Garden Topics: Tropicals & Houseplants

Houseplants, for better health

Much More than a Pretty Face

Peace LilyNothing says soothing like the color green. And the granddaddies of all things green are certainly the members of the plant kingdom, the lungs of our environment.

Perhaps it's the calming rustle of leafy branches in the wind or a wavy sea of grass that draws us in. Either way, people and plants are universally connected and share a natural symbiotic relationship.

Emerging research suggests indoor plants are more than just a pretty face: They're good for our mind, body and soul; they keep the home or office healthier.

A Case for Indoor Plants

We are fascinated with plants and how they benefit their health and well-being.

Why are indoor plants essential, and how do they enhance lives’ and what plants work best. Well they:

  • remove carbon dioxide and airborne toxins; 
  • supply oxygen that improves concentration and our sense of well-being (allowing us to be more focused, creative, attentive, healthier and happier); 
  • provide humidity to dry rooms;
  • and add natural glamour to any space.

Hawaii OrchidsThe more time we live and work indoors, which is most of the day, the more we need houseplants surrounding us for our health and well-being. Call it a healthy "codependency" that benefits the environment and helps to improve the quality of our lives.

Most of us spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. According to the EPA, indoor air typically contains two to five times more pollutants than outdoor air and can be up to 10 times more polluted, especially if you've recently installed carpet or painted!

High-Tech Overload

Our busy modern lives depend on technology, but some ordinary products can be hazardous to your health!

Back in the '80s, Dr. Bill Wolverton, a retired NASA scientist and author of “How to Grow Fresh Air,” conducted a landmark study for NASA to find ways to clean air in space bases and vehicles. Wolverton discovered how plants improve air quality by naturally "filtering and absorbing" up to 87 percent of airborne toxins called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene, as well as tobacco smoke, all of which are found in many homes and offices. So if there is a smoker in your home, I strongly recommend the purchase of some ferns.

"Indoor plants help purge the air of airborne toxins with the same efficiency as the rainforest in our biosphere," Wolverton says.

Houseplants Do That?Office Joy

Wolverton discovered, through his more than 30 years of research as an environmental scientist with NASA and Wolverton Environmental Services, that indoor plants and their root microbes are destined to play a major role in improving indoor air quality in homes and buildings.

Houseplants clean the air by absorbing toxins into the root zone, where they're turned into nutrients for the plants. "Good" microbes found naturally in and around plant roots also play an integral role in breaking trapped chemicals down into a source of food for themselves and the plant.

"Research I've conducted has proven the ability of houseplants to remove airborne chemicals from the indoor environment," Wolverton says. "Humidity is increased, airborne microbes are suppressed and fewer dust particles are found in rooms containing plants."

To maximize fresh air benefits in the home or office, Wolverton recommends at least two or more medium to large houseplants for every 100 square feet.

Green Is in the Air

An upshot of Wolverton's research was the discovery of certain plants that are top picks for their toxin-filtering abilities, including Spathiphyllum (peace lilies), Dracaena, Philodendrons, Pothos, Spider plants, Palms, Ferns, Schefflera, Anthuriums, Diffenbachia and Orchids.

"Houseplants reduce chemical vapors emitted by synthetic materials; add healthy, microbial-free humidity to dry indoor air; and reduce airborne mold spores and bacteria," Wolverton emphasizes. These green heroes just keep doing what comes naturally.

Office Joy

Instant DecorCorporations and offices are catching on that adding indoor plants does wonders for employee health and morale. Ongoing word wide studies reveal that office worker productivity increases and absenteeism decreases when live plants are present. Plants also have a psychological and physiological calming effect that helps reduce stress and lower elevated blood pressure and pulse rates.

In addition, plants in the workplace significantly reduce "sick building syndrome," which has vague symptoms such as fatigue, headache, itchy skin and respiratory complaints.

Bottom line: Plants in the office lead to improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.

Instant Decor

Besides cleaning our air and providing oxygen and health benefits, plants add instant beauty and liven up any space.

Whether in a small apartment or spacious home, indoor plants fill up spaces with aesthetically pleasing color and texture. They look great on windowsills, in corners, grouped together or anywhere your customers might want the soothing effect of green and instant glamour — at a reasonable price!



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