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Plants that Improve Indoor Air Quality

Learn how these plants can make your home greener while improving your indoor air quality.

Green Building logoLong before the “green” movement swept our country, researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were studying the effects of foliage on common household pollutants. For astronauts spending extended stretches of time in a confined space, this would mean improved air quality, and ultimately, improved quality of life. Dubbed the “Clean Air Study,” this research found that a potted plant could act effectively as a filter for every 100 square feet of floor space. Certain plants — acting as botanical filters — help fight the effects of poor ventilation and inefficient heating and cooling, which, when combined with toxins leaking from common household goods, causes "sick building syndrome."

These plants not only look beautiful, but also serve up a multitude of health benefits — including lowered blood pressure, speedier hospital recovery, less dust in the house, and, of course, less volatile organic compounds (VOCs) floating around your home. These 5 houseplants can help make your log home greener — and cleaner:

Chrysanthemums Household name: Chrysanthemum
Scientific name: Chrysanthemum morifolium
Size: A few inches to 3 feet
How it makes your home better: Besides its cheery bright color, the chrysanthemum combats formaldehyde which can be emitted from tobacco smoke, some paper goods, particle board, select plastic bags and gas stoves, benzene derived from plastics and trichloroethylene found in common inks.
Watch out for: Too much light can singe and wither petals, so can over-watering. Put your chrysanthemums in a location that rotates between sunlight and shade.
Where to order one: ncbuy.com
Dragon Tree Household name: Dragon tree
Scientific name: Dracaena marginata
Size: Can grow as tall as 15 feet, but commonly does not
How it makes your home better: Stops the toxic effects of fumes from household lacquers and gasoline, commonly polluting garages.
Watch out for: Burning and flecking. Despite its fiery name, the Dragon tree will become speckled and wilt slightly when overexposed to the sun. Keep it in a dimly light area of your home to avoid problems.
Peace Lily Household name: Peace lily
Scientific name: Spathiphyllum
Size: Ranges from 2 to 4 feet
How it makes your home better: Improves air quality by absorbing harmful chemicals found in common household products such as paint, nail polish, solvents, adhesive, ink and varnishes.
Watch out for: Insects and wilting. Occasionally dab leaves with water to avoid insect infestation and be sure to properly drain excess water to prevent their roots from rotting.
Ficus Household name: Ficus
Scientific name: Ficus benjamina
Size: Ranges from 2 to 6 feet
How it makes your home better: Also effectively removes formaldehyde from your indoor air supply. This tough plant can survive in a cool environment with little light and requires little upkeep — you’ll only need to water it about once a month.
Watch out for: Wilting. While the ficus plant adjusts to your home, many of its leaves will turn yellow and be shed. This is only temporary and after pruning the dead portions, your ficus plant will grow to be robust.
Where to order one: myfsn.com
English Ivy Household name: English ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Size: A wide range — a common indoor practice is to grow ivy in a hanging basket and let it flow down the sides.
How it makes your home better: The most effective plant in terms of removing formaldehyde — which happens to be the most common and dangerous indoor air pollutant — from your indoor atmosphere.
Watch out for: Out of control growth. Because of it’s ability to grow in a variety of settings — like in the shade and straight up a wall — ivy is known to some as in invasive species. But using English ivy as a potted, indoor plant shouldn’t pose any problems.
Where to order one: greenwoodnursery.com

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