The subject of health is a hot topic at all times, but particularly during pandemics such as coronavirus which has spread to every continent except for Antarctica. There’s no escaping the concern and during such times the media relays regular news updates together with advice. Businesses, in particular, are on high alert during times of epidemics. During the coronavirus episode, guidance was issued regarding preventative measures including hand-washing and self-isolating at the first signs of a potential problem. We all know about the 20-second cleansing routine and probably noticed that prices soared for supplies that were in demand, such as hand sanitisers – not to mention the toilet roll obsession! That particular problem and similar issues makes the world seem a smaller place. It seems that viruses have no regard for country boundaries. So, given that the bugs are around, is there anything else that we can all do to help safeguard our households?
Can plants help?
Plants have the most amazing air filtering capabilities. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) studies have shown that they not only clean the indoor air, which is often partially sealed within a home, but some plants can even absorb microbes including bacteria that can cause us harm.
Given that coronavirus infections are viruses rather than bacteria, there is no proof that plants can help. But it stands to reason that they might make some sort of positive difference.
Best air cleaning plants
Some plants are better than others at neutralising unwanted visitors in the home. Certain plants have even been termed, affectionately, as having ‘air-purifying superpowers’. It’s interesting to learn that inside our homes there is generally up to five times more pollution in the air than outside. The pollutants include xylene, which is a substance found in paint; benzene, which is included in some sprays such as polishes, trichloroethylene, found in cleaning substances and formaldehyde which can be found in a wide range of products including upholstery and carpets. There’s also a certain amount of static energy that can often be reduced by an increase in humidity that plants create.
The very best indoor plants have more than one benefit. It goes without saying that the most popular are those that are easy to keep and they look attractive. But even better are those that ALSO help to purify the air too. Pictured above is a form of Dracaena, the Dragon Tree. It's a beauty.
Here are eight of the best:
- Indoor fern Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Green Lady’ (pictured below). This fern is sometimes called the sword fern and it is a relative of the Boston fern. It forms a graceful mound that looks great cascading from a shelf. This houseplant likes medium to bright light, and is so easy to please, provided it is kept out of direct sunlight.
- Indoor fern Asplenium varieties including Asplenium nidus and all the various cultivars. Highly popular at present is A. ‘Crispy Wave’ which is also known as the pleated bird’s nest fern. Its fronds are pleasingly sculptural and it’s a highly efficient air-cleaning beauty.
- Scindapsus, the devil’s ivy, which is also known as pothos. These come in many different forms with a number of different leaf colours. This is an indoor vine which can be trained to climb against a support or also allowed to trail from a hanging basket. Known as Devil’s ivy because they can survive in darker places, they look beautiful and have great air-cleaning capabilities too.
- Weeping fig, Ficus benjamina. These are so easy to care for. They grow into graceful, tree-like forms and the delicate foliage can be plain green or variegated. Some of the colour combinations include leaves with a golden tone; those with cream highlights or even lime green combined with dark green. These are highly efficient at soaking up airborne particles and, in common with most houseplants, they give off oxygen during daylight hours too.
- Aglaonema, the Chinese evergreen. These are foliage plants that often have interesting tones and even patterns on the leaves. What’s more, they are super-easy to look after and can even survive in darker corners. In fact, they can tolerate most indoor conditions except extreme wetness or dryness. They are related to the peace lily.
- Anthurium are houseplants that are super showy! Many people think they are artificial because of their glossy foliage and waxy, scarlet flower bracts, each with a spike which holds the actual, tiny flower. Often known as the Flamingo lily, this is a plant that arouses curiousity as well as being an ace air-cleaner. What more could you wish for?
- Sansevieria laurentii is often called the snake plant and this succulent loves humid atmospheres as might be found in a bathroom. This is the perfect place as it can filter out formaldehyde that’s found in various cleaning products and even in toilet paper. It’s an architectural beauty, with an added bonus that it gives out oxygen at night. Most houseplants do this during the day. Fresh, clean air, just when you need it the most.
- Dracaena, or dragon tree, (pictured near the top of this blog) makes a beautiful statement and this tree-like houseplant comes in many different foliage colours. Dracaena ‘Lemon Lime’, for example, has lemon-coloured rims to the leaves, whilst D. ‘Jade Jewel’ has pleasing, creamy variegation to the strappy leaves. Needless to say, this is a plant that has everything, including an armoury of air cleaning capabilities.