Hard working plants that clean the air

As we begin the new year, everywhere I look, there is a reminder that I need to cleanse, declutter, and meditate. These are all good ideas, but come on- I’m a gardener who likes her stuff. Before throwing in the towel and beginning to meditate, I remembered I love plants.

Plants are good, especially the hardworking ones who clean the air. Yes, they can help to create healthier air.

This is probably the only time I will reference a NASA report, but the NASA Clean Air Study published in 1989 states, “the leaves, roots, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants have been evaluated as a possible means of reducing indoor air pollutants. “

A statement like this makes me happy and gives me another reason to have an abundance of indoor plants. Other studies have said they make a negotiable difference, but I’m sticking with NASA.

The weeping fig tree is on the list of plants that aid in purifying the air. This indoor tree absorbs elements found in adhesives and paints that have evaporated into the air. The weeping fig is a common tree but is sensitive to a change in its environment. Moving it to a new location may cause the leaves to

turn yellow or drop, but with high humidity and bright indirect light, the plant should acclimate soon.

The dragon tree is another tree that works to remove pollutants from the air. Its dark green, red or yellow leaves help to eliminate formaldehyde from the air. This tree will grow in low light, but please note it can be poisonous to pets and children.

One other tree to mention is the rubber tree. The big dark green glossy leaves take the carbon dioxide we exhale and turn it into oxygen. The tree likes a regular watering schedule and well-draining potting soil. From experience, this is a very forgiving plant and will live through the most neglect of any plant I have owned.

The spider plant filters air and converts it to oxygen. It is a good choice if you have a smoker in the house (crazy, but I think some people still smoke). The easy-to-grow spider plant likes bright indirect light and soil on the dry side. Let the soil dry completely before watering, and your plant will be happy. When healthy and happy it will also produce “pups” – baby spider plants – that are easy to trim and start as new plants.

The peace lily is another popular plant that does its part to keep the air healthy. It has long dark leaves and white lily-like blooms. It likes a steady watering schedule and plenty of sunshine. If your plant begins to droop, that’s a sign it needs to be watered. Be careful; the peace lily can be poisonous.

I have peace lilies at home and in my office. Another plant that I have in several pots is pothos.

This plant cleans the air and will tolerate low light, although the leaves may be a darker green when not given enough light. Pothos is a vine that will cascade from a table or hanging basket when healthy.

You may have ivy growing indoors and outdoors. It’s an easy plant adapting to full sun or shade. Outside it works to filter exhaust fumes. If inside, be sure to spritz it daily. Ivy does not do well with dry indoor air. I have a spritz bottle in my kitchen as a reminder to give the plants a quick spray each time I feed the pup.

A few other plants to add to the clean air list are aloe, philodendron, and snake plant. 

Indoor plants do take effort and time to maintain. For this gardener, it is nice to have plants to tend to and keep healthy through the winter months – sure beats meditation.  It’s an added bonus to know they are working to keep me healthy too.