House plants: Indoor air quality is a serious issue in most homes and people are becoming increasingly aware of the menace. In most modern homes, a cocktail of chemicals including formaldehyde and benzene are creating a toxic indoor atmosphere. These chemicals come from common construction materials, furniture coatings, carpets, upholstery and household cleaning chemicals. The result is an increase in incidents of respiratory diseases like allergies and asthma. Fortunately, NASA research to help astronauts has given us an easy solution: house plants.
Air quality is a serious challenge for long space missions. It requires astronauts to stay in confined spaces like space stations for months at a time. NASA needed a durable and effective solution. They observed how air was naturally purified and found that plants played a major role in both generating oxygen and removing toxins from the atmosphere. Thus, plants became potential natural air purifiers to clean the air.
Research done by NASA has shown conclusively that indoor plants can remove contaminants and make a huge improvement to indoor air quality. House plants clean the air besides adding to the beauty of a home. You can use this simple solution to improve your indoor air quality. Here are ten easy-to-grow house plants that will make your breathing easier. You can easily find them at your local plant nursery or a home improvement store.
10 house plants to help you improve and maintain your indoor air quality:
1. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Seifrizii)
Bamboo plants are very good at removing indoor pollutants, especially formaldehyde. It can also remove benzene and trichloroethylene. Other palm varieties like dwarf date palm, lady palm, areca palm and parlor palm will also do.
Bamboo palm is also known as reed palm. It has thick foliage, can grow up to ten feet and produces flowers and berries. Palms need good indirect sunlight and are best suited for places like terraces or balconies. When grown indoors, growth is limited and they do well as floor-standing decorative plants. They are safe for pets.
When you buy a palm from the nursery, ensure that it’s in good health. Healthy palms have dark green and erect leaves. Don’t buy a plant that has drooping or brown leaves.
Select a pot about two inches larger than the pot that comes with the plant. Palms need well-drained soil and hence, the pot must have sufficient number of large drainage holes. Cover the holes with a thick cloth to prevent the soil from flowing out. Use good quality potting soil. Fill about a quarter of the container with soil and place the plant in the center. Add soil up to one inch from the rim of the pot. Pat it gently with your palm to pack it. Water the plants immediately with filtered water.
Keep palms in a bright location, but avoid areas that receive direct sunlight or are close to air vents. Water the plant when the soil becomes dry. Use filtered water and add just enough to evenly wet the soil. Don’t overwater and make sure that the pot is draining properly. Bamboo plants do well with time-release granular fertilizer. As the plant grows, move it to larger pots.
2. Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) | House Plants
Aloe is a popular house plant because it is believed to have tremendous health benefits. It does a very good job of removing formaldehyde from the air. It is similar to cactus and is one of the easiest plants to grow. It thrives in dry conditions and can survive long periods without water. The sap of the plant, contained in its fleshy leaves, is a nutritious fluid that is believed to help heal wounds, minor burns and skin ailments. It can also be used as a scalp tonic.
A mix of potting mix specially made for cactus is the best soil for Aloe. If that is not available, you can mix regular potting soil with sand. Use a pot with large drain holes. The plant grows well in bright light. Keep it near a window for best results.
Water sparingly because Aloe does not like excess water. Overwatering or using badly drained pots will kill the plant. Water only when the soil is really dry. When it’s time to water, water it well and ensure that the soil drains properly. Fertilizer is not needed, but if you wish, you can use a phosphorous-based fertilizer once in a year.
3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace lily is an attractive, easy-to-grow plant that flowers during summer. It makes your home safer by removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, acetone and alcohol vapors. It can improve indoor air quality by as much as 50% besides humidifying the air. It also captures mold spores and retards the spread of mold and mildew.
Peace lily grows well in the shade. Unlike most flowering plants, it blooms indoors even in corners with limited light. The amount of flowers the plant produces increases with light availability. Unless someone at home is allergic to its pollen or fragrance, it’s the perfect indoor plant. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets because the leaves can be toxic if eaten.
Growing peace lily indoors is easy as its growth is limited and all it needs is well-drained soil. These plants can survive dry conditions, but will die if overwatered. Check the soil surface with your hand once in a week. Water the plant only if the soil surface is really dry. You can also wait until the leaves start drooping before watering. This will not harm the plant. Peace lily doesn’t need too much fertilizer. Adding fertilizer once in seven or eight months is enough.
When the foliage becomes crowded or the leaves start to droop often despite watering, it’s a sign that the plant has outgrown its pot. Transfer the plant to a pot that is at least two inches larger than the current pot. You can also divide a plant into two by cutting the root ball into two pieces with a knife. You can then plant the two halves in separate pots. Wash down the leaves once a year to remove accumulated dust. You can also wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. Avoid using leaf shiners.
4. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
The spider plant is easy to grow and can tolerate plenty of abuse. It can remove xylene, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from your home. Spider plants are easy to propagate. It has over-the-soil runners that flower and then grow into new plants called spiderettes. Spiderettes remain attached to the mother plant. You can cut the runner, separate the baby plants and plant them in new pots. Several spiderettes can also share a large pot with their parent.
Spider plants thrive in well-drained soil and bright areas with indirect light. Too much water can lead to root rot and it’s best to allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. These plants also prefer cooler temperatures. The tips of the leaves may become brown as they mature. This is normal and is usually a result of watering with tap water. The fluoride in the water tends to accumulate in the soil and this causes the browning.
It’s good to water the leaves of spider plants periodically to wash out any accumulated salts. You can also prune occasionally. If the plants become too large for the pot, the roots will start becoming visible. In this case, you can divide the plant or transplant it into a larger pot.
5. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Although considered an outdoor predator, the English ivy is an attractive indoor plant with bright green leaves. It prefers shade and does a good job of removing formaldehyde and benzene. As it can remove fecal dust, it is very suitable for homes with pets. It is also suitable for your home office or work desk, which are often contaminated with traces of benzene from office equipment.
English ivy is a climber and you can use it to beautify your living areas. You can grow these plants on stakes or in hanging baskets. Use soil that is rich in organic matter. The plants are easy to care for and can stay healthy with occasional watering and spraying. Water them to keep the soil sufficiently moist and spray the leaves as needed to keep them moist and clean. Once the plant is established, it can easily survive occasional watering. If they overgrow, you can clip the ends of the vines. This keeps growth in check besides encouraging fresh growth. Fertilizer is not required, but you can use a liquid fertilizer to accelerate growth.
6. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
Boston ferns are attractive with their large leaves and light green color. Ferns also act as humidifiers and will help add moisture to dry winter air. This will reduce the incidence of dry skin, allergies and cold. They purify indoor air by removing formaldehyde, benzene and xylene.
Ferns are tropical plants and grow well indoors with proper care. They need diffused light, plenty of moisture and regular watering. Regular watering and spraying will keep the leaves fresh and beautiful. You can plant them in hanging baskets and the hanging leaves will add beauty to your home.
The first thing to ensure while growing these ferns is to put them in the right location. They grow better in a cool place with diffused light and a lot of humidity. This makes them ideal for bathrooms. Spray them liberally with water once or twice a week. Ensure that the pot is well drained. You can allow some water to accumulate in the drainage tray in winters when air tends to be dry.
Boston ferns die when the soil becomes very dry. When humidity is low, the leaves will start to turn yellow. If this happens, spray the plant more regularly to increase moisture. The plant can get infested with pests, but you can remove it with proper treatment. Fertilizer is not needed except once or twice a year. With the right care, Boston ferns will live for years.
7. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
Snake plants are good indoor/house plants and they need very little care. They remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from indoor air. They can survive neglect. You can come back from a month-long vacation and you will still find them fresh. The plant prefers dry conditions and can survive without much sunlight. It is also resistant to pests.
Areas near the doors and windows are the best places for snake plants. They can rot if overwatered. Plant them in pots with good drainage and allow the soil to dry completely between watering sessions. Snake plants need very little fertilizer. If they are in a pot, fertilize the soil once in six months. Propagating the snake plant is simple. Just divide an existing plant at the roots with a knife and plant them separately.
8. Rubber Tree Plant (Ficus Elastica)
Rubber plants are large indoor/house plants that look very elegant with their large dark leaves. They can grow into tall trees outdoors. They are excellent for removing formaldehyde, which accounts for over 80% of pollution in most homes. Although they grow faster in bright sunlight, rubber plants can flourish with very little light.
Rubber plants should be placed where there is plenty of indirect light. Like most indoor plants, it cannot survive overwatering. The soil must be well drained and you should water it only to keep the soil moist. With too much watering, the leaves will turn yellow, then brown and will eventually fall off. If the leaves start to droop, it indicates that watering is due. You can propagate them by cutting a branch and planting it in potting soil.
9. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema Crispum)
Chinese evergreen is an attractive house plant that grows beautiful leaves, flowers and red berries. The leaves and berries help remove toxins found in commonly-used chemicals at home. It can thrive in low light, but being a tropical species, it needs moisture. Regular watering and spraying will keep them fresh and healthy.
Chinese evergreen should be planted in well-drained pots. A mix of equal quantities of potting soil, perlite and sand works best for this plant. It grows well in warm, humid conditions. Keep the plant away from areas where it can get exposed to the cold winter air and allow the soil to dry out between watering. Excess water in the soil can cause root rot. Add fertilizer once every six to eight months using a water-soluble fertilizer. You can easily propagate the plant by cutting the leaves and planting them in the soil. Watch out for infestations of common plant pests like spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids. If they appear, removing infected leaves, cleaning healthy leaves and spraying neem oil will help solve the problem.
10. Pot Mum (Chrysantheium Morifolium) | House Plants
Pot mums are excellent house plants with beautiful flowers. You can find them easily in nurseries and flower shops. They remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene. Like most flowering plants, they grow and flower better when they get direct sunlight. Mums are perfect for windowsills and in hanging pots near windows. They will add a burst of color to your home. They come in a variety of colors. So, you can choose the shades that suit your decor. Just ensure that you are buying the right variety because some species are meant only for garden use.
You can keep mums for considerable time in the pot that comes with it. If required, you can repot them into larger pots with good drainage. Take care to keep the plant in a place where it will get plenty of sunlight, but very little artificial light. Too much artificial light can upset the plant’s blooming cycles, preventing it from flowering. Mums benefit from good air circulation and less humidity. Water them regularly to keep the soil moist. Avoid getting the foliage wet to prevent fungal infections.
House plants excel at removing toxic chemicals from indoor air. They are an easy and economical way of improving the indoor air quality of homes and offices. Most house plants are easy to maintain and add to the decor. Besides, they make you feel more relaxed and comfortable.