How indoor plants can give us a breath of fresh air – literally!

It’s winter and the cold temperatures outside means most of us wind up staying indoors where it is warm, rather than spending time in the garden or getting outside for fresh air.

.....But DID YOU KNOW this action can put your lungs (and general health) at risk?!

Even in generally warm, sunny South Africa, it’s a fact that the majority of us spend the most of our time indoors – whether it’s at home or working. And as such, it is important to ensure that the quality of the air we breathe indoors is of a high standard.

Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials and cleaning products in homes and offices can emit a variety of toxic compounds, like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, xylene and ammonia.

Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria and mould, as outdoor air contaminants (like car exhaust gases) find its way into buildings.


Symptoms associated with short term exposure to these harmful gasses include: dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, coughing and sore throat, followed by drowsiness and even coma.

Above mentioned chemicals lurk in all of our homes and while you can take steps to minimize them, some of these chemicals are not easy to get rid of.


There is a cheap, easy green tool at your disposal to get rid of most of these unseen dangers inside your four walls: why invest in expensive electrical air purifiers when you could purchase a few types of HOUSEPLANTS to clean and filter the air naturally and inexpensively?!

Research done by NASA back in 1989, shows that house plants play an important role in cleaning the air we breathe, both indoors and out.

Plants produce their own food through a process called photosynthesis. This means they take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen. Photosynthesis “cleans” our air by absorbing carbon dioxide and by taking in certain other pollutants as well.

But what might my modest home or office have in common with a NASA spaceship?

Unfortunately the answer may be poor air quality!

(The same three pollutants also present in spaceships (formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene) are present in homes and office buildings.)


Under controlled conditions, in the NASA study, certain houseplants were found to remove as much as 87 percent of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours!

The researchers suggest that for the test plants to be effective “air cleaners” it is necessary to use one potted plant per 9 square metres of home or office space.


Although houseplants may be intimidating to those with a “black thumb” or fear of commitment, it turns out that many plants are easy to care for....


Palms seem particularly good at removing indoor air pollutants and fortunately they are all relatively easy to care for. The best options are: Areca / Bamboo palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) – see more under ‘Basket of the month’; Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa); Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) – see more under ‘Plant of the month’. Put your palm in an area with bright light.


Dracaena sp., Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) – see more under ‘Basket of the month’, Azalea sp. – see more under ‘Just in’, Mother in law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), Aglaonema sp., Peace lily (Spathiphyllum), Barberton daisy (Gerbera), Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) name a few.

To improve the health of your family drastically, purchase a few plants for your home this winter...nothing is anyways better at beating the winter blues than a pretty houseplant!

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