There’s nothing like the smell of Spring in the air. It makes me want nothing more than to bring fresh flowers and plants into my home. Does Spring affect you this way? Now I have to find room to place plants because I’m not completely unpacked or settled from my recent move to a new apartment. But, that’s ok! I can do this!
The Natural and Healthy Benefits of Flowers and House Plants
As I look around to see where I might place some new plants or flowers, the questions start popping up that I think we all might want to know before we fill our homes with greenery. These are the things I want to know:
- House plants that are the easiest to grow inside the home.
- House plants that are safest to have around pets and small children.
- Plants that absorb toxins and produce healthy oxygen.
First, let’s answer some questions you might have about why we want to bring plants and flowers into our homes and the benefits we get from these delightful earth elements.
How Do Green Plants Improve Air Quality?
Simply stated, plants take in all types of toxin substances from the air through the openings in their leaves. For instance, some plants are quite adept at removing the most toxic gaseous elements such as formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide. This makes plants one of the best air filters money can buy for your home. One bonus is that there is no carbon footprint with these all-natural filters. While on the other hand, an equally important bonus is that green plants emit healthy oxygenated air.
Which Plants Will You Select and Why?
Adding greenery to the home has long been recommended as a way to improve indoor air quality. Flowering plants are a beautiful living piece of home decor that can brighten up any room. However, can they use their leaves and roots to pull harmful pollutants from the air?
To answer that question, I’d like to direct you to a case in point wherein NASA conducted a study in which one of their goals was to learn which plants worked best to remove toxins from the air in a closed environment. Because NASA has such a highly vested interest in finding answers to these questions for use in their manned spacecraft and stations, I tend to trust their conclusions.
In 1989, NASA environmental scientist B.C. “Bill” Wolverton published a report that looked towards the future of energy-efficient buildings and addressed the need for a way to remove pollutants from indoor air without increasing ventilation with outdoor air. (This stemmed from the need to address the lack of fresh air exchange in space stations.) His solution was to add a significant amount of houseplants to the indoor area, stating in his report that “plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals from indoor air” (Wolverton, 1989).
Top Recommended House Plants
As a result, I’ve included two lists below. One is for plants that are found to filter formaldehyde effectively and the next list is for plants that filter benzine effectively. I’ve also included images so that you can readily identify them when you go shopping for plants. Additionally, these are not the only toxins removed by these plant so if you want to know more specifics I recommend that you refer to the study listed in the quote above or do an online search for the specific house plant that you have in mind.
Green Plants that Absorb Formaldehyde
1. Heart Leaf Philodendron
The Heart Leaf or Sweetheart Philodendron has dark green leaves that shine nicely when they are kept clean. They work well as a hanging or floor plant as well as on top of bookshelves. They make a great house plant because they are actually difficult to kill. But, please be aware that all philodendrons are toxic to pets and children so take precaution where you place them.
2. Elephant Ear Philodendron
Philodendrons are among the most popular, tolerant, and durable of all house plants and the Elephant Ear Philodendron is no different. What all philodendrons all have in common is there ability to survive neglect and adverse conditions. For instance, they grow in low light but the leaves are smaller but you also don’t want to put them in direct sunlight because that burns the leaves and stunts their growth. Therefore, it’s moderate light and moist soil for these beautiful plants.
3. Lacy-tree Philodendron
Also commonly known as the split leaf philodendron or tree philodendron, Lacy-tree is a large tropical plant commonly grown as a house plant that reaches heights up to 15 feet with a similar spread. It is identified by its large leaves with deep cuts that are beautifully ruffled.
4. Green Spider Plant
Spider plants are also known as Airplane plants. These gorgeous plants grow in arches of grass clumps and have dangling “spider” baby plants that form on the end of the stems. Most people think they are the easiest to grow of all house plants so that makes them perfect for any home.
However, these plants do possess slight hallucinogenic properties that can be compared to catnip. Although it is listed as harmless on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website, the toxins can still cause upset stomachs and diarrhea so keep them away from your pets, just to be safe. If you have a cat, you’ll want to keep them up high because they love the hallucinogenic effect and they love to play with the little “spiders”.
5. Golden Pothos
This is a very stable houseplant that only requires a balanced fertilizer application once per month. The Golden Pathos plant is toxic to both dogs and cats. So, you’ll want to keep them out of reach of the fur babies in your household.
6. Snake Plant
Snake plants are easy-peasy when it comes to their care. Simply set them in indirect sunlight and take it easy on the watering, especially during the winter months. It’s even best to let them dry out between watering. The entire plant is toxic, however, and will cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if your dog or cat eat it, so place it carefully out of their reach.
7. Aloe Vera
I’ve treated so many cuts and burns over the years from my former Aloe Vera plants that I am anxious to get started with a new plant now that I’m settling into my new place. These plants are very hardy and you can take them outside during warm weather, then, bring them in before winter arrives.
However, when you use these plants, be cautious about cutting away the skin of the plant and the inner layer of yellow juice which contains Aloin. You only want to use the actual gel. Unfortunately, the yellow juice is an irritant to some people because it contains latex. Also, the Aloin ingredient in Aloe Vera plants is a laxative so again, you want to take precautions to only use the gel found under those outer layers.
8. Peace Lily
The graceful Peace Lilies are easy to care for and tell you they need watering when you see them drooping. In addition to absorbing formaldehyde, they also are good for clearing carbon monoxide from the air. They are also a little bit toxic to pets, so be sure to wash your hands before playing with your pets.
Plants that Remove Benzene
1. Gerbera Daisy
The ability to filter benzene and trichloroethylene from the air is one of the qualities of these cheerful flowers. This pretty plant likes bright lights but keeps its soil well-drained for best results. Your Gerbera will bloom from mid-Spring until Fall.
I had no idea these beautiful and hardy flowers are also beneficial to our healthy homes. That’s because these flowers are natural filters to remove formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene from our environments.
Chrysanthemums were one of the top performers in the study for their ability to filter formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air (Wolverton, et. al, 1989). An additional study published in 1993 found that chrysanthemums were able to filter ammonia and xylene from the air as well (Wolverton & Wolverton, 1993).
You may grow these gorgeous flowers in bright, indirect sunlight. Give them water at room temperature and allow the soil to dry between watering. Fertilize before the blooming period and remove faded blooms to make your plant flower longer.
5. Dracaena Warneckeii
This lush and green air-purifying indoor house plant has lance-shaped leaves in grey-green with white, green, or grey stripes. These plants can be trimmed to size for use on tables, bushy floor plants, or tall plants. These plants are wonderful at removing toxins from the air but will make your fur babies and small children sick. It grows best in bright and indirect light but not direct sunlight and they love organic, loamy, peaty, well-drained soil.
6. Bamboo Palm
These plants rarely grow taller than 10 feet tall which is great for indoors. It normally reaches a height of about 7 feet and it doesn’t need full sun. Originating in Mexico and Honduras, this plant got its name from the long slender stems that resemble bamboo. The bamboo palm grows nicely in well in well-drained containers. This plant filters out benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.
With this information, I invite you to bring the outside in with house plants that remove toxins and improve the air we breathe. So, whether you go for gallons of greenery or a few well-placed plants, it is my heart’s desire that you have the most wonderful home full of fresh plants and and breathable air for you, your family, and guests.