Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Benefits of Houseplants

A few, well-placed houseplants can transform a dull room into an attractive, warm environment. Plants add character, charm and beauty to a dwelling. But they do much more.  Indoor plants can clean the air and enhance creativity. Currently many hospitals encourage visitors to bring in plants. More than a cheerful greeting, plants provide oxygen to patients and cleanse the air.

The good news about these living air cleaners comes from a classic study by NASA. They found that plants can take airborne chemicals that are toxic and convert them into an energy source for the plant. The studies reported that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 % of air toxins in 24 hours. They can eliminate a variety of toxic air emissions including formaldehyde (found in particleboard, fire retardants, natural gas and cigarette smoke), benzene (found in inks and paints), trichloroethytene (found in paints and varnishes), and carbon monoxide, xylene and ammonia. The above chemicals and other nasty pollutants can also be found in carpeting and cleansers. Using a variety of indoor plants will purge many toxins from the home.

How many plants are needed to keep a home clean?  Recommendations vary from one or two good-sized plants per room to 15 to 18 plants for a 1,800 square foot house.  The point is the more house plants, the better it is.  However, having this many plants in a home could potentially produce lots of mold from the moist soil and decaying organic matter. It’s crucial not to over-water plants. Placing a layer of small gravel over the topsoil may help to minimize the mold.

Other studies have shown that indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 percent, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust. Note: this study was done at the University of Agriculture in Norway which has a very dry climate.

Indoor plants are good for businesses, too. When a manufacturing company integrated living plants into its office, company administrators noticed enhanced creativity and increased productivity in their employees.

Keep in mind, some houseplants are poisonous and should be handled with care, or not at all, especially if there are small children in the home. Some of the common, poisonous, indoor plants include dieffenbachia (dumb cane) and philodendrons. These plants contain oxalate crystals. Chewing a leaf or stem may cause mild to severe swelling and burning of the mouth, tongue and throat along with choking. If the skin is exposed to the plant’s sap, where the abrasive oxalate crystals are found, an uncomfortable skin rash can develop with burning, redness and itching.