20 Dec Plants to Purify the Air
Indoor plants can make your home look and feel beautiful, but they also have myriad health benefits, including the ability to purify the air.
Australia’s air quality – and the amount of smoke filling our skies – seems to sadly be getting worse by the day. The solution of course, seems to be to stay inside. However, even when tucked up at home, we are affected, with watery eyes, running noses and asthma attacks all on the rise. What to do? Try a few indoor plants that are renowned for purifying the air.
Gently Vegan’s Publisher, Catherine Carr, is often desk bound and has found that by surrounding herself with green, by literally bringing a garden into her office, she not only eases any breathing issues (the current smoke-filled air brings with it) but her mind is clearer, and her mood uplifted.
“I surround myself with as much green leaf as possible,” she reveals. “As a counsellor I know that the levels of smoke are having an impact on our community’s mental health as well as a physically affecting people’s wellbeing.
“Creating an indoor potted garden is also extremely therapeutic as just being with nature is proven to positively impact mental health. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Your local Bunnings has a range of plants on offer and you can get creative with pots by checking out your local Red Cross or St Vincent’s, which is also a fab way or reusing and recycling! Old porcelain bowls, teapots for smaller plants, even children’s toys, such as wooden trucks and prams can help you create a creative green space in your home”
“There are also many studies to suggest that gardening can help patients who experience anxiety and other mental health issues. I find surrounding myself with plants even increases my attention span and improves my memory. Plants can also bring benefits such as fewer headaches and less fatigue, reducing anxiety and tension, crafting a more productive, fluid and creative work environment and in some cases reducing hay fever symptoms”
Catherine’s favourite plant is the Madonna Lily, or Peace Lily. “It’s a low maintenance, shade loving plant with beautiful glossy dark green leaves and pearlescent white flowers. They look beautiful in a cluster, so I often have several pots in a large container sitting on my dining room table. “However, their biggest benefit is the ability to purify the air and remove toxins that exist in our homes such as ammonia and formaldehyde. Peace Lilies also help to humidify dry environments, so they are a natural way of introducing moisture into the air in your home.”
Another favourite of Catherine’s is the Rhapis Palm, also known as the Lady Palm. It’s a beautiful slow growing, multi-stemmed palm with large fan shaped leaves that thrives indoors. Catherine says: “It is making a style come back (think Hamptons luxe) and it’s the perfect way to bring summer into your lounge room when the air is preventing beach days. However beyond just providing oxygen the Rhapis will help lower carbon dioxide levels actually making the air in your home safer to breathe.”
As a vegan beauty editor, our Beauty Director Shonagh Walker obviously loves plant-based ingredients, particularly ones you can pluck straight from the plant and apply. One of her favourite go-to plants is Aloe Vera.
“It’s an easy to grow, sun loving succulent that even my brown thumb can’t kill,” she laughs. “I recall being in Jamaica on a photo shoot in the late 1990s and forgot to reapply sunscreen. I ended up with a dreadful sunburn. A local Jamaican friend cut off an Aloe Vera leaf from a large plant near us, opened the leaf and massaged the juice all over my burnt skin.
“Within just a few hours, my skin was back to normal and did not sting a bit. Ever since then, I’ve kept it close by! If I’m short on moisturiser, I’ll use it as a gel on my face or hands, too.”
Aside from these three gorgeous plants that we adore, there are many to choose from that can help purify the air in your home. Gently Vegan’s Shonagh Walker spoke with leading Landscape Architect Nicola Cameron, from Pepo Botanic Design in Paddington Sydney, for her top tips on what plants to invest in and how to best care for them.
Monsteria deliciosa “This lovely plant typically grows to a height of 500mm, but if given something to grow on, it will attach itself to it and scramble,” says Nicola, adding that the plant is back in vogue in a big way! “It is hardy, and it loves shady conditions, making it perfect for a bathroom or a warm room that has filtered light. The large lush leaves can absorb pollutants, but they do require cleaning occasionally.”
Maidenhair Fern “This delicate fern with its light green foliage is great for cool, ‘wet’ areas like the bathroom, and areas that get a little bit of a breeze. It loves soft filtered light and should thrive is you spray its leaves with water at least once a week.”
Cast Iron Plant “This tough, dependable plant typically grows to around 500mm,” says Nicola. Its upright leaves are dark green and big enough to suck up pollutants. Although they do need to be washed off weekly, so they can keep working hard. Don’t overwater or their roots, which sit high on the soil, will rot. They are easy to propagate and split.”
Janet Craig “With a strong stem and lush arching leaves that make it almost tree-like, this plant can grow to almost two metres,” says Nicola. “It’s a bold plant for a corner of the room and because it has so much foliage it works really hard! When it gets too big you can cut off the stem and replant it. New leaves will form along the stem. It’s a really easy one to grow and very tough, lush and elegant!”
Zanzibar Gem “ This sculptural, slow growing plant can vary a lot in size and shape, but typically grows to a maximum of 500m. Its leaves are wide and glossy green leaves that come off central leaders,” explains Nicola. “It’s a strong plant that is very reliable. Be careful not to overwater it and allow the soul to dry out between watering – you can let them dry out for weeks and they will be happy . It does require sunlight, so put in a nice area where the light comes in. Nicola adds: All parts of this plant are toxic, so it is not to be eaten by pets, children or adults”
Caring for Indoor Plants
This general advice isn’t for all plants (for example the Zanzibar Gem), however it works for most indoor plants.
• If possible, say if the pot is small, submerge the whole pot in water, not including the plant, once a week. Allow the air bubbles to rise to the surface and leave the pot in the water sink for another five minutes until the soil is soaked through. Remove it from the sink and allow to drain. If the pot is too big to lift, water the plant once a week ensuring you have a tray under the pot to collect any water that spills out. It’s important that the pot is not always sitting in water or the roots could rot. The tray should dry out after a day or so.
• Generally indoor plants will need to be watered once a week.
• Fertilise indoor plants with a slow release fertiliser every six months. Use a liquid food, such as worm wee from your worm farm, once a month. Liquid fertilizer high in Nitrogen will help to develop full lush leaves.
• If using potting mix, be sure to always invest in a good quality mix. Cheap potting mix is generally full of bark and has no nutrients, so plants don’t thrive. If you have succulents use a good quality succulent mix.
Lifestyle Editor Shonagh Walker