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Image: Amy Martin

At those times when the Portland rain roars on endlessly and our collective outdoors deficit hits a high, it’s time to dust out your empty nooks and bring the forest inside. Researchers wax poetic on the full-bodied benefits of crowding our living spaces with greenery; studies suggest that the presence of plants can improve concentration, reduce stress and depression, and even boost compassion.

But Teresia Hazen, the mastermind behind Legacy Health’s nationally recognized therapeutic garden program, says the health benefit of plants is only part of the picture. “People understand that we need nature,” Hazen says. “The bigger issue is having people understand that they can’t save up meeting their nature need for a two-week vacation once every summer.”

Hazen says to skip the medical journals and start simply: clear out a corner, commit to some comfy seating, and make your way through the aisles of your local gardening store in search of pretty plants. “We all need to use our physical, mental, psychological, social, and spiritual selves to have balance,” Hazen says. “When we manage our green space, we can pretty much meet all those needs and have a really healthy interaction with our world.”

Three key tips from Legacy’s greenest thumb:

Choose diversity

An indoor therapeutic garden space “needs to be something that is very meaningful to the person who owns it,” Hazen says. That might mean switching out old standbys, such as potted succulents and spider plants, for newcomers that catch your eye, like the deep-colored buds of winter-blooming cyclamen. 

Seasons matter inside, too

Hazen makes a point to say that it’s important to keep your indoor garden seasonal, so you’re less likely to lose interest once warm weather rolls in. Mix up your domestic ornamentals with flourishing natives like the adorably named piggyback plant or the evergreen-family swordfern. That way, you’ll see changing colors and burgeoning blooms all year round.

Set a schedule

The takeaway? The more you love the rich variety, vibrant colors, and odd angles of your houseplants, the more you’ll want to baby them, and the more they’ll foster rejuvenation in all parts of your healthy self. Hazen’s final pieces of wisdom: be a responsible plant owner and, when in doubt, “water on Wednesdays.” 

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