|Houseplants are a beautiful addition to any home. The right plants give a home a comfortable, relaxing feel. They are also known to have positive psychological effects on the people around them. But did you know that houseplants can also be your secret weapon in cleaning and detoxifying your home?
Consider this: the air inside your home is full of toxins. From the cleaning products we use to the gasses given off by our carpets, curtains, and clothing, the air inside the average home isn’t fit to breathe. EPA studies have shown that the air inside our homes is actually more toxic than the air outside our homes. Prolonged exposure to high levels of toxins can result in increased environmental allergies, chemical sensitivities, chronic illnesses like asthma, and even cancer. Stay-at-home moms and others who work at home are particularly vulnerable to these toxins, as are small children.
Companies that sell air purifiers are well aware that are quality in the home is toxic. They market expensive products to alleviate the problem. However, these products are quite costly, require the use of energy to run, and must be maintained by replacing expensive filters. Fortunately, simple houseplants can go a long way in cleaning up the air in your home.
According to a NASA study, common houseplants are very efficient air purifiers. In just 24 hours, they can remove up to 87 percent of air-borne toxins, including tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. Over time, houseplants can not only remove the toxins, but can also increase the air quality, adding humidity, controlling dust, and providing an oxygen-rich environment for you and your family.
How many plants do I need?
In order to keep the air inside your home toxin free, you will need to choose one average sized houseplant (one in a 6” pot or greater) per 100 sq. feet of living space. A good goal is to have one plant per room of the house, with several plants spaced around larger rooms. Choose various types of plants for maximum benefit. Some varieties are known to be powerhouse air purifiers, including various forms of ivy, ferns, peace lilies, ficus trees, and palms. However, even small plants like herbs or traditional African violets can be beneficial.
If your home is small and you don’t have space for all the houseplants you need, consider using hanging planters hung from hooks secured in the ceiling. Short plants can be grouped as centerpieces on a table or tucked on a shelf on a bookcase. Many houseplants do well in low-light conditions, so it isn’t always necessary to crowd them around the windows. Most houseplants will be perfectly happy to take up residence in any unused corner of your home. If you have a very dark home, an inexpensive plant light can help to keep your plants happy and healthy.
How do I get them on a budget?
Filling your house with beneficial plants doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re on a budget, the best way to start your houseplant collection is by getting starts from your friends’ healthy houseplants. Many plants, like ferns and peace lilies, can (and should) be divided when they outgrow their pots. Other plants, like African violets or ivies, are very easy to grow from cuttings or by rooting the plant into a new pot. Take a look around your friends’ houseplant collections and ask for starts!
You may also be able to acquire houseplants at garage sales, moving sales, or on websites like craigslist.com. I “adopted” a very large ficus tree from a neighbor who was having a garage sale. The plant was in need of some TLC after a few months of neglect, but it has recovered beautifully and is now earning its keep by cleaning the air in our great room.
You can also start houseplants from seed. Herbs are very easy to grow from seed, and they have numerous benefits. You can also try growing seeds from fruits or vegetables you have purchased from the grocery store. Avocados are very easy to grow, and while they don’t make the most attractive houseplants, they do a great job of cleaning the air. Lemons and oranges can be grown from seeds, though the grocery store variety may never produce fruit (you should purchase a fruiting tree if you’d like a productive plant). Try saving seeds from your grocery store purchases and see what you can grow!
Local thrift stores and garage sales can be a treasure trove of used pots for your houseplants. Just be sure to thoroughly clean used pots before using. I like to spray mine down with a little bleach water solution to kill any pathogens that might harm my new plants. Rinse the pots well before adding new dirt.
Finally, sit back and enjoy the benefits of having green, growing plants in your home! Your family will be healthier and happier for it.
For further reading on the benefits of houseplants, or for advice on which plants to choose, please consult the book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by B.C. Wolverton.