Brighten the Season with Houseplants

Sunday, December 16th, 2007 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose living Christmas trees now. Most will be able to be kept in their containers and used for one or two more years as a Christmas tree.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.
    • Evergreen hollies are handsome shrubs year-round. Their red berries are colorful in winter and provide decorative sprays for the indoors.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Wild bird feeders will attract migrating birds so you can enjoy the pleasure of their company.

Houseplants for Fresh Air

Living plants serve many purposes in the home. They are aesthetically pleasing and add to the atmosphere in any room. They soften the corners of the room or the furniture, and they add fresh oxygen to the indoor environment.

In addition, plants have been shown to actually clean the air. Experiments at NASA have shown that plants break apart the chemicals most commonly released by plastics, paints, synthetic carpets and cleaning supplies. Because high levels of synthetic chemicals can affect astronauts aboard space stations, NASA investigated plants as potential air purifiers.

They found that certain plants can be used to target specific chemicals. The Boston fern, for example, removes the most formaldehyde — a chemical used to preserve carpeting, upholstery fabrics and the foam in mattresses and couch stuffing. Spider plants target benzene, the chemical released from house paint.

Many synthetic materials are used in modern homes, and a lack of air circulation combined with increasing levels of synthetic toxins can create an unhealthy environment, especially in the winter when we keep our houses closed up tightly. This situation has become known as “sick building syndrome.”

If you live in a newer, energy-efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where the air feels stale and circulation seems poor, the liberal use of houseplants seems like an easy way to help make a dent in the problem.

For an average 12-by-12-foot room with standard levels of chemical toxins, two or three healthy plants will usually do the job. Stand a large dracaena in the corner and place a peace lily and a palm next to it, or hang a Boston fern in one corner and let a golden pothos trail over the end table.

For the most benefit, group plants in areas where you spend the most time, like in the bedroom or next to your favorite chair. Place a plant or two on your desk at work to clean the air and brighten your spirits.

The following plants are most effective in removing potentially harmful chemicals from the air in your home: Dracaena, English ivy, weeping fig (ficus), philodendrons, rubber plant, spider plans, peace lily, ferns, palms, snake plants and Chinese evergreen.

Houseplants reduce stress and help people relax, feel calmer and more optimistic.
Not only do they target the invisible chemicals right under your nose, they also increase the overall quality of your life.