Experts have identified the ultimate houseplant leaf shape to lift your mood

Here's why a Chinese money plant is better than an aloe vera

houseplants arranged in a living area with picture window and seating
(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Tim Young)

Any room will look better with the addition of a houseplant or two. Be it a bookshelf of cacti in aged terracotta pots or a fiddle leaf fig perched elegantly in the living room, house plant ideas instantly uplift a space.

But which plants are the ultimate mood-boosters? A study conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society (opens in new tab) and the University of Reading shows that happy, healthy plants with rounded leaves make us feel better. And neglected plants are worse than none at all.

houseplants arranged in a living area on a transportable trolley

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Tim Young)

The ultimate houseplant leaf shape to lift your mood

'Plants which people find attractive and interesting are likely to give us the biggest well-being boost,' begins lead researcher Jenny Berger, at the University of Reading. 'Green, lush plants will bring a healthy feeling to the indoor environment.'

By showing participants images of different species, they found people reacted positively to lush plants with rounded leaves. These characteristics are reflected in many of our favourite houseplants, like the weeping fig, calathea, and monstera.

So rather than an aloe vera, opt for non-spiky-leafed varieties like a cute little Chinese money plant (above), a rubber plant or bird of paradise. Palms, although a little spiky, did also have positive associations, evoking holidays and happy memories. Bring a tropical feel to your living room ideas with a large palm tucked in a corner by the window or arching over the sofa.

navy blue dining area with modern wooden table and chairs, shelving and houseplants

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Caroline Barker)

As for the most 'beautiful' plants, participants ranked those with a softer, rounded foliage, like devil’s ivy the highest (below, in pink macramé hanging planter).

Dr Tijana Blanusa is principal horticultural scientist at the RHS and one of the study's researchers. 'This study adds weight to the important role houseplants can play in improving mental health and well-being in the indoor environment,' says Dr Tijana Blanusa. 'Not everyone has a garden, but most of us can find space for a houseplant.'

On the other hand, unhealthy plants were found to negatively affect people’s perception of their indoor environment. Researchers recommend getting rid.

houseplants arranged on a desk and hanging in pink macrame hanger

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd / Tim Young)

Begin with low-maintenance plants like a monstera or rubber plant and be careful not to overwater.

Houseplants generally only have a small effect on air quality. But the positive feelings associated with them mean they have a greater effect on improving well-being and reducing stress.

Off to the garden centre we go!

Millie Hurst
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She first joined the team at the start of 2021. Previously, she worked in women’s lifestyle and homes news, writing about everything from budget kitchen makeovers and gardening tips to homeware dupes and cleaning hacks. Millie can often be found looking up trending terms, spotting news stories our readers need to know about and finding ways to decorate her rented flat.