Indoor plants: A garden for all seasons


    By Ali Manns

    Come this time of year, it is easy to find ourselves merely transiting through our yard, hurrying from car to front door and into the warmth beyond it. The garden we tended and enjoyed in the lighter months waits patiently for company like a loyal pet, but spending time there is hard when daylight is already gone by the time you get home.

    The comfort of indoors is certainly a draw on cold days and the urge to hibernate can be strong. But whether we realise it or not, it is in our makeup to want and indeed need regular nature connection.


    This human drive is termed biophilia – a love of living things. It underlies why we feel restored by a walk at Newport Lakes, a picnic in Cruickshank Park, or a beach day at Jawbone Reserve. 

    And while such activities might not hold as much appeal on a wet and windy day, luckily we can design our indoor surroundings to capture some of their essence.

    Biophilic Design is a movement in architecture which emphasises nature connection by integrating natural and built spaces. It can look like green walls, large windows for natural light, natural building materials and shapes, and water features. A University of Sydney study found the benefits include significantly reduced stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue, and increased creativity.

    Sounds great? Conveniently, such restorative benefits can easily be retrofitted into our homes by simply incorporating houseplants. 

    For an indoor garden that offers year-round mental, physical and emotional benefits the plant options are limitless. Instagram and Pinterest are crammed with inspiration. One way to begin is to consider rooms by their use and climate.


    Given that long hours are spent in this room sleeping – and breathing – choosing plants that replenish the oxygen and remove Volatile Organic Compounds (chemicals emitted from paint, furnishings and building materials) are popular choices. The humble Aloe Vera and Spider Plant are heroes in this category, as well as English Ivy and the almost unkillable Snake Plant.

    Living spaces

    Larger specimens thrive in living spaces which tend to be brighter and airier with greater traffic (and therefore attention). Palms, climbers and tumbling specimens add design appeal as well as health benefits. In studies by NASA the Bamboo Palm, Weeping Fig, Golden Pothos and Peace Lily were found to be great air purifiers.


    And in the fluctuating climate of the bathroom where conditions can swing from cold and dry to warm and humid through the day you have the perfect environment for a fernery. The filtered, often low-light space is ideal for shade tolerant species that naturally live in the tropics or on the temperate forest understorey. Boston, Maidenhair and Bird’s Nest ferns are popular and offer great variety in texture and colour.

    Taking gardening indoors opens a world of wondrous possibilities. It offers a restorative winter experience that will maintain your connection with the natural world, and keep you thriving.

    Ali Manns is a Permaculture Designer and Educator living in Yarraville and can be found at

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