If you dream of exploring tropical jungles, take the first step and invest in some houseplants.
Turn your house into a tropical jungle
Idon’t know if it’s my obsession with green smoothies or my love of nature, but there’s just something about the colour green that makes me happy – it’s so fresh and alive. So it’s no surprise there’s a lot of greenery around my house.
Green plants are actually the ideal house companions, from making the air more breathable, to adding beauty. In many developed countries, it is estimated that people spend around 90 per cent of their time indoors, and indoor air pollution is becoming a serious health concern. As well as the most obvious solution of getting outside more, investing in some houseplants is a great way of making our time spent inside much healthier, and happier too. Plants release oxygen into the air and filter out toxins, such as benzene and formaldehyde, that are present indoors. Plus they also release phytochemicals, which suppress mould spores and bacteria in the air.
In the late 1980s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America did a study on houseplants as a way of purifying the air in space facilities. They found that a number of houseplants were particularly effective in removing volatile organic compounds (carbon-based chemicals) found in indoor air.
So how exactly do plants clean our air? Well, it’s like magic really… their leaves break down the toxic chemicals into non-toxic components that can then be used by the plant (not dissimilar to how our livers rid toxins from our bodies). Then any residual chemicals are further taken into the root system and the surrounding soil, where soil microorganisms continue to break down the substances – how beautifully efficient.
Sharing your home with plants is not just good for your physical health but your mental and emotional wellbeing too. They have been shown to lower stress and anxiety levels and improve our overall wellbeing. Plants lift our spirits and bring a sense of celebration. We could all do with a little more of that.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) Very tolerant, happy to be neglected for weeks at a time. One of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Will thrive in rooms such as the bathroom where there is low light and humid conditions. You may also want to put one or two in your bedroom as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night – the opposite of when most plants follow this process. Native to tropical West Africa. Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Hardy plant that does well in low light and does not like direct sunlight. These remove carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from the air. Great addition to a bathroom or office because of their low light tolerance. Keep soil relatively moist – they have a shallow root system that doesn’t require excessive watering. Native to French Polynesia.
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
The most effective plant for removing airborne toxins. Removes more formaldehyde per hour than any other air-purifying plant. This plant thrives best in a cool place with high humidity and indirect light. Make sure soil remains damp – dry soil is the number-one reason these ferns die. Soak once a month or so. Native to tropical regions throughout the world.
Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata)
Fiddle leaf figs like it bright for as much of the day as possible, but do not like to be in direct sunlight. Water when top inch of soil becomes dry. When roots begin to grow out of the bottom of the pot, either repot into a container that’s slightly larger or trim the root ball – but not excessively – to keep it from getting too big. Because the leaves are so large, they tend to accumulate dust; simply wipe clean with a soft cloth. Native to Western Africa.
Desert cacti (Cactaceae)
There are hundreds of varieties of desert cacti. These plants enjoy lots of sunlight and warmth but not humidity (so avoid the bathroom). Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, little watering is required during winter to give them a cool, dormant period to flower. Cacti are excellent at eliminating bacteria as well as reducing radiation. Like the snake plant, cacti absorb carbon dioxide at night and release oxygen, making them a good choice for your bedroom. Native to the arid regions of the Americas and surrounding islands.
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) I can handle low light so I make a great addition to the bathroom or office.