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5 Easy-To-Grow Houseplants That Improve Indoor Air Quality
Houseplants help create a welcoming environment in your living space. They can also improve your home’s indoor air quality, which is especially beneficial when so many of us are spending so many more hours indoors. NASA did a study on plants’ power to improve IAQ so that the months our astronauts spend aboard the International Space Station could be healthier for them.
Plants Help Remove Toxins
“It’s true that NASA had a very controlled and confined area for that space station experiment, but did you know they also did a similar experiment with a BioHome that was 45 feet by 16 feet,” asks Sabine Schoenberg, founder and CEO of lifestyle channel of Simple. Healthy. Green. Living. Quoting the BioHome study, she shares, “Before the houseplants were added… anyone entering the newly constructed facility would experience burning eyes and respiratory difficulties, two of the most common symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Once the plants were introduced to the environment, analysis of the air quality indicated that most of the VOCs had been removed, and the symptoms disappeared.”
If your home was constructed in the last 10 or 15 years, it may also suffer from this syndrome, thanks to its energy efficiency, stain-fighting carpets, paints and other elements that make it easier — but less health-enhancing — to live in.
Plants Help Kill Viruses
As we spend more time than usual at home avoiding the novel coronavirus that can cause COVID-19, it’s worth noting that plants may also help kill germs. Schoenberg quotes the NASA study reporting that “Plant roots and their associated microorganisms destroy pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and organic chemicals, eventually converting all of these air pollutants into new plant tissue.”
She cautions though, “Volume of the space and the number of plants housed in the area will have an impact. It’s also important to note that plants aren’t a singular element in a healthy home eco-system (proper air exchange and filtration systems should also be present), but they do provide for a natural and environmentally friendly way of detoxifying our surroundings.”
Five Easy Air-Purifying Plants
Not everyone has a green thumb and dead plants don’t deliver benefits. Schoenberg shares insights on five houseplants that are both easy to keep alive and easy to find at your local nursery or garden center. Here are her top five with their air purifying benefits:
- Snake Plant (also called Mother-in-law’s Tongue) – Per the NASA study, this hearty plant filters a wide range of commonly found toxins in households – benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia. It grows in bright shade and requires only one watering per week.
- Peace Lily – filters a wide range of commonly-found toxins in households, including benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia. It is drought tolerant but thrives on regular weekly watering. It has beautiful white flowers. Generally found in a table-top size, larger varieties grow to six feet wide and high and offer more filtering.
- Spider Plant – can clean your home’s air of formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. As a hanging plant that likes to sprawl out, it’s an excellent choice for highlighting a dark corner or along the tops of cabinets or mantelpieces.
- Parlor Palm and Lady Palm – These are two slightly different palms with similar origin and maintenance needs. Because they originate in tropical zones, they enjoy high humidity levels as well as well-drained soil. It’s vital to avoid colder temperatures (below 60 degrees). Both filter the most commonly found toxins in households -benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia.
- Cornstalk Plant – This plant requires low light, but in a word of caution, it cannot tolerate warm settings (never higher than 90 degrees). It’s a tall growing plant and is often used to fill in room corners. It filters a wide range of commonly found toxins in households: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia.
Schoenberg notes that having at least two plants per 100 square feet of living space will increase the potential for IAQ improvements. She also notes that research shows that since some filtration benefits come from microorganisms within plants’ potting soil, hydroponic and other non-soil-based planters may offer less IAQ improvement.
If you have pets, it’s important to know which plants are potentially dangerous to their health. The Humane Society has a complete list of on its website. Since it may not be exhaustive, it’s always best to search your planned plant purchases and their potential risks to your pets before shopping.