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Garden: 11 pretty plants to purify the air and improve your health

Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada
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Topics covered: Plants, air purifying, indoor gardens.

Everyone knows that “new car” smell: fresh upholstery mixed with plastic and a certain chemical “je ne sais quoi”. Just like a brand new car, the materials in your home – from carpeting to varnish to cleaning products – influence your environment, exercising an effect on the air you breathe. It’s easy to detect these changes in air composition when you buy a new plastic shower curtain, only to discover that your bathroom reeks of vinyl for the next two weeks. 

Of course, when it comes down to it, you’re not actually smelling vinyl: you’re smelling a compound of both organic and inorganic substances, some of which fall under the term “VOC”, or Volatile Organic Compound.

Learn more about these VOCs – and the best plants for reducing the amount of them in your home – in this artcile!

​What’s a VOC?

In addition to containing commonly known substances such as oxygen and hydrogen, VOCs can include benzene, formaldehyde, and a host of other—more toxic—compounds. They are often released into the atmosphere when fuel or gasoline is burned, conveniently arriving to your home in the form of solvents, glues, thinners, air fresheners, aerosols, degreasers, paints, and more.

​Why should I care?

In your home, VOCs are known to cause or agitate health problems, contributing to migraines, fatigue, and even damage to internal organs. Adopting your approach to certain household chemicals and building materials is a good way to reduce the VOCs floating around in your house. You can also clean your air by bringing plant life into your home – plants use many of these VOCs as food, removing them from the air in your home. So, there’s one more reason to bring more plant life into your home environment – aside from the positive visual effects of greenery, in the long-term, those green leaves might do a whole lot for your health.

​Does it matter which plants I get?

Yes. Just as different people have different tastes, different plants like to consume different compounds: Dracaenas are often found in offices, as they survive well without much fuss. Try a Janet Criag or Warneckei dracaena. There’s another dracaena commonly referred to as a “Corn Plant”, and these are also very low-maintenance and effective at reducing VOCs. 

Gerber daisies, often seen with brilliantly colourful, dyed petals, are also efficient consumers of VOCs.

For a low maintenance option, try a Kimberly Queen Boston fern: there’s a good reason that ferns have survived since prehistoric times.

Also try: Bamboo

Bamboo grows quickly, and therefore is also an effective consumer of VOCs.

This clever interior courtyard offers plenty of vertical space for the bamboo to reach an impressive height! The design professionals behind this project are worth a second look – this interior was awarded as a Best of Canada 2016 by the Best of Canada Design Competition. Tour the full interior in this ideabook: Step inside of of Canada's best designed homes of 2016.

Ivy

classic Bathroom by Custom  Media
Custom  Media

Natural bathroom

Custom Media

English ivy is an excellent choice for someone looking for low maintenance indoor gardening – just make sure there’s a space for the ivy to either climb or hang, as the vines will quickly outgrow the boundaries of its pot.

Palms

Lake of the woods cottage living room: modern Living room by Unit 7 Architecture
Unit 7 Architecture

Lake of the woods cottage living room

Unit 7 Architecture

There are several palms that are effective for cleaning your air: try a dwarf date palm, bamboo palm, or lady palm – but beware! These palms can grow to a height of ten feet when well cared for. Many palms are tolerant of both shady and full-sun locations, so these are good additions to rooms at either extreme of the spectrum.

Figs

A weeping fig is a bit more picky, but when kept undisturbed in full sunlight, this popular indoor tree is known for its long life (and effective VOC reduction!). A living room with large, sunny windows is a perfect location for a weeping fig.

​How many air purifying plants do I need?

minimalistic Corridor, hallway & stairs by Connox
Connox

Gaia selbstwässernde Gewächsschale von Holmegaard

Connox

It’s recommended that you have two or three plants for every 100 square feet of your home. That said, in a 10x10 foot area, you’ll want at least two plants. In many urban apartments, this means having two or three plants in each room.

Does size matter?

Yes, size matters. The pot for your plant should measure 8-10 inches, giving the plant enough room to grow large – bigger surface area on leaves means better filtration for your air. 

Will I notice the difference?

It depends. If you have the recommended amount of plants in your home, your little green friends should do their work in about a week. You might notice a change in the scent of your home’s air, but it’s more likely that any changes will be undetectable (after all, when was the last time you were able to say, “Hmm, that smells like styrene… ”?). However, if you have been experiencing unexplained sleeping problems, fatigue, headaches, or dizziness, keep an eye on your symptoms. It could be that you notice an improvement after several weeks of living your newly purified, plant-filled environment.

Share your comments on these indoor plant ideas and tips below!
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