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A breath of fresh air: Houseplants are a lovely way to improve your indoor air quality

Monday, February 4, 2013

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What kind of air are you really breathing at home? Surprising data from the EPA shows that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Common pollutants include furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves and even your vacuum cleaner. With the average American spending as much as 90 percent of their lives indoors, improving air quality should be a priority.

Keeping houseplants is one thing you can do to boost your indoor air quality.

"Plants respire and breathe. They will bring the ambient air into the plant and process it just like you and I do when we breathe," explains Paul Schnare, owner of Sunny Hill Gardens & Florist. "The thing is, a lot of toxins that may or may not be in the air are then left in the plant. It's a way to clean the ambient air."

This fact has even proven by NASA: In the 1980s, the association became concerned with the quality of air in its space stations, so it conducted a study of how houseplants filtered the air in those places. Nearly 20 plants were found to be particularly adept at filtering the air and producing oxygen (see sidebar).

NASA recommends using one plant per 100 square feet in your home or office. And it's not just the number of plants but the size, as well, says Schnare -- the bigger the plant, the bigger the impact on your air quality.

Most houseplants require some light. Indoor light is different from outdoor light, so Schnare recommends putting plants next to a window or giving them some artificial light, preferably with light bulbs of the same wavelength as sunlight.

"Water is extremely important," he adds. "Most people overwater their plants inside. When you water them, fill every pore in the soil with water and let any excess drain out of the pot. You don't want the pot to sit in water."

Schnare also recommends fertilizing houseplants occasionally, alternating between balanced and unbalanced fertilizers. You don't need to fertilize much in the winter, however.

For Schnare, an added benefit of houseplants is on the psyche.

"Plants not only clean up air but they give people a good feeling," he says. "I like the idea that those plants are like pets, if you will, but they don't run away, bark, meow, or poop or pee on the carpet."

BrandPoint Content contributed to this report.

Plants to try

Hey, you can't argue with NASA. Here are some plants recommended for improving indoor air quality:

* English ivy

* Spider plant

* Golden pothos or Devil's ivy

* Peace lily

* Chinese evergreen

* Bamboo palm or reed palm

* Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue

* Heartleaf philodendron

* Selloum philodendron

* Elephant ear philodendron

* Red-edged dracaena

* Cornstalk dracaena

* Janet Craig dracaena

* Warneck dracaena

* Weeping fig

* Gerbera daisy or Barberton daisy

* Pot mum or florist's chrysanthemum

* Rubber plant

Source: Mother Nature Network

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