Beat winter blues with indoor greenery

As fall transitions into winter, the leaves begin to fall from the trees and bright, colorful sunny days transition into overcast ones filled with shades of gray. While some people love this time of year, seeing it as a time filled with cozy blankets and warm drinks, others long for spring. For some people this change in seasons is so dramatic it can even affect their mental health. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” 

While the link between indoor plants and mental health is debated, “working with plants promotes emotional, mental and physical health and well-being,” according to the American Horticulture Therapy Association

California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) Senior Biology student Peter Nelson agrees. “Plants grow slowly and quietly and that affects us psychologically. It forces us to slow down and be observant,” he said.

Students who may have limited space and limited experience with plants may be reluctant to start bringing the outdoors inside, but the following list describes five recommendations for overseeing low maintenance indoor plants to bring a little color inside:

1. Succulents & Cacti

Various types of cacti and succulents grow peacefully, some in repurposed soda cans. (Photo/Anna Stubler)

Recently succulents and cacti have become extremely popular with succulent or cacti stickers and patterns popping up everywhere, but students have the possibility to care for a real-life succulent or cacti!

“Succulents don’t need anything special, a little less water than some plants and usually indirect light,” Nelson said. 

Be careful not to overwater succulents as they need only about a quarter cup of water every week or two. A simple tip to follow is if they look dry, water them, otherwise leave them be! 

Students who live in the Monterey area can check out the Succulent Garden in Castroville for inspiration or to buy plants. For a low-cost option, most hardware stores sell succulents as well.

2. An Herb Box

Overgrown herb box sits in the sun. (Photo/Anna Stubler)

If students are looking for a slightly more challenging, but rewarding indoor plant experiment they can try growing herbs. Students need “a box with holes in the bottom for drainage (minimum 5 or 6 inches deep) [and] basic potting soil from the local nursery,” Nelson said. “Beginners can buy whatever herbs they enjoy eating. Buy small healthy looking ‘starts’ from the nursery. Talk to the experts at the nursery about what you want to do. Gardeners love to talk about plants. Transplant them carefully.” 

These herbs can then be added to soups and salads giving students a reward for their efforts.

3. Pothos

A pothos growing in water. (Photo/Anna Stubler)

These verdures are leafy green plants that are very low maintenance. Students can buy a plant and then stick it in a mason jar of water and top the water when needed. Pothos like indirect sunlight, similar to succulents.

4. Air Plants

A happy air plant soaks in some moisture. (Photo/Anna Stubler)

Air plants are exactly what they sound like – they are plants that grow in the air! These plants are typically small green plants that tend to resemble marine life, like sea anemones. 

They can be grown in small containers and many nurseries sell special pots for them. They should be misted with water from a spray bottle and rinsed in fresh water occasionally.

5. Sweet Potatoes

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A sweet potato flourishes in the sun. Photo by Danielle Scott on Flickr

During the holidays, students may find themselves with extra sweet potatoes and nothing to cook with them. Many do not know this about sweet potatoes, but they actually produce a very pretty tropical looking vine when left alone. Students can let their extra sweet potatoes sprout and then if they want to save them, they can plant them in a sunny window box.

If students are looking to add a little greenery to their indoor spaces this winter season, they can try these five ideas or look online for more inspiration. While many students worry about having to spend a lot of time caring for plants or about not knowing how to care for them, many plants are very low-maintenance and there are many resources online for more help. 

Students can also follow CSUMB’s Garden Club on Instagram @csumbgardenclub to connect with other students interested in plants or email CSUMB students and garden enthusiasts Peter Nelson ([email protected]), Jessica Whitaker ([email protected]) and Anna-Nicole Vasquez ([email protected]) to learn more.

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