Written by Carter Roberts under the direction and review of David Graper.
Four Houseplant Benefits
Houseplants and succulents are becoming an increasingly popular way to spruce up the home. While indoor plants provide fantastic aesthetics, they also serve many other purposes – recycling carbon dioxide, adding humidity to a dry environment, and psychological benefits. Below are four reasons why it is beneficial to grow plants in your home.
First, plants are beautiful. Who doesn’t love having beautiful flowers and interesting foliage to look at every day? Second, houseplants can add interest to an otherwise human, straight-line dominant environment. Similar to the outdoors, plants are appealing and can serve many functional purposes indoors. When planted and placed correctly, plants can screen, fill space, soften lines, hide views, improve traffic flow, reduce noise, and create space. Without knowing the other beneficial aspects of houseplants, one might choose a houseplant simply based on its appearance. The aesthetics of houseplants is the most common, but there are multiple other benefits as well.
2: Cleaning the Air
According to NASA, “Houseplants scrub indoor air pollutants, making our air fresher and safer… This is especially important as our buildings get more energy efficient and we end up trapping [those] pollutants inside.” NASA also states that some plants can even lower levels of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. These compounds are common in homes and commercial settings from adhesives and other building materials. Benzene, another harmful gas, is found in library settings where books and papers are present.
Another benefit of plants is that they recycle carbon dioxide. Since plants recycle carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis, houseplants assist in our breathing. A few plants are especially beneficial – orchids and succulents – which take in carbon dioxide during the day and release oxygen at night. These plants are best suited for bedrooms, as they provide oxygen for us while sleeping.
For plants to be effective in cleaning the air, NASA suggests having one plant per 100 square feet of indoor space.
Snake plant in a bedroom.
House plants in a living room.
3: Adding Humidity
Plants release moisture from tiny pores in their leaves through the process of transpiration, in turn increasing the humidity of the air around them. It is estimated that plants release nearly 97% of the moisture they consume. While it may not seem desirable to increase the humidity in the home during the hot and humid months, it can be extremely beneficial in the dry winter months. A study done by the Agricultural University of Norway, showed that houseplants, when grouped together, decrease the likelihood of dry skin, common colds, and sore throats.
One of the great impacts of houseplants is that they generate happiness. Keeping flowers and plants throughout the home and the workplace vastly increases happiness and lowers the likelihood of depression.
Another great psychological benefit of plants is that they help us work better. A University of Michigan study showed that studying and working in the presence of plants increases concentration and memory and productivity. The study goes on to show that being “under the influence of plants” increases memory retention by up to 20%. A study done by Texas A&M University proves that working and studying around plants is completed with better quality and higher accuracy.
Like any plant, houseplants must be placed in the proper growing conditions unique to each plant.
Houseplants to Consider
Some of the best houseplants to fully employ the capabilities mentioned in this article are as follows:
Oil Cloth Flower
A lovely plant with exotic blooms. The leaves filter ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene. Oil cloth flower (Anthurium) are best utilized in a workplace around printers and copiers. The interesting flowers may be red, pink, white or green. They need a warm, bright location to grow best.
Zamioculus zamiifolia (ZZ) Plant
The ZZ Plant perfectly blends with both contemporary and traditional settings. It removes formaldehyde and nitrogen oxide from the air. The best location for a ZZ plant (Zamioculus) is near fuel burning appliances. They are very easy to grow, will tolerate neglect and are quite interesting plants with their thick, fleshy leaves and petioles.
One of the most-efficient natural filters. They remove mold, acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene, and xylene. Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) are great plants for the kitchen, or living room.
Croton strengthen our creativity with its variety of foliage colors, shapes, and sizes. A great plant in an office setting. Crotons (Codiaeum) need to be in a bright growing location for their leaves to have their best coloration. Crotons do flower but often the flowers go unnoticed.
Known for its conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen at night, the Snake Plant should be placed in a bedroom setting. Of course, all plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen but a group of plants have a special kind of photosynthesis that releases the oxygen at night. It is very easy to grow, tolerant of neglect and is adaptable to lower light situations. There are a number of different species of snake plant (Sanseveria) that have different coloration patterns on their leaves and grow to different sizes.
Orchids add exotic elegance to any area, and are great at filtering indoor air pollution. The Orchid is a great plant for a living room setting. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are the most commonly sold, are readily available and quite easy to grow in a bright location. They prefer higher humidity. But there are many other kinds of orchids but they will probably have to be purchased from a specialty store or bought online.
Spider plants purify air and remove formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. A great plant in an office or library setting. They are two main types of spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) those with plain green leaves or with leaves variegated with white stripes. They get the name of spider plant from their habit of producing runners that produce baby plants at the tips, kind of like a spider with legs.
English Ivy removes benzene from the air; best used in dorm rooms, home offices, and libraries. There are dozens of different cultivars of English ivy (Hedera helix) that have variously sized and shaped leaves. They are usually grown in hanging baskets.
About the Author: Mr. Carter Roberts was a student in my Herbaceous Plants class this fall. One of the last assignments for the class was to write an outreach paper. I have selected several of the best ones to appear in this column. So, look for future articles written by my students in that class.