Here are greens that clean...

Last Updated 20 March 2014, 15:51 IST

Bring home some pretty blossoms and welcome clean air, writes Steven De Nazareth.

Using plants grown in pots in your home or office space to liven them up, is a trick that's been used by interior designers for years. But the plus point that many of us do not know is that our leafy friends are also powerful filters that purify the air around us. In fact, there are studies conducted that show that few plants can clean up the air in a living space of over 80% of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) like formaldehyde and xylene.

Natural friendsThere are a lot of pricey and fancy air filtration systems that can be installed to clean up indoor air quality. And it’s a bit surprising that many of us don’t just purchase some plants instead. Maybe many of us do not know what real and live plants can do.

If you or anyone in your family has allergies, smokes or just wants to breathe fresher, cleaner air in their homes, check out these indoor plants that purify the air around you as well as which specific pollutant each one targets and removes. They can all be easily purchased from any nursery across the state and in the city. We just need to be aware of which ones to invest in.

The ‘Song of India’ (Dracaena reflexa) has a very musical and interesting name. This flower is easy to identify because of its beautiful green-lime and yellow leaves. These plants are also easy to grow in both high and low lights and absorbs undesirables like formaldehyde, toluene, xylene.

The palm family of plants, also known as Arecaceae or Palmae, is also another extremely popular potted plant to be kept indoors. They grow effortlessly and can also help to lift people’s spirits and distract them from mundane surroundings.

Palms are also known to be natural air purifiers. These plants specifically target and remove formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from indoor air, which is especially helpful if someone in your household smokes cigarettes.

Pretty optionsThe large-leaved philodendron is easy to care for as a houseplant and needs very little attention to grow well. Its unique colouring and differently shaped leaves makes it an attractive addition to your home. It is known to rid the air of xylene, a toxin that’s found in glues and leather that come with your furnishing.

Anthuriums used to be a rarity in the city but now nurseries sell them at reasonable prices. Anthuriums make lovely gifts because of their exotic-looking and shiny blooms, but remember, they are not  just a pretty face! Their large, dark leaves suck up ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, so they’re a thoughtful present for a workplace, especially around offices with small cubicles.

The beautiful schefflera have glossy, sturdy-looking oval leaves that almost look unreal because of their waxy shine. They are commonly called as ‘umbrella plants’ and are evergreen shrubs that grow very well indoors. They are really hardy and long-lasting so they make great investment plants as long as you keep the leaves dust-free and wipe them down once in a while, with a wet cloth. In addition to looking great, they’re also known to soak up nasty toxins in indoor air like benzene, formaldehyde and toluene and like palms, they're good for households where there is a chronic smoker.

Orchids you say? Your eyes widen as they have a bad reputation for being finicky and difficult to grow, but give them a chance. On our recent trip to an orchid show in Lalbagh, we learnt that orchids actually love to be neglected and most people end up killing their orchids with kindness. This is because they give them too much water and sunlight.

Aside from being easy to take care of, orchids rid the air of xylene, a pollutant found in many glues and paints, so they make wonderful house-warming gifts. Unlike some other plants, orchids also respire and give off oxygen at night, so they’re great for the bedroom or bathroom as well. A favourite and most easy to grow is the peace lily, or the spathiphyllum. This is an ideal plant to have in your home if you love flowers but don’t want to buy bouquets that die after a few days.

Spathiphyllum thrives indoors and removes harmful toxins like acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene and xylene. They are inexpensive to buy and once you get one, several can be made out of the babies that sprout in the mother plant.

So head over to your favourite nursery over the weekend and buy yourself one of these plants, and rest easy once you have one indoors. Leave them to silently do their work!

(Published 20 March 2014, 15:51 IST)

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