Over the last year or so - with very little else to occupy our time - it comes as no surprise that sales of house plants went through the roof. According to research by Wren Kitchens, search volume for “house plants delivered” has increased by 400 per cent, while “buy houseplants online” is up by 200 per cent.
Lockdown has given us not only the chance to devote time and care into our homes but also the need to curate a calming and cosy space. This has led us to channel greenhouse vibes and construct our indoor jungles for a botanical retreat and refuge from the outside world.
The joy of houseplants goes far beyond just the mental boost that it gives us - it can also positively impact our physical health. Science Daily revealed that “exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure”, but it doesn’t stop there. They also work to purify the air that we breathe.
In a report conducted by none other than NASA, it was revealed that indoor plants can in fact remove up to 87 per cent of toxins in air and water in just 24 hours. It goes on to explain how - our kind plant babies pull polluted air into its roots and converts it to food and energy.
Plants act in the opposite way in which we breathe. While humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, plants work to release O2 and absorb CO2 removing harmful toxins and freshening the air as they go. Science!
It is also worth noting that while some plants release oxygen during the day, at night (when photosynthesis is not possible), some switch it up and release CO2 instead. Keep these plants in the living room, not the bedroom. There are some exceptions of course - namely orchids, snake plants, bromeliads and our favourites, succulents.
Some plants purify the air far greater than others so we’ve constructed this handy guide. As an added bonus, they tend to be some of the most low-maintenance out there so even if you don’t have green fingers, you can still maximise the health benefits.
This is one of the most effective plants at removing carbon dioxide from your home. While it is actually called Calathea, the nickname comes from the way that the plants fold together at night like hands in prayer - it’s a real joy to watch them unfold if you’re an early riser. Easy to care for, the plants enjoy indirect or medium light, regular watering and can be placed just about anywhere to elevate the space. They have beautiful leaves and come in a variety of colours, from green to purple, but keep away from sunny windows as this may cause them to fade.
No need to flex any green fingers here, snake plants (or Sansevieria trifasciata as they are officially known) are some of the easiest to keep alive - requiring very minimal care. They are known for their stiff leaves that tend to be green in colour with a lighter border. From bright light, to dark corners, they’ll thrive in any setting and are nearly indestructible. Best of all, they release oxygen and add moisture into the air so are great for allergy sufferers. There are even studies that show they were able to remove formaldehyde and benzene from the air. Snake plants were kept as treasured houseplants in China as it was believed that the gods bestowed virtues of long life, prosperity, intelligence, beauty, art, poetry, health and strength on those who grew it. Sign us up.
Peace lilies are not only a pretty, eye-catching addition to your home with tropical vibes but they have a very effective process for air purification by soaking up mould spores. Store in a dry place as the plant absorbs its own water and releases it back into its surroundings. Care for it by placing it in the morning light but remove it from the evening light to encourage it to flower - indirect light is best. Keep the soil damp (not soggy) and mist the leaves. They are poisonous to ingest so keep away from kids and pets.
The very ‘Grammable Monstera is also known as the Swiss cheese plant due to its perforated leaves. They are great for air purification but, like the Peace Lily above, they can be toxic to animals and little ones. Brighten up your kitchen or bathroom with these plants as they thrive in humid environments and indirect sunlight. This will give the leaves that coveted glossy effect. The statement plants work wonders in creating that jungle look.
You may have gathered from the name but this plant, and specifically the white latex in its bark, was used to make rubber. The leaves also have a glossy, rubbery appearance. They work to purify the air (and are green-lighted by NASA!) but are toxic if ingested. Place in a medium level of light - bright but filtered is best - and water about once a week.
There are many nicknames for the Dieffenbachia plant - Dumb cane, Mother-in-law’s tongue, and Leopard lily - all of which paint a picture of this plant. It is mildly toxic and can cause a temporary loss of speech if ingested (hence the name). The leaves have a big variegated look that will liven up your space. You want to keep it moist but not wet - overwatering is a huge danger with this one. Filtered lighting is also best but it requires a moderate amount.
For a pop of colour with air purifying benefits, anthurium plants make bright and playful home additions. The striking heart-shaped coloured part may look like a flower but it is in fact a spathe to encourage insects for pollination of the spike (the real flower) in the middle. It comes from rainforests in South America and so doesn’t need a whole lot of light but they do grow best in bright, indirect sunlight. It needs to be watered regularly.
English ivy is, as you can imagine, very common in the UK and looks particularly aesthetically-pleasing on a wall, trellis or on the side of a building - although it may cause damage to brickwork. They are climber plants and can reach impressive heights of 80 feet or so, growing quickly and without much maintenance. It absorbs mould in the air, and there’s also some suggestion that it will help with restlessness for a deeper sleeper. Place in sunlight and keep the soil slightly dry.
If you don’t know the name arrowhead plant, you may in fact know it from many of its other monikers - arrowhead vine, American evergreen, five fingers, nephthytis or its official name syngonium podophyllum. As you may expect, the leaves resemble a spade-shape and look extra aesthetically-pleasing in a hanging basket due to the vines that trail and climb. It requires low light and infrequent watering so it’s extremely low maintenance (ideal for novice gardeners among us).
Large space may call for a larger statement plant and the Yucca is ideal for exactly that. There are more than 20 species and this will alter the colour of the leaves but they are always set on a large cane-like wood stem. Yucca is a type of succulent and is originally found in the desert so low water is best (they actually store it in their trunks). They are super resilient and need next to no maintenance.