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Cleansing Household Air With Plants


Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to people’s health.  Stale indoor air can keep pollutants in the environment.  In addition, new carpets, floors, and furniture give off chemicals such as formaldehyde, which are very bad for people to inhale. People can even get “sick building syndrome” which causes headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye, ear, and nose irritation. In the late '80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities.  Surprisingly, the remedy for these problems is quite easy:  Grow plants indoors to filter the environment.  Plants filter out particulates in the air and also absorb carbon dioxide, replacing it with oxygen.  Some plants filter more air than others, but here are a group of plants that filter the environment and are hard to kill.

  • In the NASA study, the garden mum was the best at filtering unwanted items out of the air.    Garden mums (Chrysanthemum morifolium) filter out ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene.  They are readily available at most garden centers and are easy to grow.  They are also inexpensive.  When they finish blooming for the season, they can be planted outside in the flower bed.
  • Spider plants (Chylorophytum comosum) are also one of the easiest plants to grow.  The “mother” plant will grow little baby plants where a bloom was on the plant. These can be cut off and planted in another pot, giving you more filters that can be put in different rooms.  These plants are often grown in hanging baskets.  Spider plants are especially good at filtering out formaldehyde and xylene.
  • Dracaena (Dracaena spp) are a group of more than forty species. They have long, bright green leaves, some of which are variegated in white, cream, or red, and are grown for their foliage.  Because there are so many species, everyone should be able to find a species that grows in your their  area. Draceana filters out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.  These plants are poisonous when eaten, so keep them out of reach of pets and children.
  • Ficus (Ficus benjamina) is also called the weeping fig.  It is a tree in its native Asia, but when grow in a pot inside, grows from two to ten feet high.  Ficus likes bright indirect light.  Let the soil dry out between waterings.  The ficus filters a lot of air because of its size.  It filters out benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
  • The peace lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) blooms with a sweet scented bloom all summer.  It is smaller than most of the plants on this list, but still filters a lot of air.  Peace lilies filter out ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.  They are poisonous if eaten so keep them away from pets and children.
  • Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata v. bostoniensis) like cool, damp places.  They need to be checked each day to make sure the soil stays moist and then given a good soak once a month.  Mist the leaves once a day.  In return, Boston ferns will filter out more formaldehyde than any other plant.  They are also good at filtering out benzene and xylene, both components of car exhaust that can make it from the garage to the house.
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)  is also called mother-in-law’s tongue.  It is very hardy.  Keep it on the dry side and place it in some sun.  It filters out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
  • Aloe vera (Aloe vera) is a very useful plant.  The gel inside the leaves is a topical ointment that has antibacterial qualities.  It also helps sooth burns.  The Aloe vera plant filters out formaldehyde.
  • Different palm trees are particularly good at removing formaldehyde.  The best at doing that is called the Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii).  It is also the closest in appearance to the tropical palm tree.  This palm tree prefers temperatures in the 60 to 75 degree F range.
  • The bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii) can grow from four feet up to twelve feet.  Place it in the sun or bright light and keep the soil in the pot moist. The bamboo palm is pet and child friendly.   It filters a lot of air because of its size.  It will filter out formaldehyde in large quantities.
  • Rubber plants (Ficus elastic) will grow well in dim light.  Many offices do not have good light, but have lots of furniture made of particle board held together with formaldehyde glue.  A rubber plant is a good option in that environment.
  • Grown outside, English ivy (Hedera helix) can be an invasive and destructive plant.  Grown indoors, it is an effective formaldehyde remover.  For an extra pleasing office, you can grow English ivy over a topiary shell and cheer up your space.
  • Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum ) is tough to kill and removes many indoor pollutants.  It is very tolerant of neglect, over watering, and is a great starter plant for people who generally have black thumbs.  Golden pothos are often sole as philodendrons.  Fortunately, philodendrons are good at removing indoor pollutants, too.

This collection of house plants can help you keep your house or office free of volatile compounds and other pollutants, such as formaldehyde.  House plants have also been shown to improve people’s moods and reduce depression in the elderly.  The only downside to having plants in the house is that they put pollen and fragrances into the house, which may cause some people with allergies problems.  Of course, the compounds the plants are filtering out cause allergy problems in people, too, in addition to leading to diseases such as cancer.


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Plant Dwarf Varities

If you love fruit tress like apples, peaches, pears and plums, but don't have the room, plant a dwarf variety.

Most grow from 3 feet to 8 feet. They product tons of fruit and are easier to harvest because they are low to the ground.

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