How Your Indoor Plants are Saving Your Life
When we think of plants, the first things that come to our mind are wood, food, herbs and all the other resources they provide that we can see. Not Plants that absorb carbon dioxide!
However, there’s so much more to plants that we don’t even talk about.
If you were paying any attention in high school biology class, then you already know how important plants are to the atmosphere and our ecosystem as a whole.
If not, then you’re the reason we made this post.
While we are busy releasing carbon dioxide when we exhale, and other harmful substances into the air through our domestic and industrial activities, plants are the ones that show up to save the day.
In this post, we would be discussing in detail the work that plants do for our ecosystem and the ones that do the most work in this regard.
Table of Contents
Plants That absorb Carbon Dioxide
How does this work? Photosynthesis. To a lot of people, this is simply a term used to describe the process of plants making food for themselves. However, it’s much more than that.
Basically, plants absorb carbon dioxide and other toxins in the air like carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde (which are common domestic pollutants).
Through photosynthesis, they break down carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) molecules to release energy (carbon) and oxygen.
The other toxins that cannot be converted or absorbed are released through the root of the plants into the soil.
Microbes in the soil then decompose these substances and convert them to nutrients.
Generally, indoor plants or outdoor plants do more than just add beauty to your home and your yard.
They’re also working really hard to save your life.
According to several studies by NASA, various plants have been tested and proven to be good purifiers for the air especially in your home.
Plants That Keep the Air in your Home Clean
After several conclusive experiments, some of the indoor plants that will do a great job in purifying the air in your home include:
Pollution Eating Plants
⦁ Ficus Robusta (The Rubber Fig): The rubber plant does excellent work in removing toxins (especially formaldehyde) from the air in your home.
In addition to protecting your respiratory system, they are also incredibly easy to grow.
They require minimal light and a little fertilizer in the summer to thrive and if supported right (usually with a stake), the rubber plant is a good addition to your living room if that’s the look you’re going for.
If you have children that are in their “get into everything phase”, you may want to think twice on this one because rubber leaves are toxic when ingested.
The rubber fig removes carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis. For toxins, the process is slightly different.
As it absorbs air for photosynthesis, the toxins are absorbed as well. Its wide leaves make it possible to absorb a large volume of air at once.
This means that it purifies the air in a shorter amount of time. As with all plants, water is drawn from its roots and air is pulled downwards to the soil.
When the toxins in the air get to the soil, they are broken down by microorganisms in the soil.
The end products are either harmless substances or nutrients for the plants. Either way, the air is all the better for it.
⦁ Rhapis Excelsa (The Lady Palm):
The Lady palm is one that is native to Asia. Its thin evergreen leaves make it the perfect ornamental plant for your living room or bedroom window.
Its ease of care and ability to thrive in low light situations make it a favorite for several home gardening lovers.
In addition to being plain beautiful, the Lady Palm has been proven to rid the air of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene and ammonia.
In caring for the Lady Palm, make sure that the soil is always moist but never soggy. Also, remember to go easy on the fertilizer as this could permanently damage the plant.
Try to keep it out of direct sunlight because this could be really harmful especially for the leaves and remember, the Lady Palm takes a while (sometimes up to 7 years) to get to full plant size.
So take your time, your baby will definitely grow up.
Plants that Absorb More than Carbon Dioxide
⦁ Philodendron: The Philodendron has over a hundred species all of which are native to South America.
The natural filter is known to remove carbon dioxide and formaldehyde from indoor air. In addition to saving your life, it is also a very beautiful plant to have in your living room.
Just like the rubber plant, its wide leaves make it a very efficient air purifier.
One thing to note about the philodendron is that they are creepers and they can grow really high so where you place it is very important.
It should be placed in a spot that gives it enough room to grow while not being exposed to direct sunlight.
The philodendron may be a little high maintenance as cheap garden soil has been proven to not exactly be a perfect choice for it.
You could find lightweight soil that can hold moisture and nutrients for a little while.
You should also introduce a little fertilizer every now and then.
Some of the more popular and conventionally attractive philodendra species include: Philodendron imbe, Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Philodendron erubescens, Philodendron lacinatium, etc.
Note: If your philodendron grows too high, you can always trim it without fears of damaging the plant.
Best indoor plants for air purification
⦁ Areca Palm:
More commonly known as the Butterfly palm, this plant is native to Southern India and the Island of Madagascar.
It belongs to the same family as the Lady Palm.
Just like its sister, the Areca Palm is one of the most effective natural air purifiers.
They remove toxins like carbon monoxide, toluene and xylene.
In addition to this, this plan is not to transpire very heavily (you know, the plant version of sweating) thus making it a very good humidifier for dry weathers.
Unlike the other plants that have been discussed so far, the butterfly palm can actually survive direct sunlight.
They also need lots of moisture and very little fertilizer to grow.
All of this and more are reasons why the Areca palm is popular in tropical regions of the world.
The Areca plant can grow up to 7 feet indoors. So make sure the pot is big enough to accommodate its roots and the ceilings high enough to accommodate its length.
⦁ Dracaena Deremensis:
The Dracaena Deremensis is also popularly called the Janet Craig. It is a member of the Asparagus and it is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical climates (especially Africa).
This plant is one of the few plants that effectively remove trichloroethylene from the air.
It is readily present in cleaning solvents.
When we inhale this substance, it depressed the central nervousness system leading to headaches, dizziness, or even unconsciousness.
In worst case scenarios inhaling increased amounts of trichloroethylene could depress the circulatory and respiratory systems ultimately leading to death.
Therefore, having the Janet Craig in your living room may pretty much be saving your life.
Cultivating the Dracaena is a relatively easy process.
Make sure to keep your soil well drained but always moisturized.
They do not do well with direct sunlight. However, if they do not get enough light, new leaves may start to narrow.
One thing you should know about the Janet Craig is that it is toxic to pets. Especially cats and dogs.
So if you’re one who loves to have your pets running around. You may need to be extra strategic with where you place this plant.
⦁ Peace Lily: Because of its distinct white flowers, the peace lily has been a common indoor plant for centuries.
Native to South America and Asia. The peace lily ranks high above the list of indoor plants, you should have in your home.
In addition to removing good old carbon dioxide, the peace lily also gets rid of toxins like benzene, acetone, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene etc. (all of which are found in common household substances) from the air.
During photosynthesis, the peace lilies absorb air through their leaves. And send the toxins down to their roots where they are absorbed into the soil.
Microorganisms in the soil then break down these substances to nutrients and other harmless substances.
Also, Peace Lilies transpire a lot thus acting as the perfect filter-humidifier combo.
When caring for Peace Lilies, be careful not to over water them.
This mean that routine watering may not be the way to go. Just check them regularly and only water them when the soil has started to get a little too dry.
Also, like several other plants in this post, peace lilies do not need direct sunlight.
In fact, the more sunlight you expose your Peace Lily to, the more likely it is to be ugly. (And we definitely don’t want that).
Note: This plant is toxic and should not within easy reach of pets and children.
Indoor plants that clean air and remove toxins
⦁ Ficus Alii: The Ficus Alii is one of the various species of the fig plant.
It is native to China and Southern Asia.
This plant, like the others on this list, removes carbon dioxide and other chemical vapors from the air in your home.
Ficus plants thrive best in indirect but bright light.
Exposing them directly to sunlight may damage their leaves.
Be careful not to water them too much and more importantly, keep your pets and children from ingesting them.
⦁ English Ivy: Of all the plants in this list, the English Ivy is probably the wildest and most aggressive plant.
If you pay enough attention to your surroundings. You’ve probably noticed a climbing plant with heart shaped leaves on walls and fences.
It most likely was the English Ivy.
This plant is wonderful in so many ways. As it does not just remove toxins (like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide etc.). It also absorbs feces that just happens to be floating around in the air.
With this plant you have to be extra sure it’s what you want because it can grow and spread out of your control.
It is also toxic to humans and animals when ingested and its sap can lead to extreme cases of contact dermatitis. However, with enough attention, care and constant pruning, you can keep it in check and prevent any casualties in your home.
⦁ Chinese Evergreens:
As you can tell from the name, Chinese evergreens are native to China and other parts of Central Asia.
They are very easy to cultivate as they can thrive in low light and drought conditions.
However, be sure to water and fertilize them every now and then.
Unlike other indoor plants, Chinese evergreens are slow growing. But the good thing is the longer they last, the more toxins they remove from the air in your home! Everyone wins.
Just like its name, this plant is evergreen. And the patches of res and pink on its leaves brighten up any room.
It also removes toxins like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene etc. from the air.
Chinese evergreens are toxic to dogs and should therefore be placed in a place they can’t reach.
From this post, we can see that indoor plants are good for more than just aesthetics and possibly food.
The plants discussed in this list have been tested and proven to improve air quality considerably.
We can also see that most of the plants require total or partial shade.
This means you should carefully choose the position you want to place it in so that you don’t end up destroying your plants.
Now while this post has discussed a lot in detail, it is not exhaustive.
Some other purifier plants you could consider instead include:
Spider plants (removes formaldehyde and xylene),
Chrysanthemums (removes formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, ammonia),
Bamboo Palm (removes formaldehyde, benzene), Aloe Vera (removes formaldehyde and benzene) etc.
So if you do not already have at least one of them sitting pretty in the corner of your living room, you may want to plan that trip to your local gardening shop.