Indoor plants that freshen up your home

Did you know that some studies suggest that indoor plants can act as mini home air purifiers?

Having indoor plants in a house really does make a difference in any home, enhancing the environment in lots of different ways. As well as adding lush greenery, plants can add a variety of different colours and textures, and they might have health benefits too, as they work hard to freshen up the rooms they are in and, by their very nature, helping to clean the air around them.

Plants can do some very clever things. Through photosynthesis, a process we are probably all familiar with from high school biology, all plants convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen. But did you know they may also be able to cleanse the air of some cancer causing compounds too?

Results from studies can be variable, but a now pretty famous NASA Clean Air Study in the 1980s suggested that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. These chemicals can come from paints on the wall, air fresheners, carpets, cleaning products and cosmetics. In offices buildings, plants could even help to neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome. So now there is a good reason for having Floral Displays throughout your office or home space.

Called phytoremediation, this is something all plants do whether indoor or outdoor. Plants use the process to reduce pollution in the air, soil and water; absorbing these gasses through their leaves and roots. It is believed that some plants may be better at it than others and that some plants are better at tackling one type of chemical than another.

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii) came out top as one of the species that can help clean the air around it. These popular household plants are easy to take care of, and their large green leaves and large white flowers make them distinctive and attractive to look at. Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) also scored well. Another low maintenance species, spider plants grow well in indoor planters, and are extremely durable and adaptable. They also grow quickly and easily.

Dracaenas were also highlighted as very effective – particularly at tackling formaldehyde. A group of ornamental houseplant, dracaenas are actually from the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and the genus dracaena comprises of about 40 species. The Dragon plant (Dracaena marginata) and Dracaena ‘Golden Coast’ (Dracaena fragrans) are good choices, as is the plant known as Lucky bamboo (Dracaena braunii).

Already recognised for its healing effects and benefits, Aloe Vera is a distinctive looking choice that benefits your home as well. There are many different varieties of this succulent, but they are all from the family group Liliaceae.

Finally, Bromeliads also make ideal houseplants. They tend to be shallow rooted, with leaves that form cupped rosette shapes and smaller flowers. Guzmania ‘Hope’ has striking red flowers, whereas Guzmania ‘Viola’ is a bright pinky violet variation.  

When choosing plants for this purpose, it is best to pick a variety from each family for your home, as each has different strengths when it comes to tackling chemicals. Some zap one toxin better than does others. And in terms of quantities, this is also up for debate. One plant or planter per 100 sq ft is regularly talked about, but really the more you have the better results you might see.

While subsequent research has seen inconclusive results about the effectiveness of indoor plants in actual homes, many scientists and gardeners do agree that having more plants around can also reduce stress and boost your mood. So if plants are able to act as energy free alternatives to other air cleaning devices, and do all of the above, they are absolutely truly green alternatives!