Indoor gardening with one goal: to improve air quality at home

“Despite the Gardener’s Best Intentions, Nature Will Improvise” by Michael P. Garofalo – Well Known Speaker, Gardener, and Fitness Guru (1945-Present)

CONTEXT

With the outdoor growing season now officially over in our area, you can still continue your gardening hobby by switching to growing indoor plants. It’s a great way to keep your green thumb active. But did you know that in addition to decorating rooms, indoor planters can also be used to help control indoor pollution, whether in your home or office?

HOW HOUSE PLANTS CAN IMPROVE INDOOR AIR QUALITY

Very simply, plants can produce cooler air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis and is made possible by the absorption of gases by plants through pores on the surface of their leaves.

In the 1980s, NASA scientists, led by Dr. DC Wolverton, conducted experiments that confirmed that many indoor plants are able to reduce levels of potentially harmful gaseous contaminants. Interestingly, NASA scientists have determined that plant roots, leaves, and microorganisms in plant soil all help remove harmful trace gases. As a result of this work, plants are included in space stations to help reduce trace contaminants. Other researchers from universities such as Michigan State, Michigan State, Pennsylvania State and Minnesota have reviewed the NASA experiments and confirmed the results.

NASA EXPERIENCES APPLIED TO YOUR INDOOR ENVIRONMENT

While NASA experiments were designed to improve life on space stations and biospheres, our homes contain many of the same unhealthy chemicals that NASA was able to eliminate almost completely from space habitats. These contaminants are found in the materials we use every day. Some examples include plastics, paints, furniture and carpets. In addition, present in our homes, there are traces of chemicals that we use to clean and maintain our home. Materials release volatile gases into indoor air.

Some of the gaseous contaminants include:

• Carbon monoxide – which is present as a result of burning a car or heater, as well as any cigarette or cigar smoke.

• Benzene, present in the house’s inks, oils and pigments. It is also found in gasoline and many pharmaceuticals.

• Formaldehyde, present in many paper and wood products, kerosene and even cigarette smoke.

• Trichlorethylene (TCE) present in inks, paints and adhesives.

• Xylene present in rubber, leather, printing inks and many cleaning products.

HOW HOUSE PLANTS ARE ABLE TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTANTS

DL Brown – an educator at the University of Michigan Extension – describes the effectiveness of NASA plant experiments by explaining that most houseplants evolved from rainforests where they received filtered light by the branches of taller trees. These houseplants can then photosynthesise in low light conditions often found in home conditions, while effectively absorbing air pollutants.

WHICH HOUSE PLANTS ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE

Here is a summary of nine of the most common houseplants that have been shown to reduce pollution.

• SNAKE PLANT: This plant is effective in filtering formaldehyde. It releases oxygen at night and absorbs carbon dioxide and is particularly easy to maintain – requiring minimum lighting and infrequent watering

• SPIDER PLANT: Spider plants are effective in removing traces of formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide.

• ALOE VERA: This plant is ideal for eliminating traces of formaldehyde and benzene. In addition, it is a medicinal plant that contains gel in its leaves and is very effective in treating burns and superficial cuts on the skin. It requires only indirect light and requires infrequent watering.

• PHILODENDRON: Is effective in absorbing formaldehyde. It has the potential for a long life, needs moderate watering and some sun.

• ENGLISH IVY: Another easy to grow formaldehyde absorber with moderate temperatures and medium sunlight required.

• BAMBOO PALM: Is effective in minimizing carbon monoxide, xylene, benzene and formaldehyde. It is an ideal natural humidifier for areas of the home where the air is drier.

• CHRYSANTHEMUM: Seasonal flower effective in eliminating xylene, ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. It prefers bright light but not direct sun.

Two additional herbs that are not as readily available in our area but are very effective are:

• GERBER DAISY: Effective in removing carbon dioxide, trichlorethylene (TCE) and benzene. With its large, colorful flowers, it is also a great decorative option.

• WARNECK DRACAENA: Can help remove traces of benzene and TCE. This plant requires minimal light and is effective in average room temperatures.

HOW MANY HOUSE PLANTS DO YOU NEED

Based on NASA experimental work, it is recommended that you need 15-20 good-sized healthy houseplants in 6-8 inch diameter containers spread throughout an 1800 square foot home to improve the air quality. Also be sure to use non-plastic containers for your plants to eliminate gases that can form from plastic pots.

A mix of the houseplants discussed above can give you a great combination of improved air quality paired with unique decor accents.

KEEPING HOUSE PLANTS HEALTHY

Your indoor plants will look and do their best to improve the air quality in your home keeping them healthy. If you buy healthy plants from reputable nurseries or garden centers and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, your new plants will have the right amount of water, proper lighting, fertilizer, and pest control to perform at their best. .

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