House Plants and Your Health
My relationship with houseplants is a rocky one. I currently have a six-month-old cactus which is 99% dead, but I’m hoping that now I’ve moved it to a sunnier location and I water it less, it will recover. Honestly, I’m probably neither emotionally nor physically able to take it to the next level and upgrade from a cactus to another form of plant; if I can’t keep alive one of the sturdiest plants on the planet, what hope do I have with literally anything else!
However, having recently read an article about houseplants, which are NASA-recommended for purifying the air in your home, I thought there was no better time to fill up my house with plants. In this article I’m going to be looking at some of the recommended shrubs on the list and where best to put them in your house to give them the greatest odds of survival.
Before I begin to explain how to care for the plants, please be assured, none of this information is coming from me but instead comes from articles written by people who actually know what they’re talking about.
Why Buy Houseplants?
Being honest, the purifying powers of these plants aren’t the only reason I want them. As we’ve shared before here, houseplants create a serene tranquillity within our home, something that can help us relax after a long day. We’re not the only people who recognise the benefits of plants, in their Spring/Summer 2020 collection, themed ‘Urban Safari’, Kate Spade incorporated plants on the runway, to create living masterpieces.
The four plants I went out and purchased were an aloe vera, a fern, a spider plant and a snake plant. Ultimately, the end goal is to have a small jungle inside my house.
Making your Plant at Home
When it comes to purchasing your plants, there are lots of different options, including garden centres, local plant stores, supermarkets and even Amazon. When looking for plant pots, you can get a bit creative and utilise household items you have but aren’t using. I think mugs are great for potting small plants; in the past I’ve had a Venus fly trap which I potted in a mug and it looked great (until it died…). Tea cups, teapots, jugs, cups are all good possibilities too. When purchasing a larger plant, it may be difficult to find something lying around which could fit it. I would recommend ‘Not on the High Street’ and ‘Etsy’ as they have some gorgeous and unique pots.
I really wanted an Aloe Vera plant, not just for its ability to remove benzene (found in detergents and plastics), but also for the amazing multi-purpose gel inside it. It can aid in the healing of burns, be used to promote hair growth and used as a face mask. I have made a lovely body and face scrub from aloe vera gel, olive oil and brown sugar; it’s so moisturising! Read up on other aloe vera hacks here.
When it comes to keeping your aloe alive, they like sunlight, but nothing too harsh, so indirect is best. When it comes to watering it’s more important to be wary of overwatering than under-watering. Water the plant every one to two weeks in winter and in summer soak the soil but make sure it dries out before you water the aloe again. This goes without saying for all the plants mentioned today, having good drainage is key so they don’t sit in wet soil and rot. You can read up on how to care for your aloe vera here.
During NASA’s SkyLab Project, they actually began looking into the cost-effectiveness and low-upkeep solution of using ferns in future space stations for keeping the air clear for human inhabitants. Ferns are great for removing formaldehyde (a toxin present in most modern buildings) from the air. Ferns love humidity which make them a perfect bathroom companion; sometimes it may be a good idea to mist them with a little extra water too.
Ferns don’t like direct sunlight but still require a small amount; most bathrooms have less light due to the frosted windows again making them an impeccable plant for the bathroom. It is also possible (though probably a little too advanced for me) to grow new ferns from their powdery spores. Learn more about helping your ferns to flourish here.
Spider plants are supposed to be one of the easiest and adaptable houseplants to grow (they have obviously not given one to me to look after) and help to remove carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from the air. They prefer indirect light and not too much water; they actually favour drying out for a short period in between waterings.
This article states that spider plants can “tolerate lots of abuse” so I don’t think you need to be precise when it comes to location and how much/often you water it. I decided to place my spider plant in the corner of my lounge as it’s a well-lit room but the corner never has direct sunlight on it. Learn more about spider plant care here.
The snake plant might be my surprise favourite, with its tall leaves, each with a slightly different pattern on. This plant may also be my favourite because of how it clears the air. As well as removing toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air, it also gives out oxygen at night, making it flawless for bedrooms, as it enables you to breathe better as you sleep.
The snake plant requires identical care as the spider plant; indirect sunlight, no overwatering and allowing the plant to dry out slightly in between waterings. Out of all the plants I own, I have found this to be the easiest by far to look after (it doesn’t punish you for forgetting to water it). Read up on snake plant care here.
Within both the home design and fashion world, people are becoming fascinated with the idea of a 1970’s houseplant urban jungle. Putting aside all the health benefits houseplants can have regarding the purification of the air we’re breathing (I didn’t even get started on the mental health benefits of houseplants!), I think it can be boiled down to the fact they add magic to any home; they’re a living piece of art!