Try to answer the following question – What might your apartment or office have in common with a NASA spaceship? Unluckily, the answer may be poor air quality.
Namely, indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top 5 environmental risks to public health, i.e., stagnant indoor environments actually allow pollutants to build up and stick around in greater amounts than we should be breathing in.
It is a fact that living and working in places rife with air contaminants and lacking decent ventilation can trigger sick building syndrome, leading to headaches, nausea, dizziness, and ear, eye, and nose irritation. Fortunately, NASA scientists have been working in order to understand this problem and find effective solutions. Moreover, their space-age solution was an easy one that can be used by everyone – Use houseplants to clean the air.
In addition, upholstery, furnishings, cleaning products, and synthetic building materials in homes and offices can emit various toxic compounds, such as formaldehyde. Indoor air pollution can also be triggered by molds, pollen, and bacteria, because outdoor air contaminants, for example car exhaust, finds its way into buildings. What’s more, all of these are made worse in small or poorly-ventilated spaces.
As previously mentioned, there’s an easy and affordable way to combat the presence of the yucky stuff you may be breathing in, coming right from the natural world. In other words, adding potted plants to a room has been proven to decrease the amount of air particulates (even though plants in bloom may be contributing their own compounds to the air).
Your Action Plan
Although houseplants may be intimidating to those with a “black thumb” or fear of commitment, it turns out that many plants are easy to care for—so easy, in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard to kill them. Below, we’ve pulled together a list of nine virtually-indestructible plants inspired by NASA’s research.
Each kind of plant has its own favorite environmental conditions, so look for a tag that comes with the plant or online to find out how much sunlight and water it will need. If your plant doesn’t come in a pretty pot, or if it outgrew its previous one, you can easily repot it. Just find a pot that’s at least onw inch larger than the previous container, add potting soil to the bottom, and place the plant so that the top of the soil remains at the same level as before. Finally, carefully pack potting soil around the edges of the plant and water it. Voilà!
Spider plants are among the easiest houseplants to grow, making them a great choice for beginners or forgetful owners. A fan of bright, indirect sunlight, spider plants will send out shoots with flowers that eventually grow into baby spider plants or spiderettes. Pollutants removed: formaldehyde and xylene.
There are more than 40 different kinds of Dracaena plants, making it easy to find one that’s a perfect fit for your home or office. They’re common foliage plants with long, wide leaves that are often variegated with lines of white, cream, or red. Pet owners might want to select a different plant, however, as these are toxic to cats and dogs. Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
Though the ficus is a tree in its native home of southeast Asia, when it grows indoors, it’s a hardy plant that ends up being between two and 10 feet tall. So why not get figgy with it? Grow this low-maintenance houseplant in bright, indirect light and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Although this plant has some serious air-cleaning abilities, it can also be taken outside in late spring and brought back indoors when temperatures are warm and well above freezing. Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
Peace lily plants are relatively small compared to many of the plants on this list, but they still pack some major air-cleaning abilities. Easy to grow, these plants will flower for much of the summer. Just be aware that those flowers (like all flowers) do contribute some pollen and floral scents to the air, so you may want to avoid having a room full of them. Put peace lilies in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without overwatering. Pollutants removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
These plants prefer to clean the air from a cool location with high humidity and indirect light. They’re relatively easy to grow, but they do need to stay moist. Check the Boston Fern’s soil daily to see if it needs water, and give it a good soak once per month. Pollutants removed: formaldehyde and xylene.
This is one of the hardest houseplants to kill. Although it does need to be watered occasionally, it generally prefers drier conditions and some sun. Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
A superstar of filtering formaldehyde, these palms thrive in full sun or bright light. Part of the reason they can filter so much air is that they can grow to be pretty big—as tall as four to 12 feet high, making them exciting (and pet-friendly) indoor additions. Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene.
In addition to being easy to care for, aloe makes some serious health claims. The plant’s leaves contain a clear liquid full of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and other compounds that have wound-healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and there is some evidence that aloe may help (and is unlikely to hurt) skin conditions like psoriasis . Pollutant removed: formaldehyde.