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How indoor plants can give city-slickers a literal breath of fresh air

Date: 03-Aug-17
Author: Josh Cole

The best indoor plants are hardy, water-efficient and purify the air © Mereco on Flickr

The best indoor plants are hardy, water-efficient and purify the air

Making time for nature can be a hard ask for people living in metropolitan areas, but a new report by Biodiversity and Human Health researcher Danica-Lea Larcombe has found that even inner-city apartment dwellers can get the benefits of being near nature with indoor plants.

A range of bacteria can be found in natural environments that people lack access to in cities, and exposure to them forces immune systems to adapt, making for more robust defenses against illness as well as stronger digestive systems. This leaves people living in cities reliant on local parkland, at a premium in some areas, or on indoor plants. 

Fear of killing the plants or uncertainty about what rental agreements allow often stops people living in apartments from growing indoors, but there’s a wide range of plants that don’t need to be anchored to walls and are small enough to fit on a desk or coffee table while still yielding the benefits of being closer to nature.

There are other benefits to this proximity too – Planet Ark research has found that time in natural environments, even built environments that incorporate wood and plants, can reduce stress and improve heart rate among other benefits. It can even enhance learning outcomes in kids who are taught in those environments.

But some plants go above and beyond and provide secondary benefits. Five of the easiest-to-grow are below: 

  1. Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum

Peace lilies are deceptive plants; what looks like a white flower growing from their stems is actually a specialised leaf that shields their real flowers. They reduce levels of acetone and ammonia in the air around them, and fare well in low-light environments. Most surprisingly they are even capable of surviving on artificial light.

  1. Gerbera daisy – Gerbera jamesonii

Aside from being comfortable in low-light situations and an old favourite in floral arrangements, NASA found that gerberas extract benzene and formaldehyde from the air. One of these hardy flowering plants could be a great addition to a shared laundry/bathroom as those chemicals are commonly found in cleaning products.

  1. Aloe vera – Aloe barbadensis

All plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen but aloe vera does so at a higher rate and as a succulent doesn’t need as much water. An aloe vera plant on a well-lit bedside table could make for peaceful nights as higher oxygen levels contribute to more restful sleep.

  1. Dracaena – Dracaena marginata

They need more fertilisation than the average indoor pot plant but these tall, leafy plants handle cool climates well and can clear the air of solvents and paint by-products such as xylene.

  1. Lucky plant – Aglaonema

Lucky plants or Chinese evergreens are resilient, traditionally growing on rainforest floors where light is scarce, and like the other entries on this list have been found to draw in solvents and other harmful substances.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.  


Josh                                              Cole
Author: Josh Cole

Josh comes to Planet Ark after a stint in legal communication and from a background in print journalism. He studied Communications and Media as a mature age student in Wollongong where he re-discovered his love for the natural environment.

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