effects on our moods and energy levels.

The moral of this post? Buy a plant, give it a name, put it on your desk, talk to it, and help it to grow. There’s nothing more rewarding than caring for a life, especially when it gives you so much in return. It’s like having a child, except plants won’t answer back with snarky remarks!


1. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, By Dr B.C. Wolverton et al, 1989

2. Gardening for Mindfulness, by Holly Farrell, 2017

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