Container Gardening · Houseplants

Houseplants clean the air!

We are all aware of the pollution in the air outside. Whether it is from car exhaust, oil refineries, a fire pit in the backyard, or dust blown by the wind, we have come to accept that air pollution is a way of life.

When we think of indoor air pollution, we probably think of things like carbon monoxide, radon, and even things like mold and secondhand smoke. But there are many other sources of indoor air population that can make our air inside even worse to breathe than the air outside.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s, are chemicals used in household products that are released into the air by off-gases. Formaldehyde is commonly found in lots of products like household cleaners, toilet paper, tissues, paints and varnishes, plywood, and carpeting. It is even emitted in small amounts from gas stoves. We breathe benzene indoors as a result of household cleaners, paints, furniture and carpeting. Trichloroethylene is used in things like paint removers and strippers, adhesives, spot removers, and rug-cleaning products. Xylene is used as a solvent in the printing, rubber, paint and leather industries.

Are we doomed? Of course not, because houseplants clean the air! Here’s how they do it.

Pollutants in the air are absorbed through the plant’s stomata (microscopic openings in the leaves). They travel through the plant down to the root zone. Root microbes biodegrade the pollutants into food for the microbes and the plant. Water vapor is released back into the air through transpiration.

If you want to grow houseplants but have a long history of killing them, you just need to choose the right plants to grow. These are my five favorite houseplants that put up with abuse and neglect.

The peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) tolerates low humidity and low light. Its glossy, lance-shaped leaves on arching stems surround the flower spikes. Spoon-shaped flowers normally appear in summer, but some bloom sporadically throughout the year. It is one of the best houseplants for purifying the air. It removes formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.

Peace lilies have a high transpiration rate so they should be watered regularly.

Mother in law tongue is a carefree, tough succulent that grows almost anywhere. Also commonly called snake plant (Sansevieria spp.), it tolerates a lot of neglect. Leathery, sword-shape leaves grow edged with yellow or white. Snake plants are great for beginners, but experienced houseplant growers also love them for their dramatic upright form.

Mother in law tongue releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide at night so this is an ideal choice for the bedroom. Its rate of transpiration is very low and can go for weeks without being watered.

Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) lives up to its name. It is almost indestructible. It can handle low light, low humidity and a wide range of temperatures. I swear this plant would even grow in a closet for a short time. Start with large plants since they grow slowly. They rarely need repotting.

An excellent foliage plant for low to medium light, slow-growing Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum) can live for ten years or more. Its arching, lance-shape leaves are usually variegated with silver, gray, pink or shades of green. This is another good one for removing toxins from the air.

Older plants may drop some outer leaves exposing bare stems. This is one of the few plants whose stems can be covered with soil and new roots will grow. So older plants can be repotted covering bare stems with soil.

ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) have thick, upright stems that present dark green leaves so shiny they almost look plastic. They prefer to dry out between waterings and can survive months without water. ZZ plants prefer bright, indirect light but grow quite satisfactorily in lower light situations. Direct sunlight will burn their leaves. Curling leaves is an indication the plant is in too much light.

 ZZ plants grow slowly so buy the largest plant you can afford. They are more expensive than other houseplants but definitely worth every penny. Click here to learn even more about ZZ plants.

Eliminate toxins from the air in your home while adding life and style with these easy-to-care-grow houseplants. Garden with me!

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