Sunday, February 17, 2013

So Fresh and So Clean - Air Filtering Houseplants

It's a high commodity nowadays.  Fresh and clean air is becoming a limited resource in our lives and society.  We have become less connected to our natural spaces and spend more time indoors or in man-made structures than we do in the great outdoors.

The benefits of clean, unadulterated, fresh air are many from mental clarity, to increased metabolism, to improved immune system....from your nose and through your skin  and all the way down to a cellular level, we need to consider how to BEST oxygenate ourselves for optimal health and life experience.

Starting in March, I plan to go GREEN!  My focus is to bring in the benefits of green (chlorophyll and photosynthetic exchange) into my personal of which will be some additional houseplants.
Golden pothos or Devil's ivy
(Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)

Now that our children are older and less interested in eating random plants around the house, it will be a great opportunity to invite more of our green friends in to live with us and help us to enjoy to beneficial exchange resulting in cleaner air and growth for us all.

There is a list of some of the best air-filtering plants that was put together through a NASA clean air study.  These plants help to remove toxic agents from the air that tend to lead to people getting sick, especially in indoor spaces.
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

My mom had all of these plants (and more) in the house when I was growing up.  Honestly, we would play in among the plants as though we were in a jungle!  There were so many of them and it was so much fun.  Not as much fun when she had us cleaning the leaves as a keep-busy task during school breaks, but now I can appreciate it more :) .  She knew that they cleaned the air, and am I ever grateful that I got to grow up in that environment.  Now, more than ever, is the time to create an indoor "jungle" of my own.
Broadleaf Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

My family also had some of these plants planted outside (as decoration) in the tropics and I got to see how they thrived there as well.  Most of them are pretty easy to take care of and even some of the fussy ones will do well if you can get them in the right spot with the right amount of water.  You could always purchase a high quality air cleaner as well, but these add colour and interaction that a machine can't quite offer.

Flamingo Lily (Anthurium andraeanum)
 Also, household plants can contribute to increasing the negative ion balance in your home.  Electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, computers, appliances, televisions, and so much more all produce positive ions into our environment and for the most part, those positive ions will "ground" themselves on the most available and closest source of negative ions....YOU!!  That's right!  And it has been noted that excess positive ions  may be contributing to our fatigue and tiredness....(coffee anyone?!)   SO, again, plants come with another way to make our living environments that much better to enjoy.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')

The list I am referencing is available at Wikipedia that has a nice chart of what the plants filter from the air.  Here are some with images....

Pot Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
 Who knew that these mums that are available in the spring and fall in abundance at almost every place that sells flowers would be one of the best air filters for your home.  I have a few of these perennials (they come back each year) growing in my garden that I planted outside after being in the house as decoration.
Cornstalk dracaena
(Dracaena fragans 'Massangeana')
 LOL, as I child I know that I asked my mom when the corn would grow from this plant.  It was one of my favourites.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

 I had one of these while I was studying in University.  His name was Charley.  He was my friend :).  I even painted a still life with Charley as the focal point.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)
 These are very easy to find and common as well.  They are perennial (if you want to plant some outside as well) and avid creepers, so make sure you either have as a hanging plant or you can have fun wrapping it around shapes or mini trellises.

(NOTE to reader!!!  Just so you know, the reason I have NOT had a jungle environment in my home is not due to a lack of trying....I love gardening...outside.  But I have not been the most successful at growing indoor houseplants.  I will admit, I am not the most thoughtful to my houseplants...I like plants I don't have to water much or worry about humidity or lighting, but I am choosing to REPENT of this in order to improve my health and quality of life inside (my house) and out.)

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata "Bostoniensis")
With the above mentioned notice, THIS particular air-cleaning wonder has been a challenge for me to grow.  I think it's mainly due to the fact that we keep our home pretty cool, especially in the winter, and these are tropical plants, preferring higher temperatures.  BUT they are supposed to be low maintenance (like my sons' hair ) and my mom grows these successfully in her home, so its not that hard.  Low light and moderate watering and they take care of themselves for the most part.  Giving this one a go again this year.

Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
 Love that these plants (in the right place) will produce many little "babies" that you can transplant or share with friends.  The more the merrier :)
Lilyturf or Monkey Grass (Liriope spicata)
 Similar in look to the spider plant and creeps like grass.  I would give this a rectangle pot to spread out in.  Again, grows well enough inside and out and enough to share with friends too.

Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue
(Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')

One word to describe these plants...HARDY!  Even though they are tropical plants, these are extremely LOW maintenance, so if you feel that you struggle with the lives of little green friends, this should be your first choice.  Give them enough room and they will grow and grow.  We have had these plants for over a decade (two of them)...moved in all seasons with it's original pot (I'm transplanting this year...promise!).....travelled and forgot to water... keep our home at cool temperatures...and have stuck them in the most awkward of corners and they are STILL ALIVE!  The kids have even pulled them out of the soil a few times...these are a must in my books (and they don't bite or talk ;) ).