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The Top 10 Houseplants for Filtering Indoor Air

August 4, 2009 11:13 by human

Indoor air pollution is a common problem in today's world. Even in the cleanest homes and offices, numerous synthetic toxins can be released from paints, carpeting, furniture, and even cleaning products, and they can actually pose a great threat to you and your family's health.

Though the options for purifying your indoor air are numerous, one of the greenest ways to rid your home or office of indoor air pollutants is by placing various houseplants every 100 sqare feet. Be sure to keep some of these living greens around to limit the benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene you're breathing in every day.

1. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandens)

Description: The heartleaf philodendron is one of the most common houseplants, and it also is the best at filtering common indoor air toxins. Also known as parlor ivy, or the sweetheart vine, the heartleaf philodendron is very tolerant of a range of conditions, making it the perfect houseplant for beginners.

Care: Keep your heartleaf philodendron in regular potting soil that is slightly moist. For best results, grow in bright, indirect sunlight, warm temperatures and low humidity

2. Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron Domesticum)

Description: Also known as spade leaf philodendron, the philodendron domesticum is best known for its narrow, arrow-shaped leaves that can be anywhere from 18 to 24 inches long. The philodendron domesticum flowers with white and green blooms, and can climb to a considerable height with support.

Care: The elephant ear philodendron grows best in moderate temperatures and light conditions. Regular potting soil that is kept moist and allowed to dry between waterings is best.

3. Massangeana (Dracaena Fragrans)

Description: Also known as the corn plant, or variegated dragon fly, this member of the Agavaceae family grows slowly and is characterized by central yellow stripes on each broad leaf. The dracaena fragrans also bears inconspicuous fruit and flowers periodically throughout the year.

Care: Keep your dracaena fragrans in moderate to warm temperatures and out of direct sunlight. The dracaena fragrans should be planted with regular potting soil and watered often so soil is always thoroughly wet or moist.

4. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Description: English ivy, also known as Canary Island ivy, is best known for its dark veined, distinctive leaves. Though it does not flower, the climbing vines of the hedera helix can be trained to form topiaries or allowed to cascade over pots. Though this plant is very effective in ridding indoor air of toxins, it is also very susceptible to pests and survives better outdoors.

Care: The hedera helix requires fresh air and bright sunlight. It also must be kept in cool to moderate temperatures and moist potting or gardening soil.

5. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

Description: Native to South Africa, spider plants are very easy to propogate and are probably best known for smaller plantlets ('spider babies') that hang from the larger rosette. Spider plants sprout long, grass-like leaves, and flower small, white buds.

Care: Spider plants fare well whether indoors or outdoors as long as they are kept in a moderately cool environment and have access to direct sunlight. The chlorophytum comosum grows best in regular potting soil that is kept evenly moist.

6. Janet Craig Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis)

Description: The Janet Craig dracaena is an easy to maintain, slow grower of houseplants. Known for large, glossy leaves that originate from a central stem, this houseplant can grow very tall, and works well as a floor plant.

Care: Another easy to care for plant, the Janet Craig dracaena grows best in low, or diffused, light. It can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but soil should always be kept thoroughly wet or moist.

7. Warneck dracaena or 'Warneckii' (Dracaena Deremensis)

Description: A native of tropical Africa, the Warneckii is a tree-like houseplant that can grow up to a height of 12 feet. The Warneckii is best described as a floor plant, with broad, green (or green and white striped) leaves that form a tropical cluster atop a long, thin stem.

Care: Though tolerant of drought conditions, the Warneckii should grow in a low-light area and be watered daily. This houseplant grows best in regular potting soil that is kept moist.

8. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Description: The fig, or ficus, tree is a very popular floor tree that rids indoor air of natural toxins. Though this tree can grow up to 50 feet wide and 100 feet tall, it is very well suited for inside the home for many years.

Care: The weeping fig should be kept moist, but not overly wet. If kept too dry, leaves will yellow, but if kept too wet, leaves will drop off. The ficus benjamina grows best in normal potting soil and full sun.

9. Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum Aureum)

Description: Also known as Devil's ivy, the golden pothos is a low-growing vine plant that is very easy to grow. With gold-marbled leaves, this native to the Solomon Islands has four varieties that all cared for in the same way. The different varieties include Pothos Gold, Pothos Marble Queen, Jade Pothos and Neon Pothos.

Care: This non-flowering houseplant is very tolerant, though it grows best in shaded, or low-lit areas of the home. Soil should be kept moist and allowed to dry between waterings.

10. Peace Lily or Mauna Loa (Spathiphyllum)

Description: The peace lily is best distinguished by its white, oval-shaped bloom that surrounds a white spadix. Dark green leaves can grow to more than 12 inches long, and overall height of this fragrant plant can range from one to four feet tall.

Care: Peace lilies grow best in bright, indirect light and moderate to warm temperatures. Regular potting soil should be kept evenly moist, but not overly wet. Allow excess water to drain from moistened soil. 


Purify Your Indoors with Plants

September 9, 2008 11:02 by human

If your indoor air smells all bottled up, and acrid fumes give you sore eyes and throat, dizziness or nausea, it's likely from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that "off-gas" from cleaning products, pesticides, paints, perfumes, pressed woods, carpets...oh, and nitrous dioxide from gas stoves and fireplaces. Indoor air concentrations of VOCs can be up to 10 times higher than out of doors, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Quickest remedy? Open a window. Then call in the plant squad.

Green plants are superheroes. Not only do they absorb carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, and produce oxygen, but they also do some heavy cleaning by hoovering VOCs out of indoor air. Potted plants were found to reduce toxic VOCs by 10 to 20 percent in ventilated spaces, and by 100 percent in enclosed chambers, researchers at The University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have found. At times when you need to run the air conditioner and must keep windows and doors closed to save energy, plants can really help you breathe easier.

    In various studies, the following plants have demonstrated VOC-vanquishing skills:
  • Boston ferns
  • Peace lilies
  • Kentia and Areca palms
  • Marginata
  • Janet Craig (dracaena deremensis)
  • Devil's ivy
  • Weeping fig (a variety of ficus tree)

We say, don't sweat it: Go for anything green that suits your fancy! The more the merrier (and the cleaner the air), but don't feel compelled to turn your home into a forest: One plant per hundred square feet, or strategically placed on, say, a particleboard desk, should do it.

And when transplanting, use a nice compost-fortified potting soil.