Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Top 10 Houseplants to clean the air in your home


Did you catch last night's Channel 4 Dispatches program on air pollution ahead of the Royal College of Physicians report due to be published today? It was quite an eye opener. And recent research shows that there's alarming levels of indoor pollution as well as outdoor pollution that we are exposed to.  In the experiment in the show, simply using the kitchen cooker resulted in more pollutant than you might expect to be exposed to on a busy main road.

Pollution and poor air quality has long been linked to asthma, but new research goes further and suggests that not only could it exacerbate it, but it may actually be the cause of it.  Breathing in poor quality air is also linked to higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, and in experiments carried out by Professor Sunya, air quality significantly impacts on children's concentration, memory and therefore their learning. 

Indoor pollutants have long been known about, especially in areas with high levels of electronic equipment - why do you think office complexes take out expensive contracts with horticultural companies to have houseplants installed?

But even in your home, TVs, furniture, soft furnishings, carpets, kitchen equipment, cleaning products, DIY materials and paint can all contribute to polluting your air.

Right now you are probably breathing in benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene and ammonia.  These toxic chemicals are found in household items and have such side effects as headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, irritation to the nasal passages and eyes, drowsiness and dizziness as well as more serious long-term effects.

But fear not!  Some time ago NASA (that's right - NASA the space people!) carried out some scientific research to find the plants which were most effective at filtering out harmful toxins and provide us with cleaner air.  

If you have pets or are worried about children ingesting any part of the plants, then those considered to be non-toxic are the spider plant, the gerbera and the bamboo palm.

Here's the low-down on the top 10 commonly found houseplants and their air-purifying abilities:

1. Peace Lily


Latin name - spathiphyllum.  The ever-popular housewarming gift.  A great low-maintenance houseplant, thriving in shade and will only need watering about once a week.  Peace lilies are however poisonous to both humans and animals so do take special care if you have children or pets.  This is a big-hitter in air cleaning terms, filtering out formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, tricoloroethylene and ammonia.


2. Ivy



Latin name Hedera Helix. Commonly found in the UK, The English Ivy is a great trailing plant to have either as a hanging plant, or for displaying at height. The leaves are poisonous so be sure to keep it out of reach of pets and children.  A great air purifying plant, it is known to filter formaldehyde, xylene, benzene and tricoloroethylene as well as carbon monoxide.

3. Mother-In-Law's Tongue

Latin name - sansevieria trifasciata. Also known as snake plant.  The variegated leaves add interest, and the structural shape works well in modern interiors.  Another low-maintenance plant, it will only require watering every few months over winter. It's found to be good at filtering out formaldehyde, xylene, benzene and trichloroethylene.

4. Aloe Vera


Latin name - aloe barbadensis.  I can't walk past one of these without offering a hearty 'aloe Vera' greeting, but besides that this is a hugely beneficial plant in terms of it's medicinal benefits.  Great for soothing skin ailments and sun burn, the juice is also great for digestion and gastric complaints. Being a dessert plant it requires very little maintenance. It has great toxin filtering abilities too, tackling formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and ammonia.

5. Flamingo Lily

Latin name - anthurium andraeanum.  This bold tropical plant with it's striking scarlet waxy flowers is definitely a statement plant. Cleans toxins formaldehyde, ammonia and xylene from the air.

6. Gerbera


Latin name - gerbera jamesonii.  Great for adding a pop of colour in your home with it's bright and cheery flowers.  This daisy is popular as a cut flower, but far better to have it as a houseplant than in a bouquet as it will clean the air of formaldehyde, xylene and trichloroethylene.

7. Rubber plant

Latin name - ficus elastica.  The large, striking waxy leaves and upright growth make this a great statement houseplant. The rubber sap released when the plant is cut or bruiesed is poisonous to humans and animals.  It's useful for filtering carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

8. Spider Plant

Latin name - chlorophytum comosum. Every home in the seventies had one, this is such a giving plant, sprouting off free 'babies' from the ends of it's leaves. They are easy to propagate and you could keep all your friends in free plants too.  Spider plants are good at removing poisonous gases, so useful to keep near your boiler or any gas or real fires where carbon monoxide can be produced. Shown to filter xylene and formaldehyde. 

9. Weeping Fig
 

Latin name - Ficus Benjamina.  This structural plant is more of a tree than a simple pot plant, so it will provide a striking focal point in a room. The milky sap inside the leaves and stems is toxic. The Weeping Fig with it's glossy leaves is effective at filtering formaldehyde and xylene.

10. Bamboo Palm



Latin name - chamaedorea seifrizii. This is the perfect houseplant if you want an exotic, tropical look. Originating in South America, this plant became popular with the Victorian Brits.  It's useful for filtering xylene and formaldehyde. 



So, not only will having live plants in your house improve your mood and your decor, but they could have a positive effect on your health too.  Do you have any of these plants in your home?  Were you aware of these added benefits?

26 comments:

  1. I couldn't watch the Dispatches programme as I thought it would freak me out too much, I am however going to buy some Aloe Vera plants today :-)

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    1. It was really interesting and there's lots on the news today as the RCP report is out. Enjoy your aloes - don't forget to say 'aloe' to them!

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  2. It's not something that I ever think about but I can see how house plants do improve mood and clear the air. Growing up I remember my parents had a Mother-in-Laws Tongue plant and I always used to laugh at the name!!

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    1. Yep, it's definitely worth getting a pot plant or two!

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  3. I love houseplants but they have to be resilient because I forget them because I'd rather be out in the garden! Some nice easy suggestions here though, I'd forgotten how lovely a weeping fig is, I think I really need one in my life!

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  4. We have a peace lily and spider plants always remind me of my parents. I do have a habit of killing mine sadly, although my orchids are going strong

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    1. I have to admit, I'm not great with indoor plants - low maintenance are the way to go!

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  5. I have gerberas in our house almost constantly - but you know what I realised as I was reading? My Granny used to have every one of those [except the gerberas] in her house! Now I know why!

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  6. I was aware that having living plants in the house had lots of benefits although I am also very good at killing off anything green I come near (apart from spider plants they seem to thrive with me!). I think I will having another go with the peace lily as I do love these and gerbera they always make me happy x

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    1. Spider plants are a great option! And virtually indestructable too!

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  7. My mum used to grow aloe vera in her little apartment, I am sure she still does. Romanians also love rubber plants(we call the ficus, ha!). Romanians do not suffer from asthma to the same degree the British do, I am sure partly because the weather is drier and partly because they all have plants in their homes.xx

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  8. A really interesting read and something I hadn't really thought about. I love peace lilies and actually seem to be able to keep them alive so I will have to look into getting another.

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    1. Glad you found it useful! I once managed to keep a Peace Lily alive for 3 years - very proud of myself!

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  9. This post has really made me think. We don't have any plants. Going to buy one or two of these! x

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  10. I need to get more plants in our home. I try to make sure that we have a balanced environment. We use toxin free cleaners etc and candles are one of the biggest culprits, which surprised me.

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    1. Yes, candles and air fresheners can be big culprits.

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  11. I just can't seem to keep plants alive in our house but this has made me think maybe I should try again....

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    1. I've had this problem! I need to factor watering into my routine, like water them when I change the beds, or when I clean the bathroom. Means I don't forget!

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  12. I used to have a house full of plants before I had kids, Yucca's, Mothers tongue, Umbrella, cheese ... they all disappeared in one way or another.

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  13. I missed that programme but it sounds scarily fascinating, and important to know too. Thanks for listing these plants, I'm not very good at keeping indoor plants alive but I might try harder now I know just how useful they are.

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