By Geri Laufer
Healthy plants growing under the right conditions produce more oxygen than they consume and remove harmful trace pollutants from indoor air.
Green plants growing indoors, known as houseplants or tropicals, can improve indoor air quality by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen during the natural process of photosynthesis. They also give off water vapor from the surface of the leaves, acting as beneficial humidifiers in dry, heated rooms. Many common houseplants also have the ability to remove trace amounts of toxic chemicals that are released by synthetic materials in the home. Filling your home with green, growing plants adds color, serenity, and contributes to the overall feng shui.
Your houseplants’ ability to produce oxygen and clean the air depends on a number of factors, including their species, size, health, and the light levels in your home. Healthy plants growing under the right conditions produce more oxygen than they consume and remove harmful trace pollutants from the air.
You can noticeably improve indoor air quality by growing one houseplant large enough to fill a 6- to 8-inch pot for every 100 to 120 square feet of floor space.
Let the Sun Shine In
One of the main environmental factors limiting oxygen production in indoor plants is light. When plants do not receive enough light to support photosynthesis, they begin to decline. Plants that are adapted to grow in direct sunlight need a strong, direct light source or a south-facing window.
Indoor light levels on a clear winter day average about 200 foot-candles. Contrast this with 10,000 foot-candles available in a sunny field in summer, and you see the challenges. Check for the level of light needed on plant labels, or ask a pro.
Indoor plants can improve air quality by removing trace amounts of toxic chemicals that are released by synthetic materials in the home. These chemicals often come from cleaning supplies, pets, paint, carpeting, furniture upholstery, and other sources.
Different plant types require differing amounts of water. Cacti and succulents from dry deserts require less water than rainforest or jungle plants brought into the home. Beware overwatering; more plants are killed by overwatering than by too little watering. Don’t keep them in standing water in their saucers.
Easy to Find Tropicals
Several plants topped NASA’s list of the best oxygen-producing houseplants, and are hard to kill:
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Golden pothos (Scindapsus aures)
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
English ivy (Hedera helix)
Snake plant aka mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Spade-leaf philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
Split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)
Decorate interior rooms economically while contributing to your well-being with interior plants. For in-depth info, read the University of Georgia Extension publication, “Growing Indoor Plants with Success” at extension.uga.edu.
Geri Laufer lives in Atlanta, where she, graphic designer husband David, and English Coonhound Lily are working on designing and installing a never-finished landscape. You can connect with Geri at facebook.com/gerilaufer or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.