Cleaning the Air with Houseplants
Written by: Dottie Baltz
Indoor air can be "dirtier" than outdoor air. With chemicals coming from carpets, paints and plastics and homes being more air-tight and energy efficient, our air quality can be pretty poor at times. Air cleaners don't work as well as we'd like and are expensive to run all the time. Why not let Mother Nature help by adding some houseplants to your home to help clean the air.
Houseplants clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen and removing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air. Did you know that trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and benzene could be floating around in your home right now?
In the late 1980s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) spent a couple of years studying houseplants and how they can purify the air. The results were encouraging.
For every 1000 square feet of home you need about 8 houseplants, at least 6" in diameter to adequately clean the air inside your home. Spread them out evenly throughout the home for best effect. If you have pets, make sure they can not get to them, as some are poisonous to both cats and dogs as well as humans. Following is my list of the easiest houseplants to grow.
English Ivy - Hedera helix
English Ivy is very easy to grow and it's trailing habit allows you to grow it in a hanging pot rather than sitting it on a table. English Ivy is known to be a weed in many parts of the world as it can be a bit invasive, but you would not have that problem growing it inside the home. Variegated ivy prefers bright sun, while solid varieties prefer filtered sun. Ivy prefers consistent temperatures, so keep them away from drafts and air conditioning vents. They also like to dry out between waterings, watering even less in winter. Stems can get a little spindly in winter, but cutting them back in spring will make them fill out with new growth. This plant is toxic to plants and humans.
Spider Plant - Chlorophytum comosum
The Spider Plant is another houseplant suitable for hanging pots, but can also be grown in regular pots as well. They like filtered light, cool temperatures and fairly dry soil. Browning of the tips of the plant can be common due to chemicals found in the water. Prevent this by using distilled water or rain water to water your plants. When a spider plant is happy, it will grow little "baby" plants on the end of long leafless stems. These can be propagated by burying the stem in soil with the baby still attached. After several weeks, it will grow roots on that stem and then it can be cut from the mother plant.
Golden Pothos - Epipremnum aureum
Pothos is probably one of the easiest houseplants to grow. They will grow in filtered light but the variegated color is better when grown in bright light a foot or two away from a window. It is known to be poisonous to both cats and dogs, however. I grow it in my home with a cat only because she has never shown any interest in my houseplants. Water when dry and never let the roots sit in water.
Snake Plant - Sansevieria trifasciata
Also known as Mother-in-Law's Tongue the Snake Plant thrives on neglect. They can tolerate low light and during the winter months they only need to be watered once every 6-8 weeks. They can easily rot if over watered. Since they tend to grow taller, rather than wider, this plant is very suitable to sit in the corner where it will take up little room. And since it prefers to be root bound, repotting is not necessary as often as other plants.