The coronavirus pandemic has once again drawn attention to maintaining personal hygiene. Apart from sanitising ourselves and our homes, there is a need to ‘sanitise’ the air we breathe too, especially indoors. The airtight rooms often do not replenish fresh air. Also, the outside air travels inside resulting in many health hazards after reacting with cooking and paint-solvent emissions. To improve air quality inside, one can place certain plants that not only release oxygen, but absorb toxic air as well.
Anthuriums are herbaceous epiphytes and are grown for their attractive red, heart-shaped flowering bracts. The coloured leaves are big and borne on long stalks. Use a peat moss base for the pot mixture. Avoid direct sunlight. Water regularly. Add light fertiliser every second month. In winter, it goes for a short dormancy. It absorbs benzene, toluene, octane and trichloroethylene.
Spathiphyllum or peace lily beautifully contrasts dark green foliage with creamy white flowers. It prefers low light conditions and humidity, as it has a high transpiration rate that humidifies the air. Easy to maintain, it helps remove formaldehyde, benzene and certain volatile organic compounds emitted by paints and harsh cleaning products. Don’t ingest its leaves as these are poisonous.
Hedera helix or English Ivy is also an effective formaldehyde remover. It grows well in both sunlight and shade. It is quite easy-to-care plant that requires frequent irrigation only. Its leaves are also poisonous.
Palms, especially areca palm (dypsis lutescens), date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) and rhapis palm (rhrapis excelsa) are easy to maintain with no extra care other than routine gardening operations. These remove formaldehyde.
Dracaena trifasciata is commonly known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. It is an evergreen perennial with dense stands. Its stiff leaves grow vertically and the mature leaves turn dark green with light fray cross-bands. It can withstand drought conditions. The plant survives under low light. Irrigate less during winter. Wipe the leaves with damp cloth to clear it of dust. It removes toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides.
Philodendron domesticum or Elephant ear has long, arrow-shaped leaves and prefers warm, moist and indirect light, which makes it perfect for indoors. The plant absorbs formaldehyde.
Epipremnum aureum or money plant is an evergreen vine with decorative foliage. Low maintenance makes it more popular. This plant removes various emissions including formaldehyde, xylene and benzene.
Dracaena deremensis is one of the best houseplants that grow best in bright, indirect sunlight. These grow equally well in less light with slow growth. They contribute to removing trichloroethylene.
Ficus benjamina, known as weeping fig, grows tall in natural conditions outdoors but can be potted inside as well. It is almost maintenance-free and absorbs toxins, including formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.
Spider plant, or chlorophytum comosum, is a safe houseplant mostly used in hanging baskets and pots indoors. It battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
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