Originally published March 7 2008
Create a Happy and Healthy Indoor Environment With Plants
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) The amazing health benefits we derive from eating plants and drinking their juices are just the beginning of the story. Research shows that when we bring plants inside to share our environments, we multiply those benefits.
Houseplants Clean the Air
We are used to thinking of the indoors as a safe haven from pollution. Yet research has indicated that the indoor environment may be as much as ten times more polluted than the outdoor environment. Indoor air pollution is associated with allergies and other chronic illnesses. The EPA currently ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five threats to public health. People today spend as much as 90% of their lives indoors where they are bombarded with chemical emissions from building materials, glues and dyes used in furniture, carpets, household products, and personal care products. If you have a relatively new house or one that has been recently renovated, your pollution index is probably quite high.
A classic NASA study found that common houseplants could improve air quality by removing pollutants. In fact, the study reported that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 percent of airborne toxins in 24 hours. The Plants for Clean Air Council recommends one potted plant for each 100 square feet of living space. For a 2000 square foot house, it would take about 18 to 20 average size plants such as those requiring 6 to 8 inch diameter pots. If plants are larger, requiring a 12 inch container or more, about 12 to 15 plants would be needed.
Plants can remove a variety if toxic air emissions, including ammonia, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, xylele and trichloroethylene. Some plants that do a particularly good job of cleaning the air are:
* Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
* Philodendron, sweetheart plant
* Green spider plant or variegated spider plant
* Dracaena marginata, dragon tree
* Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana', corn plant
* Golden pathos
* Chinese evergreen
* Philodendron selloum
* Sansevieria, snake plant
* Spathiphyllum, peace lilly
To read more about this study, visit:
Plants Help Control Humidity Indoors
Do you know why most colds and flu are caught in the winter? Unless you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate, this is the time you are trapped indoors with your furnace running, removing the humidity from the air in your house.
According a study done at the University of Agriculture in Norway, indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats, and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 percent, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust. Interior plants actually stabilize the humidity in your house by releasing moisture according to the existing levels of humidity in the air. Although houseplants help raise humidity levels, they too can suffer when the levels drop too low. In these cases, you may want to get a humidifier for your home. Plants will tell you if your humidity is too low by displaying brown tips on their leaves.
The Acoustic Benefits of Plants
Trees and shrubs have been used extensively to reduce noise from traffic on busy roads. New research shows that plants can also help to reduce background noise levels inside of buildings, particularly those in which hard, reflective surfaces dominate. If you have marble or tile flooring, plaster walls, or large glass windows or doors, you will see a significant noise reduction benefit by following the 1 plant for every 100 square foot rule. Noise reduction is beneficial to health and lowers stress levels.
The investigation of the acoustic benefits of interior plants was carried out at South Bank University in London. To quantify the acoustic effect, the sound absorption coefficients of a number of plant species were measured and compared with other building materials.
Results indicated that plants are generally more efficient at absorbing high sound frequencies than low frequencies. High frequencies cause the most irritation to building occupants. Noted examples of good sound absorbing plants are those listed above, particularly Spathiphyllum (peace lilly), Philodendron(sweetheart plant), Dracaena marginata (dragon tree), and Ficus benjamina (weeping fig).
Plants will have very little noise reduction effect in acoustically dead areas, such as rooms with thick carpet, heavy drapes, or paneled walls.
Plants Enhance Your Interior With Their Living Energy
According to the art of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement, indoor plants are believed to improve the chi in your home. Chi is the life giving energy that unites body, mind and soul. Feng Shui views each corner of your home as representing a part of your life, such as wealth, relationship, health, and career. Place plants near the corners of the areas you wish to emphasize. Use only healthy, vibrant plants that exude life energy.
Even if you are not a student of Feng Shui, it's difficult to escape being drawn into a relationship with plants. Their energy is commanding. Touch them and you will feel their energy flow. Plants are like pets but require much less upkeep and attention. And like pets, when you give plants what they need they will thrive. If you decide to add plants to your living or working space, acquire them one at a time so you can establish a relationship with them and learn their needs. Although they can't talk, plants will let you know what they require if you open yourself to their communications.
Benefits of Plants in Your Office or Work Environment
According to a study published in Rehabilitation Literature, having a pleasant work environment will generate productivity benefits. Creating a work place where living energy flows will help keep your stress level low, your creativity high, and the air you breathe clean and cleared of toxins and pollutants. You will work with less eye irritation and headaches, and you won't feel sleepy.
An abundance of experiments and tests have been conducted to determine the effects of plants in the work environment. The results support the conclusion that workers are more creative, shoppers spend more when plants are around, and hotel occupancy rates improve with the presence of plants. The image of almost any enterprise is enhanced by plants.
Dr. Bruno Cortis, a Chicago cardiologist, says "Plants make people feel calmer and more optimistic." Interestingly, studies have shown that hospital patients who face a window with a garden view recovered more quickly than those who had to look at a wall.
Buying and Caring for Your Plants
Once you acquire a few basic concepts of plant care, your plants will flourish and thrive, no matter what color your thumb is. Plants are really just like people. They strive for homeostasis. They are very good at taking care of themselves if given what they need, and what they need to be healthy is pretty much the same as what people need.
Many of the plants mentioned above are available at your local hardware superstore or discount center, where prices for plants are low. But be aware that these plants have not become acclimated to life in your region. They are used to the climate where they were grown, out in the fresh air under intense sunshine. So if you decide to bring one into your home, it will take awhile for it to sort itself out and arrive at homeostasis in its new environment. It may look sad, loose leaves or whole branches, or loose color. But don't fret. It will come around.
Plants from a nursery cost a little more, but they have gone through the acclimation process and should do well from the time you bring them into your environment.
Plants need light to carry on photosynthesis. There is no getting around that. This is how they keep your air clean and free of pollutants. So place your plants in front of a window or glass door. Your plant will adapt to any exposure, but the more light you give it, the more lush and vibrant it will be. You can't give an indoor plant too much light unless you live in a really hot, desert climate. Plants grow toward the light, so turn your plants periodically to ensure symmetrical growth. Plants also thrive and produce robust growth in fluorescent lighting.
The best way to determine when to water your plant is by weight. When you bring your plant home, water it until water runs out of the drainage holes in the pot. Then grab the side of the pot and tip it back. Feel how heavy it is. When it loses all that heaviness and feels light when you tip it up, it is time to water it again. Until it feels very light, don't water it at all period. Most indoor plant deaths are caused by over watering. If a plant becomes too dry it will let you know it. Its leaves will begin to sag and lose its bounce. Water it then and it will revive quickly. Never let a plant sit in water. After a day or two its roots will rot and it will die.
Your plant will let you know when it wants to be repotted. It will stop growing because it has no more room to expand its root system. Choose a new pot that is no more than a size or two larger than the old one. After you've repotted, make sure the potting mix is tapped down by bumping the pot against the floor a few times to eliminate air spaces.
Feed your plant a good all purpose fertilizer. Mix the fertilizer to half strength and feed at only half the frequency indicated on the box.
This is all you need to know to have a house or office full of contented plants. To give them an extra boost, let your plants know you admire them by thinking good thoughts about them. Pet their leaves now and then. Talk to them if you want to, or play some music for them. Make that cosmic connection with your plants and you and they will thrive.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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