Gardening

7 air-purifying plants for your home

By: Erica Rae Chong

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Vacher/ Flickr Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photo courtesy of Stephanie Vacher/ Flickr

Gardening

7 air-purifying plants for your home

By: Erica Rae Chong
How clean is the air in your home?
 
If you live in a newer energy-efficient building, chances are, not very.
 
While airtight insulation might equate to savings on your hydro bill, it can also reduce fresh air exchange and can trap chemicals that off-gas from furniture, paint, carpets and home electronics.
 
In fact, according to NASA research, nearly one-third of new and remodelled buildings have a degree of indoor air pollution that could take a toll on the health of their inhabitants. That research also indicates that ordinary houseplants could play a role in mitigating pollution.
 
In its clean air study, NASA lists some common chemicals that may be in your home and seven air-purifying plants that can remove them.
 
Formaldehyde: The most prevalent indoor pollutant, formaldehyde is often found in foam insulation, particleboard and pressed-wood products, resins, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and heating and cooking fuels such as natural gas and kerosene. Formaldehyde irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat.
 
Benzene: A solvent commonly found in household items such as ink, oil, paint, plastic and rubber, benzene is present in car exhaust and is also used in the manufacture of detergents, pharmaceuticals and dyes. Exposure can irritate eyes and skin, and studies have linked it to leukemia.
 
Trichloroethylene (TCE): The National Cancer Institute has deemed TCE a potent liver carcinogen, but it's still widely used by dry cleaners and found in inks, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives.
 
Xylene and toluene: These two chemicals are sometimes found in nail polishes, adhesives, lacquers, paints and paint thinners. Exposure to either xylene or toluene may result in blurred vision, difficulty breathing, headaches, vomiting and convulsions.
 
Ammonia: This chemical is commonly found in household cleaning agents, particularly glass cleaner. Ammonia irritates eyes, skin and the mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

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7 air-purifying plants for your home

1. Potted chrysanthemums

"Mums are one of a few flowering plants that purify the air," says Shelley Elgar, seasonal plant product manager at Sheridan Nurseries. "They are the bestselling plants that flower year-round and provide a brilliant display of colour in your home or office." According to NASA, out of 12 different plants studied, potted mums removed the greatest variety of chemicals from the air. Removes: Ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene Care instructions: Full sun. Water well-drained soil thoroughly, allowing it to dry between each watering.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Biswarup Ganguly/ Wikimedia Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

2. Peace lily

"Peace lilies are another great option if you're looking for a flowering air purifier," says Elgar. "Their blooming period comes and goes, but they have great foliage and the flowers can get quite big." While the peace lily is a seasonal, easy-to-maintain bloomer, pet owners should avoid this particular plant, which is poisonous to cats and dogs. Removes: Ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene Care instructions: Low sunlight. Water when the surface of the soil is dry.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Tahmid Munaz/Flickr Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

3. Snake plant

Also known as mother in law's tongue (draw your own conclusions), the snake plant is especially effective in removing formaldehyde from the air, according to NASA research. Elgar describes the hardy, low-maintenance snake plant as the perfect choice for a novice. "Snake plants tolerate very low light conditions and don't need a lot of watering, making them popular household and office plants," she says. What's more, unlike most vegetation, snake plants don't require sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. That means they continue to clean the air all through the night! Removes: Benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene Care instructions: Low to moderate sunlight. Water when the surface of the soil is dry.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: James A Artis/ Flickr Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

4. English ivy

"English ivy is hardy and is a very quick grower," says Elgar. "You can cut off a segment, stick it in the ground, and it will still sprout." It's so tenacious, in fact, that it's been known to crowd out native plants if not kept under control. That's why it's best to keep it out of your flowerbeds and instead contained in a hanging basket or planter pot. Removes: Benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene Care instructions: Moderate sunlight. Water when the surface of the soil is dry.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Nociveglia/ Flickr Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

5. Red-edged dracaena (Madagascar dragon tree)

If you love dracaena, opt for this red-edged variety, which Elgar says is the easiest to grow. It doesn't require much attention and has been found to be one of the most effective plants at removing xylene and trichloroethylene. Although this slow grower can eventually reach heights of up to five metres, it's usually more compact when grown indoors. Removes: Benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene Care instructions: Low sunlight. Keep soil evenly moist from spring to fall and drier in winter.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Stephanie Vacher/ Flickr Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

6. Gerbera daisy

Available in a variety of punchy shades, gerbera daisies not only inject colour into a room, but they remove formaldehyde and benzene—both found in car exhaust. In fact, in a NASA study of 12 different air-purifying plants, the gerbera daisy topped the charts for the removal of both chemicals. Removes: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene Care instructions: Full sun. Water well-drained soil thoroughly, allowing it to dry between each watering.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Jenny-Spadafora/ Flickr Credits: Canadian Living

7 air-purifying plants for your home

7. Broadleaf lady palm

You've probably seen the broadleaf lady palm in offices and shopping malls. This flowering palm can grow up to four metres but, like the red-edged dracaena, it tends to be smaller when grown indoors as a houseplant. In a study of 12 air-purifying plants, NASA identified the broadleaf lady palm as the most effective in removing ammonia. Removes: Ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene, xylene Care instructions: Moderate sunlight. Water well-drained soil thoroughly and keep moist. Check out these 5 healing plants you need in your garden.

By: Erica Rae Chong Source: Mauricio Mercadante/ Flickr Credits: Canadian Living


Check out these 5 healing plants you need in your garden.
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