While in isolation, many of us turned towards tending to indoor plants as a way to slow down and relieve stress, realising the wellbeing benefits they bring. But let us not forget their incredible ability to purify the air – yet another reason to bring nature indoors with a few potted pals (if you weren’t hooked already!).
Working on The Plant Life Balance simple science report, it looks at 101 reports spanning 50 years of research on plants and their ability to impact air quality and wellbeing. The studies show that our indoor plant pals can remove between 75-90% of airborne toxins depending on the plant and type of pollutant – pretty amazing stuff. But how do they do this? Simply – or not so simply – by breathing.
As you may remember learning from your (hopefully loved) science teacher in high school, most plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen during the day, a key input into the process of photosynthesis. This, to put it plainly, is how plants feed themselves. But it’s not only CO2 that is absorbed but other gases as well, like formaldehyde, benzene, and other pollutants and small particles found in everyday life.
These toxins and small particles affect our health, especially if you are sensitive to dust, or to chemicals. The ability for plants to help with this is dependent on each person and their condition. To name one example; for the average person, formaldehyde can often lead to headaches, tiredness, eye and skin irritation, and more. Formaldehyde in your home will come from furniture, gas stoves, smoking, and household products like your beloved shampoo, body wash, or even that tube of unassuming toothpaste!
The plant takes these in, and like us humans, either metabolises them, stores them, or disposes of them. By adding one medium-sized plant to a medium-sized room the air quality is already improved by 25%. With five or more medium-sized plants improving air quality by 75 percent and being the magic threshold that leads to people feeling healthier and happier.
It is also important to have a diverse range of plants. When styling your plants be sure to mix and match with a variety of size, colour and leaf shape. And while a single plant will make a difference, because there are many different toxins and many different plants it is difficult to say which plant is “best”. In general, the below easy-care plants are a good place to start and are known for their ability to clean air.
While it doesn’t need a lot of light, which means it’s good for indoors, the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue can handle full sun so feel free to put in harsh direct sunlight where other plants may perish. They can tolerate dry conditions once established, but enjoy small, regular drinks in the early stages.
This hearty plant can grow almost anywhere and will quickly cover any surface with their aerial roots. They can work well indoors as hanging plants. Water often until established, then watch them grow very quickly.
This much-loved succulent enjoys full sun or part shade, so try popping on a windowsill in the sunniest room of the house. They like weekly water in summer, less in winter, and can handle neglect.
So, with all this time spent indoors, it might just be time to up the air quality in your home with a few more plants! You can pick the above up from any nearby nursery.