Clearing the Air with Houseplants

June 27, 2019

Plants are oxygen for the lungs and soul.

Linda Solegato

Part of my signature statement life is being intentional about my environment. Duncan Sheik says,

“It’s inevitable your environment will influence what you do.”

I worked at a university for 10 years. That experience exposed me to impactful research like the wellness wheel. The wellness wheel is a concept that believes there are 8 areas that impact our health and well-being. 

One part of wellness is environment. Environmental wellness means taking care of your personal and global environment. Part of our environment (obviously) includes air.

Air quality is important to our health and even our sleep.

There are toxins even in indoor air, like formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and ammonia. These chemicals can have adverse effects like dizziness, headaches, and eye irritation.

How do house plants help clean and purify the air?

I have to admit that I never really fully grasped this whole plant growth, photosynthesis process from science class. So I had to get some help from Live Science.

Plants have the ability to absorb gases through the pores on the surface of their leaves. That is what facilitates photosynthesis–the ability to convert light energy and carbon dioxide into chemical energy that causes plants to grow. But not only are plants able to absorb carbon dioxide, they are able to absorb other gases like formaldehyde (found in some household products like dish detergent and fabric softener) and benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, cigarette smoke, and pesticides).

An indoor plant’s ability to remove these harmful compounds from the air is an example of phytoremediation, which is the use of any plant — indoors or out — to mitigate pollution in air, soil or water.

Indoor plants remove pollutants from the air by absorbing these gases through their leaves and roots. The microorganisms that live in the soil of potted plants also play an instrumental role in neutralizing air pollutants. 

Live Science (link)

So I woke up the other day and decided to start a small (for now) houseplant collection. I decided to do this for a few reasons:

Your atmosphere and surrounding create a state of mind for you.

Theophilus London

Plants calm me. My therapist has tons of plants in her office. When we’re talking about something difficult, I look at the plants and they calm me. 

Plants help improve air quality. Did you know that NASA actually did research in the 80s on what plants help “clean the air?” NASA wanted natural ways to clean the air of the aircrafts while in space and developed a list of over 20 houseplants that help to neutralize, absorb, and kill those toxins.

Plants do their work naturally. I know a lot of us use candles and oil diffusers for aromatherapy purposes and they do help improve air quality. But I like the concept that even when candles aren’t lit and diffusers aren’t diffusing, that the air quality is being maintained naturally.

Plants help improve the ability to and quality of sleep. Improved air quality can improve our quality of sleep. Sleep and rest is vital to creating and living a signature lifestyle. In order to show up as our best selves, we have to show up as our rested self.

I started my collection with…

Aloe Plant

Fun fact: This miracle plant can act as a literal air quality monitor. When high amounts of a chemical are present in a room, the plant’s leaves will develop brown spots as a warning sign.  

Plant Care: The Aloe Vera plant is a beautiful succulent that’s easy to grow & look after. Only water when the top 1-2inches of soil is dry… it likes a good soaking once in a while but can live without water for months… be aware that you can use the gel from the leaves topically but do not ingest as it can be really harmful.

Light: The Aloe plant prefers bright, filtered light.

Can You Kill It: This plant won’t hold it against you if you forget to water it once in a while.

Cleans From The Air: Benzene, Formaldehyde

Toxic To Cats & Dogs: Toxic!

Snake Plant

Also known as ‘Mother in laws tongue’ this plant is probably one of the toughest houseplants known to man! This happy houseplant clears the air of over 107 toxins (!), and emits super-high levels of oxygen throughout the nighttime. Sweet dreams, y’all.

Plant Care:  Only water when dry and be extra cautious to not over-water your snake plant in the winter.

Light: The Snake plant can tolerate many light conditions but is best placed in filtered light.

Can You Kill It: Ha… never!

Cleans From The Air: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Trichloroethylene, Xylene, Toluene

Toxic To Cats & Dogs: Toxic!

Golden Pothos

Also known as the Devil’s Ivy, this plant is a vigorous climber that doesn’t need a lot of attention.

Plant Care:  Plant in a well-draining pot & water when dry. Don’t worry if you forget to water it once in a while… it probably won’t even notice!

Light: The Devil’s Ivy prefers a bright location but not in direct sunlight.

Can You Kill It: Not easily!

Cleans From The Air: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Xylene, Toluene

Toxic To Cats & Dogs: Toxic!

Lavender Plant

Plant Care: Infrequent watering…wait until the soil is virtually dry between waterings.

Light: Full sun for around 8 hours a day

Can You Kill It: Growing lavender indoors is harder than other plants

Toxic to Cats or Dogs: Non-Toxic

Dumb Cane

Plant Care: Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Light: Indirect sunlight

Can You Kill It: It is hard to kill

Cleans From The Air: Formaldehyde

Toxic to Cats or Dogs: Toxic

I still want to find a spider plant and get a new Peace Lily…then the initial start to my collection will be complete.

Peace Lily

Not just a “sympathy” plant, this pretty plant is known for its ability to neutralize toxic cleaning chemicals—like ammonia—and also for its high transpiration rate, which makes it an all-natural humidifier. 

Plant Care: The Peace Lily is an adaptable houseplant that requires little maintenance. Look for a slight drooping of its leaves when it’s ready to be watered… you can also lightly spritz its leaves in the summer.

Light: Place your Peace Lily in a location where it has light to partial shade… If you notice the leaves turning yellow or brown it’s letting you know that it needs more shade!

Can You Kill It: Not easily!

Cleans From The Air: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Trichloroethylene, Xylene, Toluene, Ammonia

Toxic To Cats & Dogs: Toxic!

Spider Plant

For a small plant with a big impact, consider the spider plant, which has proven effective at fighting common pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde.  

Plant Care: Spider plants are super adaptable & easy to grow! Water your Spider plant well but allow it to dry out a little between waterings to prevent the soil becoming soggy.

Light: Spider plants love bright light but not direct sunlight.

Can You Kill It: You’ll have a tough job killing a Spider plant so they’re perfect for you if you don’t have a green thumb!

Cleans From The Air: Formaldehyde, Xylene, Toluene

Toxic To Cats & Dogs: Non-Toxic

I’m totally green when it comes to this (pun intended). So I did what any social media savvy person would do…

I follow a couple of hashtags on Instagram including #houseplantcommunity #plantsofinstagram #blackgirlswithgardens and #blackgirlswithplants and I follow a couple of people in the plant community like @therachethipster @greene.piece and @blackgirlswithgardens

What are your favorite house plants? Leave a comment below with more recommendations. If you don’t currently have live house plants, is this something you are willing to try? Let me know in the comments.

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Adeea R. Rogers, known as The Trendy Socialite, believes her calling is to help empower others to develop and pursue their purpose. And as a result, she is known as “The Purpose Pusher.” Adeea seeks to equip others with the motivation and tools necessary to create and design the life they want. Adeea believes in creating the change you want to see through creating events, communities and movements. She created International Natural Hair Meetup Day (INHMD), giving women around the world the opportunity to guide each other in their natural hair journeys. In July 2015, she co-founded Black Biz Live, a community-based initiative where black owned businesses are featured on livestream platforms. Adeea’s perspective on living a purposeful life, personal branding tips, and content marketing ideas, cause her to be a sought-after event host, workshop facilitator, speaker and panelist. She also hosts a podcast, The Trendsetters Podcast. Adeea has a profound love for three things: Her Savior, Jesus Christ, Starbucks, and Statement Jewelry.