Houseplants Clean Indoor Air

Houseplants Clean Indoor Air

Lois Hole

As winter time nears, doors and windows of most homes are well sealed and tightly shut against the cold outdoors. Along with the cold, however, we are also keeping out fresh air. With so much more time spent indoors, the quality of the air within is more of a concern in the fall and winter.

Many homeowners are surprised when they realize the number of air-pollutants that are commonly found in most of our homes. New or newly-renovated houses especially, with their freshly painted walls and bran new carpeting, can have a high level of potentially harmful pollutants.

It is, however, fairly easy to compensate for that fact by simply filling your home with attractive houseplants. Studied by NASA have found that certain houseplants actually “clean” the air of harmful chemicals, such as benzene trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.

Benzene is a petroleum distillate commonly used as a solvent, and is found in gasoline, inks, oils, paint, plastic and rubber. It is also used in the manufacturing of detergents, pharmaceuticals and dyes.

Trichloroethylene is a commercial product used in some printing inks, paints, varnishes, adhesives and dry cleaning. Formaldehyde is found in virtually all indoor environments. Sources include foam insulation, particle board, pressed wood products, furniture and carpeting. It can also be found in grocery bags, waxed paper, facial tissue and paper towels.

Many common houseplants combat these pollutants. For a bright light situation, choose an attractive flowering plant. Both Pot Mums (Chrysanthemum) and Gerbera Daisies (Transvaal daisy) bloom in a variety of colours to brighten rooms as well as purify indoor air.

The Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea siefritzii), English Ivy, Fig Tree (Ficus benjamina) and several types of Dracaena (Dracaena massangcana, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’, and Dracaena warneckei) are helpful, handsome plants that do best in a medium to bright diffused light.

Low light areas will support Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllm ‘Mauna Loa’) and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant (Sansevieria laurentii). The snake plant is one of the easiest houseplants to grow.

In almost any location, grow Spider Plants. These houseplants have green or variegated leaves and do well in bring or low light situations. The “spiders” that form on trailing stems can be repotted or simply plunked into a jar of water; they will grow for years- even with no soil.

Air Purifiers

Air Purifiers

Improving air quality probably isn’t your first thought when selecting indoor plants. But many houseplants plants are so efficient at absorbing contaminants that it should be a consideration. Here are a few of our favourites to add to your home or office.

Chinese Evergreen

Contrary to what its name suggests, this native of Asia isn’t a conifer. Typically, a Chinese evergreen’s leaf blades are oval and variegated with medium and dark greens. However, some have solid-green leaves. To keep this tropical healthy, do not overwater (it will turn the leaves yellow). Avoid this common problem by allowing the top 1 cm of soil to dry out between waterings. Height: 30 cm; spread: 50 cm. Indirect light.

Chlorophytum comosum
Spider Plant

Arching, lance-shaped foliage is the hallmark of this common houseplant. As a decontaminator, it is particularly good at removing formaldehyde from the air. Household sources of this chemical can include carpets, fibreglass, permanent-press fabrics and paper products. Formaldehyde is also found in tobacco smoke. Spider plants have green leaves striped with white or cream. Insignificant white blooms on long stems develop into plantlets. Avoid tip burn by keeping soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Height: 15–20 cm; spread: 15–30 cm. Bright indirect light.

Chrysanthemum morifolium
Pot Mum

For an instant and inexpensive boost of colour, add a pot mum to any room. They are available in a variety of flower colours, including white, yellow, pink, purple and red. Dark-green, deeply lobed leaves on a compact, upright habit. Flowers continually; remove spent blooms. Height: 30–45 cm; spread: 30 cm. Bright indirect light.

Dracaena marginata
Dragon Tree

Train the canes of this dracaena to curve, or let it grow straight and tall. Either way, you’ll appreciate the mass of narrow, lance-shaped leaves atop the canes. The dark-green leaves have red stripes along the outer edges. As with other dracaenas, new leaves emerge from the top; lower, older leaves drop to expose more trunk. Known to remove benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Height: 3 m; spread: 1 m. Bright indirect light.

Epipremnum aureus
(syn. Scindapsus aureus)

Golden Pothos

This plant’s heart-shaped leaves will ultimately win you over, but its ability to purify the air is also very attractive. This vining plant has green foliage marked with yellow. Grows well in a hanging basket. Propagate by stem cuttings. Take care not to over water in winter. Trails: 2+ m. Bright indirect light.

Ficus benjamina
Weeping Fig

You might not know it by name, but you’ve undoubtedly seen a weeping fig in a mall, office or home. Its foliage is small, ovate and mid green. Often available with a braided trunk. Avoid leaf drop by maintaining consistent moisture levels and light conditions. Tolerates slightly rootbound conditions. Turn for even, full growth. Height: 2–3 m; spread: 1 m. Bright indirect light.

Ficus elastica
Rubber Tree

Rubber trees grow vigorously and don’t ask for much attention. However, you may need to prune to keep an attractive form and acceptable size. All varieties have fleshy foliage, but colour can be dark green, variegated or tricoloured. Solid coloured varieties are less fussy to grow. Good for cleaning the air. Height: 2–3 m; spread: 1 m. Bright indirect light.

Hedra helix
English Ivy

Any way you grow it, English ivy is an easy-to-care-for plant. This highly adaptable vine is often planted outdoors, where it thrives as an annual or as a perennial in more temperate areas. Leaves are flat with three to five lobes each. Available varieties feature white or yellow variegation, or solid-green foliage. Trails: 2 m; spread: 1 m. Bright indirect light.

Spathiphyllum ‘Domino’
Peace Lily

Here’s the perfect houseplant for a low-light area. As with all peace lilies, this variety is a bushy, upright plant with lance-shaped leaves. ‘Domino’ has glossy, mottled-green-and-white foliage. As an air cleanser, it tackles benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Produces white-to-cream-coloured spathes that each surround a fleshy spike (which is actually the flower). It blooms heavily in spring and sporadically throughout the year. Easily divided. Height: 60 cm; spread: 45 cm. Bright indirect light.

Sansevieria trifasciata
Snake Plant (syn. Mother-In-Law’s Tongue)

Snake plants can stand neglect, so they’re perfect for beginners and forgetful waterers alike. Fleshy leaves, which are attractively mottled, emerge at soil level and stand upright. Works to eliminate benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Propagate by division or leaf cuttings. Growth rate is slow; don’t repot until plant fills the pot. Height: 1.5 m; spread: 50 cm. Bright indirect light.