New initiative aimed at promoting health benefits of plants

By: Sharon Dowdy, UGA CAES

A new national initiative encourages consumers to add plants to their homes and landscapes for the health benefits plants provide.

“Our goal is to grow a healthy world through plants, gardens and landscapes by increasing the number of households in the United States participating in consumer horticulture,” said Bauske, who led the creation of the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH). “Consumer horticulture includes the cultivation, use and enjoyment of plants, gardens, landscapes and related horticultural items.”

Ellen Bauske of the University of Georgia's Center for Urban Agriculture and her colleagues across the nation tout beneficial plant data based on research by Charles Hall, professor and Ellison Chair in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University. This research shows that hospital patients show less fatigue when plants are added to their rooms, and they request less pain medication.

In the workplace, people report they’re in a better mood when plants are around. These workers take less sick leave and report less eye strain.

In schools, students in classrooms with plants score 10 percent higher on tests than students in classrooms without plants. Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have less severe symptoms when plants are added to play areas.

Indoor plants increase ambient humidity in dry indoor environments, and they improve air quality by removing carbon dioxide. Indoor plants also stimulate physiological and psychological relaxation responses.

To develop a plan to share these plant benefits nationwide, NICH held its first national meeting June 27-29 in Atlanta. More than 80 people from across the nation attended, including Amanda Tedrow, the UGA Cooperative Extension county coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

“The initiative fits well into our mission at UGA Extension: to improve lives through education, specifically about home gardening and horticulture,” Tedrow said. “It is exciting to see a national initiative based around these same principles, and I’m thrilled to see the rising popularity of plants across the nation. At the conference, I worked with representatives from across the country to think about ways we can improve our communities through horticulture.”

More beneficial plant data show that:

Plants in the workplace reduce employee sick time by 14 percent.

Well-landscaped homes are priced higher. Homes represent 25 percent of personal wealth, so outdoor plants pack a powerful personal-finance punch.

Americans are growing more of their own food. In fact, 25 percent of Americans grow berries, vegetables or fruit trees.

Shaded roadways save 60 percent of repaving costs.

America’s public gardens generate $2.3 billion in tourism spending.

For additional information about the NICH, visit To learn more about the benefits of plants, go to

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)