Growing Fresh Air

Nancy Helms, Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, November, 2014

Wheeping Fig

Wheeping Fig

It's only December and I am already dreaming about throwing open my kitchen window and letting in some fresh air. I want the breeze to blow all my papers off my desk. Unfortunately, it's going to be quite some time before that happens. With winter just beginning and temperatures dropping, it's a challenge to maintain healthy indoor air but houseplants can actually help.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) can build up inside our homes. We are often unaware of the gases given off by things we live with every day. Formaldehyde is gassed off from carpeting, furniture, lacquers, varnish, car exhaust and even sheet rock. Benzene is given off from glue, paint, plastics and detergent. 

House plants can filter the air and absorb common VOC's. In the late '80's NASA studied houseplants as way to purify the air in space stations. Lucky for us, plants can also clean the air in our homes. You may already have some of these houseplants, but if you are toying with the idea of purchasing a new houseplant, you may want to consider a plant that will filter your air and produce oxygen.

Aloe can improve indoor air quality by helping to clear the air of formaldehyde, chemical based household cleaners and paint. The gel inside the leaves also is good for cuts and burns. It's a great addition to a sunny kitchen window.

You will have a hard time killing a spider plant. The spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and a common solvent, xylene. As an added bonus, it is a safe houseplant if you have pets in the house.

Mother-in-law’s tongue is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom; it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.

Most of us native to Minnesota have had a Philodendron at one time or another. It is fast, easy growing and will cascade from a hanging basket. But did you know that it is a powerful plant for tackling formaldehyde? Keep this one away from children and pets as it is toxic if ingested.

A Weeping Fig or ficus in your living room can help filter out pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture. Caring for a ficus can be tricky, but once you get the watering and light conditions right, they will last a long time.

Who would have guess that a little English Ivy could be such a hard worker? A study found that the plant reduces airborne fecal-matter particles. It has also been shown to filter out formaldehyde.

Shade and weekly watering are all the Peace Lily needs to survive and produce blooms. It topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

Having green plants in our home can help fight the stress and fatigue a of long Minnesota winter. House plants can help us breathe easier while waiting for spring.  For more information, see: