Advancements in building technologies have brought us much in the way of conveniences and efficiencies that we greatly appreciate in our homes. The climates within newer buildings are much more controlled and secure than older structures with the improved insulation and building techniques now available. For the most part, these building “improvements” are well received; however, they also present some real (and generally unpublicized) challenges to our health and well-being.

Living within a tightly sealed environment certainly makes for lower energy costs but doesn’t allow for harmful chemicals from our indoor spaces to escape. Where do these toxic chemicals come from? Paint from your walls, particle board from your cabinetry, carpet and flooring adhesives, furniture finishes, upholstery sealants... there are countless sources of harmful chemicals. One of the most common toxins found in household air is formaldehyde, an organic compound that may cause cancer in humans and has been known to trigger allergic reactions when present at higher levels.

So much for the doom and gloom. There is a simple and inexpensive solution to filtering formaldehyde and other harmful toxins from your home - houseplants. 

In an environmental analysis for the space station, a NASA study revealed a list of houseplants that naturally filter harmful toxins from indoor air. Just 12 small plants (6-8” pots) can clean the air of an 1800 square foot home. 

Following is a list of houseplants that can help cleanse and purify the air in your home:

Ferns are one of the most popular houseplants and they require higher humidity that most other plants.  Turn up your humidifier or locate your fern in the bathroom where more humidity is naturally present. 

Palms are very popular and there are many distinct varieties available.  Some stay smaller like a Parlor or Bella Palms while others grow quite large like Areca or Majesty Palms.  All palms prefer higher light areas and like to dry out between waterings.

Philodendron is a group of very tough plants, some small and vining and others that form a more bush-like shape. They can take some sun but are better in low light areas in your home.

Rubber plants tolerate lower light conditions than most other plants making them a popular selection.  Available with green, red or white variegated leaves, this tropical tree can live for many years.

Dracaeana is a diverse family of tropical plants with many colors, shapes and sizes available.  They tolerate a wide range of conditions making them very durable and long-lasting houseplants. 

Ivy is a great plant for the windowsill, mantle or bathroom counter. This draping plant prefers good light but no hot sun and will benefit from a regular shower under the faucet to rinse off its leaves and provide additional humidity.

Peace Lily is one of the most popular houseplants due to its versatility and durability.  It tolerates all but the extremes of light and dark, cold and warm and the beautiful white flowers are an extra bonus. 

But wait... there’s more!!!  More benefits of being surrounded by houseplants that is. Plants can make you heal quicker, according to researchers at Kansas State University, where patient’s recovery rates were quicker and required less pain medication in rooms with plants. Patients with plants were also found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without. 

A Dutch study discovered that adding plants to the workplace decreased fatigue, colds, headaches and flu-like symptoms. Another Norwegian study of the workplace noted a 60% drop in rates of sickness in offices with plants. 

These studies make me wonder why anyone working in a greenhouse could ever be sick, depressed or distracted, but we’ll have to let that rest for now!

What I am sure of is that there are many terrific reasons to add plants to your indoor living spaces. During the winter months, while outdoor gardening is not such an attractive option, bringing the garden indoors can help enrich our lives and enhance our homes.

Now come inside and play in the dirt!