Benefits of Houseplants and How to Choose One

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benefits of houseplantsWhen you embellish interior spaces with houseplants, you’re not just adding greenery. These living organisms interact with your body, mind and home in ways that enhance the quality of life. Just about everyone knows that plants are great for producing oxygen and contributing to a zen feeling in any environment. But did you know that they can clinically reduce stress, fight colds, remove contaminants, and even stop headaches? Read on to find out about the great health benefits of houseplants.

Much of the research on these beneficial houseplants has been done by NASA scientists researching ways to create suitable space station habitats. All indoors plants (flowering or not) are able to purify indoor air to some degree through their normal photosynthesis processes. But some were found to be more beneficial than others in removing harmful household toxins, even removing 90% of chemicals in the air in only twenty-four hours!

The three main household toxins of concern are:

  • benzene
  • formaldahyde
  • trichloroethylene

These carcinogenic chemicals are used in the manufacturing of synthetic substances and materials and are off-gased from new materials for some time (up to several years, depending on the material of product in question). Benzene can also be emitted from gas ranges during use, making some types of houseplants below great for use in the kitchen.

This means these types of houseplants may just decrease your risk of cancers, asthma, allergies, auto-immune disorders and other diseases.

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Plants can help fight colds

Indoor plants have been shown to reduce cold-related illnesses by more than 30%. This is due to their effect of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.

Plants can remove airborne contaminants

We breathe the same air again and again, potentially inhaling harmful substances that are trapped inside. Indoor plants can help to remove pollutants including VOCs that cause headaches, nausea, and more.

Plants can stop your headaches

Filling your home with plants can decrease or eliminate headaches. With plants, you’re much less likely to be breathing the kind of stuffy, stale air that contributes to headaches.

Plants can make you happy

House plants can contribute to a feeling of wellbeing, making you calmer and more optimistic. Studies have shown that patients who face a garden view in their hospital rooms often recover more quickly than those facing a wall.

Plants can improve your mental health

Caring for a living thing can help when you’re depressed and lonely, giving you a purpose in life.

Plants can decrease your blood pressure

People with plants in their homes have less stress, and plants have been known to contribute to lower blood pressure.

Plants can reduce carbon dioxide

During photosynthesis, plants draw carbon dioxide from the air. Removing this substance can help prevent drowsiness from elevated levels.

Plants can offer treatment

Some indoor plants, like aloe, can be applied to skin and offer pain relief.

Plants can prevent allergies

Exposing children to allergens such as plants early in life can help them build a tolerance and immunity to the allergen. It works like a custom allergy shot, naturally.

Plants can negate cigarette smoke

If you are a smoker or live with one, a plant may help you remove the airborne chemicals from cigarettes. In particular, the Peace Lily is a good choice for this health benefit.

Plants can make your brain work better

Potted plants and flowers can improve your idea generation, mood, and more.

Plants provide clean air

In addition to filtering chemicals, plants also put out clean air, improving the air quality around them.

Plants can clear congestion

Eucalyptus in particular can help clear phlegm and congestion from your system. In fact, eucalyptus is often found in congestion remedies.

Plants are natural humidifiers

Instead of buying a humidifier machine to soften the air, just bring in a plant or two.

Plants can improve your sleep

Gerbera daisies give off oxygen at night. Filling a vase in your bedroom with these flowers can improve your night’s rest.

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How Many Plants?

The recommendations vary based on your goals.

  • To improve health and reduce fatigue and stress, place one large plant (8-inch diameter pot or larger) every 129 square feet. In office or classroom settings, position plants so each person has greenery in view.
  • To purify air, use 15 to 18 plants in 6- to 8-inch diameter pots for an 1,800-square-foot house. That’s roughly one larger plant every 100 square feet. Achieve similar results with two smaller plants (4- to 5-inch pots).

Remember that for the best success with any houseplant, you need to match the right plant to the right growing conditions. For low light situations, choose a plant adapted to those conditions.

Tips for Choosing and Caring for Your Plants

Below you’ll find the common name and botanical name of each plant, its benefit to you and your home and a few ideas of the type of care it needs.

Along with a corresponding photo and the following tips, you can decide which plant is best for your home.

  • Choose one 10- to 12-inch potted plant per 100 square foot of your home for the most effective air purification.
  • Cross-reference several care guides to check for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Because common names can very, be sure to cross-reference the botanical name of any plant you get to ensure it will do the job you need it to do.
  • Consider where you might place your plants and the amount of sun they will receive to ensure your plant will thrive in that area.
  • Make note of the water needed and write it on a calendar so that you can keep the watering schedules balanced.
  • Periodically dust the leaves of each plant with a damp cloth to ensure proper absorption of air particles and toxins.
  • Keep their soil replenished with rich compost or compost tea. Avoid non-organic or synthetic fertilizers.
  • Whenever possible, capture rainwater for your plants. All types of houseplants thrive best with natural sources of water.

IMPORTANT: Please note that these houseplants are good for purifying air, but that doesn’t mean they are safe for pets or kids who like to put things in their mouth.

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But What Kind Of Plant?

Peace Lily
Common Name: Peace Lily
Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum sp.
Benefits: Known for removing benzene, a common household chemical and known carcinogen. It’s also said to remove mold spores in the air, making it great for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms; purifying the air of trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents; and removing alcohols, acetone, and formaldehyde.
Notes: Easy to care for, it prefers lots of water, less often and bright, indirect light.
Common Name: Mums
Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum sp. or Chrysanthemum morifolium
Benefits: Very effective at removing benzene, a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) associated with most chemicals, plastics, cigarettes and off-gasing. Also removes trichloroethylene (found in solvets and cleaners), formaldehyde and ammonia.
Notes: Likes partial sun, and lots of water. Although they’re among the houseplants that clean the air, they only flower once and are generally annual plants, especially when planted outdoors.
Moth Orchid
Common Name: Moth Orchid
Botanical Name: Phalaenopsis
Benefits: Said to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldahyde commonly off-gased from paints, solvents and other synthetic materials.
Notes: Thrives in high humidity, lots of light (but not hot, mid-day sun) and thorough waterings with, unlike many types of houseplants, almost complete drying out between.
Marginata or Dragon tree
Common Name: Marginata or Dragon tree
Botanical Name: Dracaena marginata
Benefits: Known for purifying the air of the carcinogen, benzene, commonly found in the off-gasing of synthetic materials, ciagerette smoke and other household chemicals. Also known for removing formaldahyde, xylene (found in varnishes, paints and paint thinners) and trichloroethylene (found in solvents) from the air.
Notes: It requires little attention, tolerates dry soil and irregular watering and prefers no direct sunlight. It is, however, susceptible to fluoride toxicity (so fluoridated water sources may need to be avoided).
Janet Craig
Common Name: Janet Craig
Botanical Name: Draecana deremensis
Benefits: Lady Palm is said to be a good overall air purifier, removing most air pollutants.
Notes: Prefers indirect sunlight, and watering without fertilizers.
Golden Pothos
Common Name: Golden Pothos
Botanical Name: Epipremnum aureum syn. Scindapsus aureus
Benefits: NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldhyde. Also known for removing carbon monoxide and increasing general indoor air quality.
Notes: Needs less water in colder temps and partial sun.
Gerbera Daisy
Common Name: Gerbera Daisy
Botanical Name: Gerbera sp. or Gerbera jamesonii
Benefits: NASA says this plant is fantastic at removing benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical. It also absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep!
Notes: Likes bright light
Ficus Alii
Common Name: Ficus alii
Botanical Name: Ficus maeleilandii alii
Benefits: Said to be a great overall air purifier.
Notes: These types of houseplants love indirect sunlight; be careful not to overwater. Those with allergies to latex may react to this plant!
English Ivy
Common Name: English Ivy
Botanical Name: Hedera helix
Benefits: It’s known for removing the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, detergents, pesticides, and the off-gasing of other synthetic materials, is said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies and also removes formaldehyde.
Notes: Can be invasive, making it great for a potted plant.
Dwarf Pygmy Date Palm
Common Name: Dwarf/Pygmy Date Palm
Botanical Name: Phoenix roebelenii
Benefits: Said to remove formaldehyde and xylene (a chemical found in plastics and solvents) from the air.
Notes: Loves lots of sun, moist soil and warm water.
Chinese Evergreen
Common Name: Chinese Evergreen
Botanical Name: Aglaonema sp.
Benefits: Emits high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde, benzene or other toxins.
Notes: Does well with full shade and good draining; variegated plants need more sunlight. The sap of this plant is considered poisonous and is an irritant.
Baby Rubber Plant
Common Name: Baby Rubber Plant
Botanical Name: Peperomia obtusifolia or Ficus robusta
Benefits: These houseplants clean the air by emitting high oxygen content, and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldahyde or other toxins.
Notes: Likes filtered light, infrequent watering and rich soil. I’ve found conflicting information as to whether or not this plant contains any poisonous parts.
Areca Palm
Common Name: Areca Palm
Botanical Name: Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
Benefits: General air purifier, especially as it grows larger. It’s known for being one of the better performers in purifying the air.
Notes: Moderately drought tolerant and prefers partial sun and well-drained soil.
aloe vera
Common Name: Aloe Vera
Botanical Name: Aloe barbadensis
Benefits: Not only can it be used for burns on the skin, it is also known to remove formaldahyde from the air.
Notes: Needs well-drained soil with slight drying between waterings, full sun is best with protection from high heats. Although largely known for its healing properties, it is considered to be an irritant to some.
Schefflera or Umbrella Tree
Common Name: Schefflera, or Umbrella Tree
Botanical Name: Brassaia actinophylla
Benefits: Said to remove benzene (a carcinogenic substance) from the air.
Notes: Can be toxic to pets and children. Prefers bright but indirect sun and lots of water and humidity.
Kimberly Queen Fern
Common Name: Kimberly Queen Fern
Botanical Name: Nephrolepis obliterata
Benefits: These types of houseplants clean formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene out of your home.
Notes: Prefers bright but indirect sunlight, with dry soil between waterings (but not dry for too long).
Lady Palm
Common Name: Lady Palm (plus 10+ varieties)
Botanical Name: Rhapis Excelsa
Benefits: These types of houseplants are said to be a good overall air purifier, removing most air pollutants.
Notes: Prefers partial sun all day and shade in the winter, with more frequent water in hotter months, but never allow to sit in water or be overwatered.
Boston Fern
Common Name: Boston Fern
Botanical Name: Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis
Benefits: Said to act as a natural air humidifier, removes formaldahyde and is a general air purifier. Said to be among the best in air purifying houseplants.
Notes: Likes bright light and damp soil but can be tolerant of drought or partial light.
Warneckii or Dracanaena warneckei
Common Name: Warneckii or Dracanaena warneckei
Botanical Name: Dracaena deremeusis or Dracanea deremensis warneckei
Benefits: Known for removing trichloroethylene, a chemical found in many solvents, dry cleaning solutions and refrigerants. Also said to remove benzene, a carcinogene.
Notes: Moderate sun and water needs, but, like most types of houseplants, dislikes sitting in water. Avoid fluoridated water sources.
Corn Cane
Common Name: Corn Cane or Mass Cane
Botanical Name: Dracaena massangeana or dracaena fragrans Massangeana
Benefits: Known for removing formaldahyde and known generally as one of the houseplants that clean the air.
Notes: Does great with low light and low water.
Bamboo Palm
Common Name: Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm
Botanical Name: Chamaedorea seifrizii
Benefits: According to NASA, it removes formaldahyde and is also said to act as a natural humidifier.
Notes: Likes bright, indirect light and prefers to remain moist but not too much and doesn’t like sitting in water.
Snake Plant
Common Name: Snake Plant
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Benefits: Found by NASA to absorb toxins, such as nitrogen oxides and formaldahyde.
Notes: It tolerates low light levels and irregular watering (and needs only a few waterings throughout winter).
Weeping Fig
Common Name: Weeping Fig or Ficus Tree
Botanical Name: Ficus benjamina
Benefits: Known to remove common airborn toxins and increase oxygen levels.
Notes: Prefers bright light and sun, but is also shade-tolerant. Moderate water needs for these types of houseplants.
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