Garden & Landscape Tips

Scientists have known for a long time that houseplants absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of their photosynthesis. But newer research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration found that houseplants and the potting mix they are growing in can absorb up to 89 percent of certain indoor pollutants, such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Carpets, paints, stains, upholstered furniture and many other indoor furnishings can release these chemicals and other gases.

Keep a houseplant close to where you spend time.

A world health agency estimates 30 percent of new or remodeled homes have indoor air pollution. The pollution intensifies with poor air circulation or airtight windows and doors, which contribute to what’s called sick-building syndrome.

Nearly all plants help to reduce indoor pollution, however some work better on certain chemicals than others. For instance, some may absorb formaldehyde well but not benzene. Also, some cultivars, or named varieties of plants, do a better job than others. To compensate, use several species of plants. Besides broadening the spectrum of pollution control, different types of plants add texture, shape and color.

Most of the plants tested are considered tropical or sub-tropical. They are usually kept indoors throughout the year, although some people move them outdoors in summer. To improve the air in an 1,800-square-foot home, NASA recommends at least 15 plants in 10- to 12-inch, or larger containers. Or, place the plants where you spend most of your time, such as at the desk or near the bed.

Here are the recommended plants:

For more information about the NASA research, please visit the University of Florida website.

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