Green is associated with healing, with life, with tranquility and it certainly is the pervasive color in our natural world. No wonder one of America's founding father's, George Washington, chose it as his favorite color!
Eating your greens is an important practice for good health but did you know those "greens" in some very common houseplants can do some pretty magical stuff besides adding to your decor scheme? A NASA study says so. The study finds that there are many varieties that are especially good at purifying our indoor air. Frequent exposure to indoor air pollutants can increase our allergen load and exposure to toxicity. Not good.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
- Many products that we use every day and materials we use to furnish our homes can contribute in a negative way to the air we breath inside our homes.
- Both formaldehyde and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) are found in them. PCB, banned from production in the U.S. in 1970, persists in such things as sealants, paints and wood floor finishes.
- Asbestos, another source of indoor air pollution that has been banned, also still lingers in older homes, insulation materials, textured paints and floor tiles.
- Formaldehyde is widely used in the building industry for materials and most commonly found in pressed wood products that are used for things like subflooring, shelving, cabinets and furniture, but it is also common in permanent-press fabrics, adhesives and paints.
Two Common Plants to Clear Indoor Air
1. Aloe Vera
The clear gel of the aloe plant has a number of healing properties you may be familiar with. Tearing off a leaf of the plants and simply cracking it open to expose the clear gel can sooth sunburns and other burns and cuts. Although I have never tried this, some drink the gel to help with digestive issues and to help detoxify the body.
But, here's the really neat part: just sitting there in your home, it can help monitor the air quality as well. The plant can help clear the air of pollutants found in chemical cleaning products. And, it get's better: when the amount of harmful chemicals in the air becomes excessive, the plants' leaves will display brown spots. Nature's own alarm of sorts.
How to Grow One
- Place your Aloe Vera plant near a window that gets lots of sun.
- Aloe Vera is a succulent and therefore stores a large quantity of water within its leaves and root system. During the winter months, the plant will become somewhat dormant and require very little moisture. Thus, watering during this period should be minimal. Allow the soil to become completely dry before giving the plant a cup or two of water.
- During the summer months, the soil should be completely soaked, but then be allowed to dry again before re-watering.
- Aloes have a shallow, spreading root system. If you need to repot the plant, choose a wide planter, rather than a deep one and one with a drainage hole, or provide a 1-2 inch layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot to ensure adequate drainage. Use a good commercial potting mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand added. You may also use a packaged 'cacti mix' soil.
- Fertilize yearly, in the spring with half strength, bloom type fertilizer (10-40-10).
- Aloe Vera plants are propagated by removing the offsets which are produced around the base of mature plants, when they are a couple inches tall (or larger). They can also be grown from seed.
2. English Ivy
NASA scientists listed the English Ivy plant as the number one best air-filtering houseplant. It is great at absorbing formaldehyde in your home. English Ivy is a great plant for your office space as well as it is also good at absorbing benzene, a toxin emitted by some paper products and office equipment and one that can break concentration by disrupting the central nervous system.
How to Grow One
- English Ivy does best in bright, but not direct sunlight.
- This plant prefers moist, humid conditions, but not soaking. Don’t let soil dry out and keep evenly moist.
- Ivy prefers cooler nights, often below 60ºF. During hot summer days, mist frequently.
- Keep the soil loose and well-drained.
- During the growing season, feed with controlled-release fertilizer or biweekly with weak liquid fertilizer.
More Air Filtering Plants
- Boston Fern
- Spider Plant
- Peace Lilly
- Dwarf Date Palm
- Kimberly Queen Fern
Check out this helpful chart with results from the NASA study for a complete list of air filtering plants and what specific pollutants they are best at clearing out.
So, do you have houseplants at your house? If not, would you consider adding a few after reading this?
For Even More On The Topic . . .
- Plants can detox your environment. But, try these little habits to detox yourself, too.
- If you like the color green like me and George, try to eat greens every day . . . or almost. Here are 6 to try and lots of ways to make them taste great, too!
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/arijitalbum/4336278181/">arijitg</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/klm_digital_snaps/557371944/">klmontgomery</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>