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Houseplants provide style and health benefits in your living spaces

  • **FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** This undated photo shows a spider plant in a hanging basket. Spider plants can become pale and overgrown if not taken care of properly. (AP photo/Lee Reich) Lee Reigh—ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aloe vera plants can help purify the air in your home, release oxygen and can be used as a burn lotion. BELOW LEFT: A spider plant in a hanging basket. Spider plants can become pale and overgrown if not taken care of properly. (AP) BELOW RIGHT: The split-leaf philodendron has a hardy disposition, tolerating low light, dry air, and neglectful watering. pixabay.com and AP file

  • This photo taken June 30, 2008 shows the split-leaf philodendron. Like a real philodendron, split-leaf philodendron also has a hardy disposition, tolerating low light, dry air, and neglectful watering as well as any other good houseplant. (AP Photo/Lee Reich) Lee Reich—AP



For LiveWell
Thursday, March 02, 2017

Sure houseplants are pretty and often remind us of spring, but do you know they are actually good for you as well? Houseplants have been going in and out of fashion since Greek and Roman times.

The Victorians loved their potted palms and it wouldn’t have been the 1970s without ferns and spider plants, right?

Maybe it’s the minimalism we are all trying to bring into our lives these days that causes us to go easy on the “green stuff,” but whether you prefer to house a lonely little succulent or a huge areca palm that takes up half your living room, “green is good.”

Health benefits of houseplants

Better breathing: Having plants in your home assists breathing because when you exhale, you are releasing carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, thus increasing our oxygen levels which our bodies really appreciate.

Illness deterrents: Plant roots take in the water we give them, which evaporates through their leaves in a process known as transpiration. This increases the humidity in your home, helping to decrease dry skin and lessen the incidences of colds, sore throats and dry coughs. Research also shows that the presence of higher humidity in our homes helps decrease the survival and transmission of the flu virus.

Air quality: Plant leaves and roots can improve indoor air quality as they are able to absorb and retain trace levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde that may be present in your home.

Patient healing: It may seem like a flagrant nod to the local florist, but bringing a plant or a floral arrangement to a patient in the hospital is touted by experts as being a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.”

Studies indicate that a patient’s ability to view plants while recovering from surgery led to significant improvements in patients’ physiologic responses. Lower systolic blood pressure and lower readings of pain and anxiety were recorded. And patients exhibited less fatigue compared to patients who did not have any plants in their room.

One prominent university actually utilized horticulture therapy where recovering patients were asked to care for plants they provided them with during their hospital stay. The study revealed that patients who physically interact with plants have a significantly reduced recovery time following medical procedures.

Work performance: A number of studies with both students and workers revealed that either studying or working in an area where plants are visible can have a pretty dramatic effect on their study or work performance. Experts call it “under the influence of plants.” In a sense, being in the presence of plant life provides the student or worker with a feeling of being among nature. Concentration, memory and productivity tend to improve and memory retention can increase by as much as 20 percent.

Indoor gardens

The 10 best houseplants to de-stress your home and purify the air, based on NASA’s extensive research of air quality in sealed environments, are:

Aloe: The gel of the aloe plant has a number of healing properties, is good for soothing skin burns and cuts, and it can also monitor the air quality of your home. It can help clear the air of pollutants found in chemical products, and if the volume of harmful chemicals in the air becomes excessive, the plants’ leaves will display brown spots. Aloe grows best in sunny spots.

English Ivy: NASA scientists list this old standby plant as the “number one best air-filtering houseplant” because it is the most effective when it comes to absorbing formaldehyde when present. It is incredibly easy to grow and very adaptable, growing best in moderate temperatures and medium sunlight.

Rubber Tree: Good for cleaning the air, it is also a powerful toxin eliminator and air purifier. It is one of the easiest plants to grow as they thrive even in dim lighting and cooler temperatures.

Peace Lily: Lilies can reduce the levels of a number of toxins found in the air. (They are a low maintenance green plant with lovely white blossoms that do well in the shade and at cooler temperatures.

Snake Plant: Sometimes called Mother-in-law’s Tongue, this plant absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen during the night. Most plants do so during the day, so this plant would be particularly good for a bedroom. Snake plants do not need much light or water to survive.

Bamboo Plant: Bamboo has a purifying score of 8.4! It is particularly effective at clearing out benzene and trichloroethylene. Bamboo plants need to be well-watered and placed in shade or indirect sunlight.

Philodendron: Particularly good at absorbing xylene, philodendron are easy to care for and can last a long time. They need only moderate watering and sunlight.

Spider Plant Very effective at fighting pollutants, including benzene, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and xylene, spider plants are a common but much-loved houseplant. They are decorative and easy to grow.

Red-Edged Dracaena: This beautiful, vibrant plant removes xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde from the air and can grow to be ceiling-height. It grows best in sunlight.

Golden Pothos:  The cascading pothos plant has the ability to clear formaldehyde from the air. It grows easily in cool temperatures with low light.

Some colorful, flowering plants that are great for removing pollutants are chrysanthemum, gerbera daisy and azalea.

So make your home healthier and more beautiful at the same time by decorating with a little green. You don’t have to live in a jungle to reap the benefits of these air purifying gems – just a few strategically placed plants to look at, care for and maybe talk to. You will find clear instructions for every plant on the insert that comes with every pot.

(Joyce Kimball is a member of the Bow Garden Club and a UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener.)