Sooo nice to see you here! I have to tell you something. It’s a bit awkward and I feel ashamed already beforehand, but I have to confess something. I have a kind of love and hate relationship with houseplants.

It’s not that I don’t like them, on the contrary, I adore them and love how they look and what kind of atmosphere they create in home, but I have never really gotten into their pretty little heads. They are like horses to me, I have only dogs and cats, I just can’t figure out what they want.

It’s a bit scary, that my plants are totally at my mercy. If they would be growing outside, mother nature would take care of their needs just perfectly. Well, lucky for my plants, I have my mother-in-law, who knows everything there is to know about houseplants and gardens.

The reason I try to manage with my plants and keep myself away from plastic ones, is that houseplants gives us some of the benefits of nature without actually needing to visit a forest. It’s a fact, that keeping plants alive indoors can prove next to impossible to some of us, but the gain is so great, that it just has to be done!

Okay, plants have some basic needs, like water, light, nutrients, support and air. It’s important to keep in mind, that for us humans, it is not good to over-do things and same goes for our plants. Excessive amounts of drink and food is often a bad thing, even if it is necessary for survival. If you are like me, you are now shaking your head and thinking “whaaat, me over watering”?! For me, the time flies so fast, that it is hard to remember to water my plants regularly.

Houseplants improve air quality

It’s time for me to stop beating myself up and move on to the amazing things, that houseplants can make happen in our homes. They clean the air and actually make it a living thing with forest vitamins. This is a vital matter for people’s health, because each of us breathes over 3,000 gallons of air each day. The air cleaning capabilities of plants goes far and beyond simple removal of carbon dioxide (which humans and pets exhale) and replacing it with clean oxygen.

Houseplants also have the exceptional ability to remove toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide from the air. Those chemicals are particularly a major health threat for people living and working in newly built homes and commercial office spaces. The main reason for this is, that new constructions are built to be especially energy-efficient. In the old times, buildings leaked so much air, that there was enough circulation even with closed windows.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “people living and working in buildings of manmade materials inhale over 300 contaminants every day.” Living in urban environments, we are surrounded by concrete, traffic, noise, bright lights and pollution. In addition to that, today people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. That kind of lifestyle has a profound impact on our physical and mental well-being and it also makes the air quality an important matter to consider.

Bad chemicals are present almost everywhere

First let’s check out formaldehyde, which is found in products, such as furniture, wall paper, cardboard and even facial tissues. It is also used in stuff, like paints, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, and nail polish. Because, it is so common in many products, it is present in almost all homes and buildings. Studies have shown, that it may cause asthma-related respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing and in higher amounts even cancer.

Then there is a group of chemicals, VOC’s, which are found in all petroleum products, but there are many other sources, such as flooring adhesives, furniture, paints and other coatings, electronic equipment, cleaning products and even air fresheners. VOC’s are not acutely toxic, but they have compounding long-term health effects, such as respiratory, allergic and immune effects especially among children.

Also trichloroethylene is a very common indoor pollutant being released from paints, dry cleaning, pesticides, adhesives and addition to that inks used in copy machines and printers. It causes irritation of the nose and throat and depression of the central nervous system and in higher concentrations it can cause reduced eyesight, unconsciousness and irregularities in heartbeat.

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas, which is mainly produced from open fires, gas stoves and heaters. It can also be found in cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. Exposure to carbon monoxide causes dizziness and headaches, higher concentrations can lead to death, because the chemical prevents the delivery of oxygen to the body’s cells.

Benzene, Toluene and Xylene are found in the vapor of products, such as gasoline, oils, paints, glues, inks, plastics, and rubber. These three pollutants are skin and eye irritants and are known as carcinogens, they have connection to leukemia.

Bring green inside your home

Greenery softens every harsh environment. It is like a magic potion to ease stress and fatigue. Simply having a view of greenery is proven to increase workplace productivity. You can only imagine, what a real living plant can do! Well, according to studies, it decreases the number of sick days and helps people negotiate with better mutual understanding. Isn’t that just great! Also gardens have been found beneficial in hospital surroundings to calm patients, ease their pains and making the time of recovery shorter.

You may think here, that why not to use a high-tech air purifier to make fresh air for your family to breath. But if you look this from a practical point of few, plants are a much cheaper and they make living spaces more enjoyable and cozier than a plastic piece of electronic.

The best houseplants to improve indoor air quality are aloe plant, english ivy, rubber tree, peace lily, snake plant, bamboo palm, philodendron, spider plant, red-Edged dracaena and golden pothos. You can find these practically everywhere and most of them are pretty easy to take care. A plant is usually specialized in neutralizing only few chemicals, so choosing few different ones ensures you the best results.

Caress your senses with houseplants

Smell. Like mentioned earlier, having houseplants provides the same benefits as visiting forest scenery. Houseplants clean the air by absorbing and neutralizing toxic chemicals, they produce oxygen and release phytoncides, forest vitamin. Colorful fresh flowers feed you with beautiful scent and provide color therapy.

Sight. Seeing nature calms us, in fact just seeing the color green does that. So, fill your home with houseplants and some colorful fresh flowers. If you have trees outside, open those curtains.

Sound. My favorite strategy to involve nature sounds in home environment is to play them from YouTube. In summertime, I listen to the real thing from open window. You could also get a little water fountain for some water sounds. Nothing to do with houseplants, but a fantastic thing to bring nature sounds inside.

Taste. Start gardening herbs on your windowsill. It is a useful way to involve tasting. And don’t forget fruits and veggies either!

Feel. Touching our house plants can bring same kind of benefits as touching and playing with our pets.

Are you convinced?

Why do we feel more relaxed and less stressed around green scenery? I think it’s mostly due to our evolutionary ties with natural world and plants. It has been studied, that our eyes can distinguish between 2,000 shades of green, but only 100 shades of red. Isn’t that something! Through human evolution, recognizing a plant’s shade of green was vital, when you were using it for food, shelter or medicine.

In another study, researchers were trying to find out the effects, that plants have on office staff. During randomized periods the subjects were exposed to bare office environments and to ones where plants were within view. As you can imagine, it was found that periods with plants decreased symptoms, such as cough, fatigue and dry / itchy skin. The decrease was between 37% to 23%. In my opinion, those percentages are huge!

Maybe casinos in Las Vegas should consider some plants to go with their interiors. Plants would saturate the place with extra oxygen, so that gamblers would feel more alert and awake. At the moment, many casinos have an expensive system installed, which pumps oxygen-rich air into the ventilation systems to make people stay awake longer and thus gamble more. Why wouldn’t they go with an artistic green wall? As we already know, it’s cheaper, has lower costs, is eco-friendly (less electricity), relentlessly filters the air and has positive physiological benefits.

Have you seen those green walls? I just love them! When we have time and energy to start renovating the basement of our home, I want a big green wall in there. Of course, accompanied with a large sea aquarium and fireplace. Oh, I just love to dream. But for now, I settle for filling my tables and shelves with plant pots and bringing occasionally some fir branches inside to clear the air. Above you can see my home office. It’s tidy sometimes!

Next time I will be writing to you from Singapore. Sooo excited! I hope to see you soon!

Warm and loving thoughts,

Heidi