As we decide to live increasingly minimalist lives, with a lot of the ensuing health benefits, we can sometimes find the ‘50 shades of beige’ austere (even if Kelly Hoppen can make things look like a million dollars with the simply the flick of a magnolia paintbrush!)
Good news is at hand, home fashionistas. Whether you are full on Rococo, Victorian chic or utterly minimalist in your approach to home decor, plants are our best friend – there are few ‘aesthetics’ that plants won’t complement.
There is a softening effect to be had by having plants around, and they can certainly fit beautifully with just about any aesthetic. Plants and their leaves are known to absorb and reflect noise, making the environment ‘gentler’ and more comfortable, more tranquil. They are great for hiding problem areas, as well as visually smoothing stark corners. And as they’re plants, they won’t ruin the room’s good looks.
Curtis Gubb is a PhD student at the University of Reading, UK and has been investigating houseplants and indoor air quality, particularly in removing chemical compounds in the air. His research found that poor indoor air quality – and the airborne pollutants that contribute – causes “an array of health issues from mild sensory irritations to cancer. As we spend more than 20 hours a day indoors in western Europe, the quality of the air we breathe must be taken seriously.”
Over four million people worldwide die prematurely each year due to indoor air pollution, which is generally a mix of outdoor-pollutants, compounds emitted from furnishings, detergents, paints etc and fungal spores and bacteria. These can create Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Symptoms include eye, nose and throat irritation; dry skin; headaches; fatigue and irritability; chest tightness and wheezing; and skin irritation.
Plants are known to help by absorbing many of those contaminants or preventing their formation, particularly in winter when windows are closed. RHS research has shown that the physical health benefits of indoor plants include:
· Reduced blood pressure
· Reduced fatigue and headaches (by as much as 20-25 percent in one study)
· Increased pain tolerance (notably in hospital settings)
And the benefits of plants is not just physical.
According to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), rooms which look out on nature (including parks, gardens and wild spaces) can also provide psychological support:
· An improved mood
· Reduced stress levels
· Increased worker productivity (adding plants to office environments in particular)
· Increased speed of reaction to computer tasks
· Improved attention span (in some, but not all scientific studies)
According to Dr. Virginia Lohr, Washington State University, as little as 2% of the room filled with plants will make a large impact on room air quality.
As someone who is as un-green fingered as a purple fingered thing, I ran a little research to see what people are recommended as great indoor plants, and have grouped them together. Many are plants recommended in oft quoted NASA air quality research, but note, all plants filter air – it’s just that some have been tested.
The Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), known by many as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, is apparently the most oxygen producing indoor plant, purifying the air by clearing it of toxins such as carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and benzene. It’s also very forgiving about location and can withstand a little neglect.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) is notable for effectively cleansing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air and for helping reduce mould. It’s a ‘beginners’ plant – very forgiving and fast growing, by all accounts. It’s also reputed to have medicinal properties, but take professional advice before trusting what you read on the web! Herbalists apparently use it to treat respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, and bronchitis; and it’s healing properties include being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and antiarthritic.
Pothos Ivy (also known as Devil’s Ivy) is said to be the easiest plant to grow. It has lots of varieties, including Golden Pothos, which is very popular with Instagram users. It needs moist, peaty soil, and loves plant hangers!
There are, it seems, about 2,600 species of palm trees spread over 181 genera within the Arecaceae family of plants. So be cautious and don’t just pick any old palm – some grow up to over 60 foot tall!
Among recommendations for indoor use were:
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) likes a lot of light, and despite thriving well in desert temperatures is great at absorbing moisture – ideal for bathrooms. It’s easy to grow, releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide at night – a fabulous air purifier. Aloe is also renowned for its healing effect on burns and skin irritations, is used in all kinds of cosmetics, and can even safely be used in smoothies!
Cacti are reputed to absorb all kinds of harmful rays coming from screens. Recent research has shown that this is only true under certain conditions, but don’t overlook them.
Philodendron plants, including the ‘monstera’ plant which is very fashionable, have been shown to be one of the most effective for reducing air pollution, notably formaldehyde. However, the leaves are toxic when eaten, so perhaps best to avoid with small children or pets around.
You want clean air AND flowers? These come recommended:
1. If you have young children or pets, check before bringing any plant inside that they are not toxic if chewed.
2. Some plants are more forgiving than others – before purchasing, think where you want to put them and if they’ll thrive there.
3. If you’re reading around and hear ‘NASA recommended’ it’s a misinterpretation. NASA only tested a set number of plants. Some were good at removing certain substances, all are great for filtering air in some way and releasing oxygen. The NASA study was information, not recommendation.
4. Be honest with yourself about how green-fingered you are. Pick something forgiving if you’re time pressed or a houseplant novice.
Now you cannot store your plants with us but of course, if you want to store things to make space for these beauties, or have general storage needs, we’re here to help: easyStorage.
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