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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Jan 18, 2012 - 8:41:37 AM

Houseplants for healthy living
By Dionne Gadsden
Jan 11, 2012 - 9:08:47 AM

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Did you know that adding a simple houseplant to your indoor space could benefit your physical, mental and emotional health?

e spend, on average, 90% or more of our non-sleeping time indoors. Continuously mindful of the dangers of outdoor air pollution; rarely do we think that indoor air can be dirtier than outdoor air. Consider this, buildings designed for energy efficiency and safety are air tight, and while keeping outside contaminates out, these sealed environments also limits the escape of indoor pollutants resulting in poor indoor air quality (IAQ).

Improve your IAQ

umerous studies illustrating the positive effects of adding greenery to indoor live, work, and play environments were sparked by the results of a ten-year NASA study that identifies specific foliage plants helpful in the removal of toxins from the air. Released in 1988, NASA scientist concluded certain leafy houseplants improve indoor air quality by filtering air through their leaves and roots. Plant leaves trap airborne pollutants and replenish our air with oxygen. A healthy level of moisture in indoor air is necessary and plants add humidity to the air through the process of transpiration.

According to the American Lung Association, indoor air pollution contributes to lung disease—asthma, respiratory tract infection and lung cancer. Inadequate indoor air quality can be responsible for chronic respiratory illness as well as nausea, dry eyes, headaches, dizziness, nasal congestion, and fatigue. You don’t have to suffer with poor IAQ. Reduce indoor air pollution and improve your indoor air quality. Use non-toxic cleaners and low-to-no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), i.e. paints, stains, and adhesives. Improve your ventilation and use vacuums with filtration but most of all; add houseplants to your indoor spaces! See the attached list and photos – all of which are great indoor plants.


Plants help heal

Modern healthcare facility designs include lush indoor green spaces. These bright sunny oases serve as additional waiting areas and respites for ambulatory patients as they continue healing. Plants help promote healing, wellness, physical growth and emotional strength—evident through the common practice of giving bouquets of beautiful flowers and foiled covered potted plants to the sick. Daniel Island Psychological Associates, LLC practitioner, Susan West, PhD, believes in the health benefits of houseplants in the indoor environment, and strongly promotes the healing component that occurs when one actually cares for their plants. "Working with plants is non-threatening. Nurturing a plant can build self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s a safe relationship, no reciprocal expectations or disappointments." Dr. West further explains that there are no negatives to caring for plants as long as the amount of responsibility is not overwhelming.

A University of Washington study demonstrated that in a windowless environment, the presence of interior plants reduces blood pressure, stress, and mental fatigue. When we perceive our surrounding as healthy, we transfer that state of well-being to our mental and physical states.


It’s a jungle in here!

Plants are sources for organic beauty and inspiration. Plants enhance our indoor environments providing focal points; greenery sets the mood of a room, softens corners and energizes a space with color and surprisingly, foliage filters noise. Houseplants add an organic layer of color to a room. Plant leaves in variations of green, can transform an unassuming space into a lived-in, vivacious, energized environment.

Designers use houseplants as design elements in interior environments and here are some ways they get it done! Place light hungry varieties under windows, where they will thrive and provide visual interest. Add even more interest by placing the same variety of plant in different containers on plants stands of various heights and materials. Try hanging varieties directly in front of a window from the ceiling at different heights to create a green curtain. To enliven a blank wall, plant small specimens in wall planters. Low-light tolerant plants, like the ficus, can soften and enliven a corner. Often finicky and temperamental to change a ficus in a good spot and will require some pruning.

If you are worried that all that green might leave you green, don’t despair, some blooming houseplants are also great for filtering the air. Gerber daises have brilliant blooms in luscious pops of color. Chrysanthemums and African violets are colorful houseplants with multiple blooms that you can mass together in a single container for a spectacular showing.

Ann O’Leary, a S.C. Certified Nursery Professional at Abide-A-While Garden Center in Mt Pleasant, recommends watering African violets very carefully directly on the soil keeping the leaves dry and green. Abide-A-While stocks a special clay pot for African violet that self-waters!

Symbolic of nature and the outdoor environment, over the past decade, the term "going green" has become a call to action for social responsibility to preserve our natural resources. Green also symbolizes fertility and fruitfulness, freshness and ecology. A positive, Zen-like feeling comes over us when we share our living space with greenery—a blanketing calm and serenity. In the age of increased concerns for sustainability and environmental issues, houseplants offer positive and holistic alternative to improving our health and preserving the living.

For more information, read: Sustainable Residential Interiors; contact: Ann O’Leary at Abide-A-While, 1460 17N, Mt Pleasant, (843) 884-9738 or Susan West, Ph.D., DI Psychological Associates, (843) 278-5402.




Healthy Air Houseplants

The following houseplants have been identified as some of the most helpful
in the reduction of indoor pollution:

Heartleaf philodendron


Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium’


Boston fern



Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’

Elephant ear



Philodendron domesticum

Cornstalk plant



Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’

English ivy



Hedera helix

Spider plant



Chlorophytum comosum

Janet Craig dracaena



Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’

Weeping fig or Ficus



Ficus benjamina

Golden pothos or Devil’s ivy



Epipiremnum aureum

Peace lily



Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’

Lacy-tree philodendron



Philodendron selloum

Chinese evergreen



Aglaonema modestum

Bamboo or reed palm



Chamaedorea sefritzii

Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue



Sansevieria trifasciata

Red-edged dracaena



Dracaena marginata

Here is a short list of some common indoor air pollutants

|Airborne particlessuch as



tobacco smoke, lead,radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).



|Chemical contaminates




include formaldehyde, pesticides, insecticides, paints, adhesives, cleaning products, fragrances, and stains.

|Bio contaminates are



commonly defined as mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria, viruses, pollen, insects, pet dander, and human skin cells.



|Naturally occurring pollutants

are radon,ozone and uranium—found in building materials and natural stone products—body odor, exhalation and human diseases.




Gerrber daisies, planted or cut, are great air filtering plants.  Coordinate their bright blloms in your space as decorative accessories.  Gerbers are especially beneficial in the bedroom as they are heavy night oxygenators.

If you have limited space, start small with a miniature snake plant.

The snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue is an easy to care for houseplant.

Green communicates life, so there is no question that using houseplants in your interior spaces will benefit your mental and physical health, while refreshing you emotionally.

English ivy, shaped by wire forms, adds scruptural and architectural interest to any environment. Ivy also performs well in low light conditions—so use them to enliven a dark room or dim corner.

Spider plants are perfect for hanging and their "babies" can be pinched off and shared to start new plants! Once clipped, place the babies in a glass of water on a sunny window sill and watch them grow!

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