Foliage With Flair

We all know houseplants bring style and substance to any home or workspace - enhancing the look and feel, creating comfort and calm. The health benefits of indoor plants, however, aren’t quite so well understood.

Let’s start with the bad news. Modern living and the materials used in construction and fitout have caused a significant increase in toxins within our indoor spaces. Any number of ‘nasties’ can be found in the average home or workplace. Trichloroethylene is commonly found in varnishes, paints and adhesives, while formaldehyde is often present in carpets, furniture, and foam insulation. Benzene can be found in the likes of plastics, synthetic fibres and detergents. There’s considerable debate about the impact of chemicals like these, but many people believe that they can create health issues ranging from asthma and nausea to chronic illness. It’s hard to get around having those toxins in our lives as using completely natural materials can very challenging and expensive.

The good news is that, in 1989, NASA discovered that some houseplants have the ability to effectively filter the air and remove pollution, resulting in a significant improvement to indoor air quality. Houseplants do this by absorbing harmful gases through their leaves and roots and the microorganisms that live in the soil help neutralise volatile, organic compounds and other pollutants. Studies since then have shown that plant-filtered rooms have 50 to 60% less airborne microbes (like mould spores and bacteria) and that houseplants are not only a natural, cost-effective and therapeutic way to reduce toxins in our air,  they’re also able to improve people’s mood, increase productivity, enhance concentration and memory and reduce stress and fatigue.

But which houseplants to choose? Here are 10 of the best air-purifying houseplants you can buy locally:

1 - Rubber plant / Ficus Robusta 

Ficus Robusta featured very highly on NASA's scoring due to their amazing ability to remove formaldehyde from indoor air, while requiring less light than many other plants. These plants are very fashionable right now, boasting structural beauty and easy-care characteristics.

2 - Peace Lily / Spathiphyllum

These low maintenance beauties remove both formaldehyde and benzene from the air, as well as acetone - a carcinogen commonly found in nail polish and paint. Capable of lifting humidity levels of a room by up to 5 percent, they’re ideal for dry environments like office spaces.

3 - Golden Pothos / Epipremnum Aureum

These also rank very highly on the list of effective air purifying plants. They are capable of removing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air. Vining or trailing with their distinctive leaf markings, Golden Pothos are easy-care and can survive well in low-light.

4 - Dracaena Warneckii

Dracaena “Warneckii” effectively removes benzene from the air and is popular with the plantscape industry, thanks to their ability to survive the low-light conditions and dry air of commercial office buildings.

5 - Heartleaf Philodendron / Philodendron Cordatum

This gorgeous vining or trailing plant can remove formaldehyde from the air and is also very popular for its easy-care characteristics and ability to cope with low light situations. 

6 - Snake Plant / ‘Mother in Law’s Tongue’ / Sansevieria

These plants are hugely ‘on trend’, thanks to their striking, strong lines and easy-care requirements while also being hugely effective air purifiers as they remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. Great to have in the bedroom because, while some plants take in oxygen during the night, the snake plant continues to emit oxygen, naturally refreshing the air while you sleep.

7 - Aloe Vera

This plant can remove Benzene and Formaldehyde from the air. Famously, Aloe Vera gel contains a myriad of healing properties providing a range of benefits such as aiding digestion and helping heal cuts. Aloe Vera also releases oxygen during dark hours, leaving your night-time air fresher and cleaner, encouraging more restful sleep. It looks great and is notoriously easy to care for too!

8 - ZZ Plant / Zamioculcas zamiifolia

Even if you neglect them and keep them in a low-light room, there’s a good chance these drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, super-cool looking succulents will do just fine. Zamioculcas helps to maintain balanced internal humidity and can reduce the concentration of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) in indoor air. 

9 - Kentia Palm / Howea Forsteriana

One of the most graceful and popular palms, the Kentia is tolerant of most indoor environments and is great at removing chemical toxins and releasing moisture into the air. 

10 - Spider Plant / Chlorophytum Comosum

The humble Spider Plant is, in fact, an amazing natural air purifier. NASA’s study showed that these plants can remove up to 90% of formaldehyde in the air surrounding them. They are another very low maintenance plant, able to thrive in a wide variety of conditions.

Sounds easy, but there is a catch! Many indoor (and outdoor) plants might be dangerous to children or pets in certain circumstances. Be sure to research your plants carefully, and get the right ones for your situation.

Plants 1-10 available from Plant Love.

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2 - Peace Lily/ Spathiphyllum and other plants available from Tumbleweed.

09 422 7338

939 Matakana Road, Matakana 

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