January provides a time for renewal. After the excitement and yes, stress, of the winter holidays it is nice to have time to unwind, sit back and relax. At the same time once all of the trimmings and decorations are put away for another year there is an opportunity to renew the indoor landscape. Adding some houseplants to your home (and/or office) can create a beautiful, relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere which can help improve your health, both physically and emotionally. And a few green plants are a relatively inexpensive way to change your décor.
Studies have shown that the introduction of plants into an office has a positive impact on employee disposition, perception and productivity. Plants reduce the noise level and provide a barrier to distraction. In the presence of green living things employees were less stressed, more relaxed and more centered. Green plants in the office can also reduce absenteeism — in one study by more than 60% — when compared to offices without plants. One reason for that could be that plants release 97% of the moisture that they take in into the air. Plants have been shown to reduce dry, dehydrated skin and throats and coughing. Plants also have the ability to reduce molds and bacteria in the atmosphere as much as 50-60%. It stands to reason that green plants can serve the same purpose for us in our homes.
Blooming potted plants and common houseplants also help clear indoor air pollution. NASA conducted extensive research to determine ways that the air quality could be maintained in the International Space Station so that it would be safe for habitation for extended periods of time. Over two years they studied 19 plants and found that plants were able to scrub harmful gasses from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis.
We know that plants have the ability to take carbon dioxide from the air and return oxygen; but the NASA studies showed that they also can remove benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, three of the worst offenders in newer homes and offices. (Note: none were effective in removing cigarette smoke). These chemicals ‘off gas’ from synthetic materials used in modern construction and contribute to what is referred to as ‘sick building’ syndrome. The release of these volatile, organic compounds (VOC) can cause nausea, headaches and red itchy eyes. While most of us in Camden do not live in homes with new construction, we do introduce some synthetics into our homes with new carpeting, paints or other construction materials. Add to that the recent trend of tightening up our homes for energy efficiency and we could be producing a toxic atmosphere in our homes, especially in winter when we stay in our closed-up houses. The presence of houseplants can help improve the health of our homes and ourselves.
True houseplants are really tropical or subtropical plants that usually live in low light conditions in the rainforests. We keep them indoors because they are not hardy in our climate. Not all houseplants were tested by NASA and of those tested not all were equally effective on all pollutants. It is suggested that16 to 18, 6” to 8” potted plants will help to cleanse an 1800 square foot house.
Some of the tested and recommended houseplants are: English ivy; aloe vera; spider plant; golden pothos; peace lily; bamboo or reed palm; weeping fig (Benjamin Ficus); Dracaenas — Red Edged, Cornstalk, ‘Janet Craig’ and ‘Warnecki’; and philodendrons- Heartleaf, Elephant Ear and Selloum. Most of these should be available in our local greenhouses – at least the ones open in the winter. Pick up a couple, and improve your interior landscape, attitude and health over the next couple of months.