It’s no secret that these are highly anxious times for our world. Fear of the pandemic and uncertainty about the future can be overwhelming. Social distancing mandates can be isolating and changes in everyday routine can be disruptive. While so much of what we’re used to is out of our control, there may be a simple remedy to ease stresses and worries: houseplants.
If you don’t have a houseplant, today might be the day you consider adopting one. Here’s why:
Most homes are full of harmful chemicals that can cause headaches, dizziness, coughing, sore throat, eye irritation, and more serious health issues like heart problems and liver damage.
Here are 5 chemicals in everyday products and the impact on human health, according to NASA research.
Ammonia - Found in window cleaners. Can cause eye irritation, coughing and sore throat.
Benzene - Found in dyes and detergents. Can cause eye irritation, drowsiness, dizziness, increased heart rate, headaches, confusion and unconsciousness.
Formaldehyde - Found in paper products. Can cause nose, mouth, throat and eye irritation and sometimes swelling of the larynx and lungs.
Trichloroethylene - Found in printer ink, paints and paint remover. Can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sometimes drowsiness and coma.
Xylene - Found in printing products, certain rubbers, leathers and paints. Can cause headache, dizziness, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, coma, and irritation to the mouth and throat.
The good news is houseplants act as natural air filters, cleansing the air of all the above chemicals and more. Countless studies have shown houseplants improve air quality and naturally bring light and energy to a room, which can reduce stress, improve mood and sleep, decrease anxiety, and enhance memory. Here are 5 easy-to-grow plants that are the best at filtering air:
1. Devil’s Ivy
Alternative common names: Pothos, Money Plant
Scientific name: Epipremnum aureum
Description: This climbing or trailing vine can grow "like the devil," but is usually 6 ft. (1.8 m) long indoors. Its heart-shaped leaves are marked with white or yellow.
How to grow: In bright light, its leaves will become more richly marked with yellow or white. If you grow your plant in low light, be careful not to overwater it. Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. These plants are best in hanging baskets. Periodically take the plant to the sink and spray its leaves with water. Fertilize no more than 2 or 3 times a year, and always when the plant is actively growing. If your vines become lanky, cut it back. Propagate by taking tip cuttings.
Health benefits: Devil’s Ivy is often used by Feng Shui experts to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, especially when placed near a television or wifi box. Devil’s Ivy is also a superior plant for ridding the air of chemicals like trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia.
2. Peace Lily
Common names: Spath
Scientific name: Spathiphyllum
Description: The flower stalk of this 2-ft. (60-cm) hybrid is 15 to 20 in. (38 to 50 cm) long. Its spathe is slightly scented.
How to grow: Spathe flowers tolerate medium light and average room temperatures. Water freely and provide extra humidity. Never let them become dry. Fertilize the plants every 2 weeks throughout the year, but if temperatures dip below 60°F (15.5°C) in winter, let them rest. Repot in spring, using a standard potting mixture, until your plant reaches the largest pot size you can accommodate. Then divide it or keep it in the same pot and top-dress it with fresh soil. Propagate by division. In direct sun, or if the leaves touch a freezing window, ugly brown spots may appear. Cut off the blighted leaves; new ones will take their place.
Health benefits: The Peace Lily is one of the easiest plants to care for and one of the best for purifying air. It cleanses the air of trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia and can increase humidity in a room by 5%. Consider putting a Peace Lily in your bedroom to improve air quality while you sleep.
3. English Ivy
Alternative common name: European Ivy
Scientific name: Hedera Helix
Description: The leaves of this species are typical of ivy plants — 5-lobed, dark green, and about 2 in. (5 cm) long. The leaves of varieties may be oval, pointed, heart-shaped, or erect; crinkled, crested, ruffled, or waved; and mottled or variegated.
How to grow: Although ivies will grow in a warm room, they prefer temperatures ranging from 65°F (18.5°C) during the day to 45°F (7°C) at night. In hot rooms, ivies tend to get spider mites. One way to avoid these pests is to shower your plants in the sink regularly. Bright light and normal room humidity are satisfactory. Water thoroughly, but let the soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Pinch back new tips to encourage bushiness and fertilize in spring and again in summer. Repot whenever necessary, using an all-purpose potting soil. Propagate from tip cuttings.
Health benefits: English Ivy can improve symptoms of allergies and asthma. The plant rids the air of trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. It can also reduce mold in a room by as much as 78%.
4. Snake Plant
Alternative common names: Mother-in-Law's Tongue, Saint George’s Sword, Viper’s Bowstring Hemp
Scientific name: Sansevieria Trifasciata
Description:This cultivar has lemon-yellow bands along the edges of the leaves. It grows to a height of 18 in. (45 cm). It is the most popular of the snake plants.
How to grow: These plants tolerate almost any level of neglect. They do very well in average room temperatures and in direct sun to medium or even low light. The only thing they cannot stand is overwatering. The lower the light, the less water they need, and the soil should always be allowed to dry out between waterings. From spring to fall, feed with half-strength fertilizer once a month.
Health benefits: Snake plants produce extra oxygen at night, which can improve sleep. They also help clean the air from trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene.
5. Red-edged Dracaena
Alternative common name: Dragon Tree
Scientific name: Dracaena marginata
Description: These handsome foliage plants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and grow in different ways. They are among the most reliable of indoor plants, no matter how dark or sunny your home, you could easily find the right place for each of them. They range in size from 18 in. (45 cm) to 6ft. (1.8 m); the larger ones are particularly attractive when young.
How to grow: Bright light but no direct sun is best to keep the leaves colorful, but dracaenas often do quite well in medium light, too. Like most foliage plants, they appreciate extra humidity. Water them freely from spring to fall, keeping the soil evenly moist; in winter, let it dry out somewhat between waterings. Fertilize your plants every two weeks during the growing season. Repot using an all-purpose soil mix whenever it becomes necessary.
Health benefits: Red-edged Dracaenas reduce anxiety and improve mood by reducing chemicals including trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene.
Did you know…?
July 27 is Take Your Houseplant for a Walk Day— a holiday for proud plant parents to take their potted plant children for a stroll around the neighborhood. The idea is to expose houseplants to the outside—their native environment — and to share and seek gardening advice from neighbors.
We’re celebrating Take Your Houseplant for a Walk Day by announcing the launch of a new houseplants app, the Fieldstone Guide to Houseplants, which will feature complete descriptions, images and growing instructions for more than 300 houseplants. The app includes how to propagate, pot, and water indoor plants. The app is for everyone, from late bloomers to seasoned green thumbs.
Author: Katy Savage