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Article Published January 21, 2016

Winter Doldrums? Put your Brain on Houseplants

By By Kathy Connolly

How would you like to be less moody, have lower blood pressure, and greater mental focus? Get some houseplants.

The humble houseplant, it turns out, is more than just a pretty face. Their benefits are verified by researchers from many disciplines, including environmental psychologists, NASA scientists, horticultural therapists, and others.

Would you like to breathe cleaner indoor air? Just one houseplant per 100 square feet of indoor space makes a measurable difference.

If houseplants were a drug, pharmaceutical firms might have to fight for an advertising slot on Monday Night Football. We’d be able to submit houseplant purchases for insurance reimbursement.

Here are three ways to green up the great indoors—or, as some horticulturists would say, increase your Indoor Nature Exposure (INE).

First, get an operating manual. Check out The Indestructible Houseplant (Timber Press, 2015). Author Tovah Martin is a prolific horticulture writer from Litchfield. She outlines the care and feeding of 200 specimens. Each plant has photos, descriptive text, and a very useful chart covering a dozen details from water to its relationship with the household cat.*

Martin’s indoor growing experience began more than 30 years ago at the well-known horticultural destination, Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson. Her houseplant adventure has continued ever since, in the greenhouse, at home, and on the page. She has grown each of the “indestructibles” in her book. The Indestructible Houseplant is thorough and easy to read; I’m glad to add it to my library.

Second, when you’re ready to begin or add to your plant collection, keep in mind that many independent garden centers have winter hours and offer plants, pottery, and supplies. Here are some ideas: Ballek’s, East Haddam; Holdridge, Ledyard; Madison Earth Care, Madison; Paul’s and Sandy’s, Too, East Hampton; Riggio’s, Essex; Van Wilgen’s, North Branford. Perennial Harmony will begin winter hours on Feb. 11 at its new address, 144 Boston Post Road, East Lyme. (Don’t forget to put Logee’s on your list as well.)

Finally, you don’t have to grow houseplant to experience their calming effects. Visit these regional greenhouses and conservatories:

Connecticut College’s greenhouses in New London are open to the public every day, but call ahead at 860-439-5020. They’ll conduct a public tour on Friday, Feb. 5 at noon. (Meet at the blue sculpture near New London Hall on the Conn College campus.) For more information, visit

UConn’s greenhouses on the Storrs campus offer 10,500 square feet of horticulture under glass. They are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They hold drop-in lunchtime tours called “Greenhouse Fridays,” led by Dr. Terry Webster. For more information, visit or call 860-486-8941.

Yale’s Marsh Botanical Gardens in New Haven have about one-third acre under glass. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Join guided tours hourly on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., or 2 p.m. For more information, visit or call 203-432-6320.

New Haven’s Edgerton Park opens its conservatory every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for major holidays. For more information, call 203-624-8941 or visit

The Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park in Providence has 12,000 square feet of indoor gardens. For more information, call 401-785-9450 or visit

University of Rhode Island’s Horridge Conservatory in Kingston, Rhode Island, is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has 2,000 square feet of indoor gardens—for more information, visit

Finally, put the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show on your calendar. The Hartford Convention center will be filled with plants and flowers from Feb. 18 to 21. For more information, visit or call 860-844-8461.

*Note: Some houseplants can be toxic to pets. Visit the ASPCA’s authoritative toxic plant database:

For a sample of research on indoor plants, visit

Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. She will speak at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. For more information, email