Five reasons to have plants in your classroom

I love having plants in the classroom. It took a while for my students to realise they were real as opposed to plastic, much to their shock when they saw me watering them one afternoon.
My classroom started with a humble Spider plant and more recently has become a bit of a mini 'jungle' in the making (more plants planned in the future). Whilst they are simply beautiful to look at, houseplants are increasingly thought of as good for our health too, particularly those of us who spend the day working indoors.

1. They help to diffuse anxiety and anger

A 2010 study by the new University of Technology, Sydney, found significant reductions in stress among workers when plants were introduced to their workspace. They saw a 37% fall in tension and anxiety; a 58% drop in depression; a 44% decrease in anger and hostility; and a 38% reduction in fatigue.

2. They increase productivity

The same study by the University of Technology, Sydney, discovered that performance of Year 6 and 7 students considerably improved when 3 plants were introduced to half of the classrooms being studied. They examined the students’ performance in spelling, mathematics, reading and science, to which they found that the introduction of plants caused this to increase by 10 and 15%.

3. They reduce sickness 
A small study by the Agricultural University of Norway found that the introduction of plants to one office was linked to a 25% decrease in symptoms of ill health, including fatigue, concentration problems, dry skin and irritation of the nose and eyes.

4. They clean the air

NASA's Clean Air Study found that there are a number of air purifying plants that can detoxify benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air.
Many of the plants in the study can be easily found at local garden centre and are not too tricky to look after in a busy classroom. A few to name include Spider plants, Snake plants, the Boston fern and Ivy.

5. They can boost creativity 

The 2015 Human Spaces report found that employees whose offices included natural elements  (plants included in this) scored 15% higher for creativity than those whose offices didn’t include such elements.

That's great and all, but which plants would work in my classroom?

Despite the rumours, all plants need light and water (even cacti will give up the ghost if you fail to provide). Make sure to research any plants before you buy, taking care to check light and water requirements before you commit. I have been guilty of buying houseplants without checking this and ended up with some very demanding plants...some I've had to take home over the term breaks to keep alive.

The easiest plants with the least demands are Spider Plants and Snake Plants. They are happy in most light conditions (at least 1 window) and can go for around 4 weeks without water.

If you have a darker classroom (at least 1 window) and have the time to water/spray leaves several times a week, a Calathea or a Peace Lily would do just well. These plants hate bright light and thrive in shade, but do require to be sprayed with water often.

Lastly, if your classroom has bright light (several windows) and you are forgetful of watering, a Cactus would be ideal. However, these prickly guys need to be watered at least once a month and nothing at all between October and February.