“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” – John Lennon
I love watching the hummingbirds that flit around the yard. We planted passionflower, a fruiting and delightfully flowering vine that grows voraciously, all along the fence that surrounds the main house. Morning glory, another flowering vine with a pretty purple flower, also grows in abundance on the fence. (Nobody planted it; it arrived on its own.) In some places, I can’t even see much of the fence because it is covered with vines and flowers.
I have already covered three good reasons for planting flowers!
Reason #1: Natural Beauty
Hummingbirds were not present in such abundance at the start of developing this little piece of land. They began arriving in droves only after planting flowers. Not only do I enjoy observing these flying creatures, but other birds, butterflies, and the flowers themselves are beautiful and endlessly interesting to watch. Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” Ray – Raymond – often picks flowers for a small vase in the house, which is itself amply adorned with wild orchid flowers.
Reason #2: Enhanced Crop Yields
Flowers bring birds, bees, butterflies, and insects that are beneficial for vegetable gardens. Not only does the garden stay healthier in the presence of flowers, but the increased pollination activity results in enhanced crop yields. Intercropping flowers between rows in a vegetable garden is an effective method of boosting crop yields that is often utilized by professional growers.
Reason #3: Shade and Privacy
Flowering bushes and flowering vines are both excellent at creating shade and privacy. When planted along a fence or some other supporting structure, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and passionflower can easily grow tall and wide. Before you know it, you will be lounging privately in the shade and enjoying a gorgeous view filled with flowers.
“The earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Of course, there are many more than just three good reasons to plant flowers. In addition to enhancing the external environment, flowers are seriously beneficial to human health. Read on:
Reason #4: Air Purification
Most indoor spaces are rife with air pollutants. A NASA study from 1989 recommends that homes with less than 2,000 square feet contain an assorted variety of at least fifteen plants to effectively absorb airborne toxins. When plants perform photosynthesis, they emit oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. Large plants are more effective at air purification than small plants. As such, the NASA study specifies that a home’s fifteen houseplants should be large enough to require pots with diameters of at least six inches.
Beyond basic photosynthesis, several flowers and ornamental plants are particularly effective at air purification. The farm grows peace lilies, wax begonias, spider plants, snake plants, Dracaena plants, Chinese evergreens, golden pothos and philodendron vines, ficus bushes, Boston ferns, and aloe vera. All of these plants cleanse the air by removing some combination of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, ammonia, xylene, and benzene. If you want to add air-purifying plants to your home that flower frequently, then peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and wax begonias (Semperflorens) are likely your best alternatives.
Reason #5: Stress Relief
We’ve all heard the expression “stop and smell the roses” at some point during our busy lives. It is meant to be taken literally. Fragrant or not, flowers provide stress relief and enhance positive emotions. A 2006 Harvard study demonstrated that the presence of flowers increases feelings of compassion and kindness toward others, in addition to enhancing overall mood. Participants in the study, who kept fresh flowers at home, even reported feeling more energetic and enthusiastic at work.
Non-fragrant flowers proven to reduce anxiety and depression include passionflower, hibiscus, and roses. The soothing power of fragrant flowers is akin to aromatherapy, which is proven to alleviate stress. The fragrant flowering bushes jasmine and gardenia, of which the farm grows copious amounts, are both effective at lowering stress and anxiety. Spider lilies, which grow wild here, emit a delightful scent after dark. I frequently pick them in the late afternoons to enjoy a soothing aroma throughout the night.
Reason #6: Medicinal Benefits
In addition to stress relief, flowers provide medicinal benefits that are numerous and varied. The farm grows jasmine mainly because it smells terrific, but it also makes a delicious cup of tea, enhances sleep quality, and aids in digestion. Gardenia, another aromatic favorite, is used heavily in Chinese medicine to cleanse the blood and treat bladder problems and physical injuries. The flowers of the morning glory vine are used as a laxative, for a general purge, or to stimulate menstruation or labor. (Morning glory seeds, on the other hand, are strongly hallucinogenic and should probably be avoided.) Passionflower enhances sleep quality and treats epilepsy, in addition to reducing anxiety. What else:
- Roses, another stress reliever, have anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in Vitamin C. In addition to treating coughs and the common cold, rose petals can be eaten raw to improve blood circulation or brewed as tea for a mild laxative. A paste or cream of rose petals is effective for treating many skin conditions.
- Rosy periwinkle, brewed as a tea, treats diabetes and high blood pressure. The periwinkle flower has beneficial properties that may also aid in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease and cancer.
- Hibiscus flowers, which can be eaten raw or brewed as a tea, have numerous medicinal properties and taste delicious in salads too. Hibiscus, like the rose, is anti-inflammatory and rich in Vitamin C. It is a stress reliever that also contains numerous minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Hibiscus can strengthen the immune system and promote healthy weight loss, in addition to treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, digestive issues, and liver disease. Hibiscus flowers come in many different colors, but red and pink hibiscus flowers are the most medicinal.
- Begonias, by soaking the flowers in hot water, are used to treat headaches and rid the body of toxins. Both the flowers and the leaves of begonias can be crushed and rubbed into the skin directly to heal sores and burns.
…And many, many more. These are just the medicinal flowers that grow right here on this little farm!
Reason #7: Physical Exercise
Lastly, the act itself of planting flowers has obvious health benefits for the planter. Although you could hire a gardener or simply buy cut flowers, neither of those options puts your body in motion or your hands in the dirt. Gardening burns 200-400 calories per hour depending on your physical condition, and exercises your whole body. (Understatement of the year! The amount of chopping, raking, clearing, and stump removal that goes into creating a flower garden in the tropics makes planting and weeding seem like the easy parts.) Working with soil strengthens your immune system in addition to providing myriad other health benefits. So go find a patch of soil and plant some flowers! It’s much, much more fun than going to the gym.
“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Planting flowers is beneficial for even a few more reasons, like increased biodiversity, erosion control, and slope stabilization for flood-prone areas. Bee populations around the world are struggling and need more flowers in more places in order to survive. But really, isn’t the fact that flowers are so pretty a reason enough to plant them? I think so.