Ever heard the urban legend about talking to pot plants to help them (and you) thrive? Turns out it has scientific backing. In fact, if you can’t spend time in the great outdoors for any reason, growing plants in your home is about the best thing you can do for your mental and physical health.

House plants have a calming, mood-enhancing effect on people. There’s a library-load of research to back that up.

Quite apart from the sense of fulfilment, reward and compassion you gain from tending and nurturing another living thing (think kids and pets, but without the medical expenses and periodic whining), researchers have found that just looking at greenery can make you feel happier.

Then there are the smells. Nature’s smells (well, most of them) have a soothing effect – even when you’re not aware you’re whiffing them. We’ve all experienced how scents can trigger powerful and often comforting memories. Research has shown that smells from plants and flowers can help lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression in some people, and enhance natural healing. That’s why hospitals encourage the presence of plants and flowers in recovery wards.

All that calming leads to improved sleep, a more effective immune system and better overall health.

The benefits aren’t just psychological. Plants in the home give a direct boost to your physical health.

Plants give off phytoncides which neutralise airborne toxins to reduce the amount of stress you feel through the day.

Plants act as natural filters. They’re constantly drawing dust, mold spores and pollutants – including nasties like formaldehyde and benzene – from the atmosphere. In the home, carpets, paint, cleaners, printer toner and inks and many other items give off pollutants called volatile organic compounds. They build up in the air and irritate eyes and skin, and can worsen conditions like asthma. House plants suck these impurities out of the air without any detrimental effect on their own health.

Plants also increase humidity in the home. It’s well known that dry air can increase lung and skin irritation and contribute to a range of associated health problems.

A study in Norway showed that some illnesses were 60 percent less prevalent in homes containing a high number of plants than in homes with no plants at all. In the US, students in classrooms with three potted plants performed better in maths (actually, they called it math), spelling, reading and science tests than kids in classrooms without any greenery.

And that talking to plants thing? Well, when you’re in close proximity to a plant and talking, you’re respiring carbon dioxide – an ingredient the plant needs for photosynthesis. At the same time, the plant is respiring oxygen – an essential ingredient for your wellbeing. Win. Win.

So, get up close and chatty with your pot plants. Oh, and get out and vote. But nothing on this page has anything to do with the referendum about that particular plant. Nothing.