Houseplants offer more than comfort and pleasure. Through studies plants have proven to help in stress relief and happiness. They also help improve the air in buildings, which is a big concern in the last few years with building being more airtight.
The EPA has done numerous studies over the last 25 years that have shown levels of over 100 known cancer-causing agents in modern homes and offices. The presence of these VOC’s (volitile organic compounds) are due to the switch from open windows to energy efficient living and working environments. These changes occurred in the 1970’s.
Modern building methods and products have resulted in energy efficient homes and offices but the new airtight buildings retain harmful chemicals and without fresh air becomes a place where disease can spread.
Some building have become so contaminated that they are referred to as “Sick Buildings.” First signs of a problem are when numerous people come down with multiple symptoms.
Scientists and doctors can not ay at this time the long term effects to people from long term exposure and contact to these cancer causing VOC’s found in modern buildings today.
NASA research suggests indoor house and office plants may reduce substantially the amount of exposure to common VOC’s. Experiments have proven plants help replenish fresh air supply and the indoor quality of the air.
Researchers have identified several varieties of houseplants that excel in removing chemical pollutants from the air.
The most effective in removing formaldehyde were golden pothos, philodendron and spider plants.
Two common flowering varieties were the most efficient at removing benzene are gerbera daisy and chrysanthemum (mum). Mums come in summer and fall varieties so it is possible to have flowers and colors most of the year. They are also easy to care for.
The chrysanthemum and peace lily removed the highest percentage of trichoroethylene. Peace lilies have an elegance to them that do well in offices and businesses. Placed in a grouping of plants they are inviting.
All plants utilize carbon in the process of producing new growth so are effective in removing low levels of carbon monoxide.
Other varieties found to be especially effective in cleaning air are bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, dracaena, English ivy, and snake plants (mother-in-law’s tongue).
All plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis so any plant you choose will increase the concentration of oxygen in their immediate surroundings.
Research has proven one large plant per 100 square feet of space is sufficient to clean the air in an average home or office. So offices and businesses with more heavily polluted air require a greater concentration of plants.
How to care for your houseplants
Most of the houseplants listed above are relatively easy to grow in moderate to bright indirect sunlight or under florescent lighting. It’s best to avoid windows or glass doors where sunlight shines directly on the plants. Two exceptions are the flowering mums and gerbera daisy, which thrive in sunlight.
Dracaena, Ivy, palms, philodendrons and spider plants are all susceptible to spider mites. To prevent spider mites mist often and avoid hot, dry air. Setting the pots in trays of pebbles in water will provide moisture around the plants. This is a healthier way to supply moisture to the plants. Make sure the bottoms of the pots are above the level of the water.
Most of all take precautions not to over water plants. Over watering is the most common cause of houseplant deaths. Chinese evergreen, Golden pothos and snake plants should not be misted and should be allowed to dry out between watering to keep the roots healthy.