Indoor plants can help keep buildings healthier

The solution to one problem can cause another.

The solution to one problem can cause another.

When energy costs increased, buildings became more energy efficient with better insulation and fewer cracks. As a result, air circulation became a problem, which resulted in sick people and the phrase “sick building syndrome.”

Much has been done to improve buildings air quality in buildings but more can be achieved by the addition of indoor plants.

Healthy plants pull in harmful air particles, trapping them within the plant during their transpiration cycle.

All plants clean the air to some degree but according to studies done by NASA, certain varieties of plants are better at the process than others.

Before purchasing the top 10 plants on the list, make sure that the climate is suitable for the chosen plant. Without the correct climate temperature, light, nutrients, soil and water, the plant will be short-lived.

The following plants are ones that clean the air and are usually easy to grow.

l Spider plants (hlorophytum) thrive if they are given a spot in bright indirect sunlight. They will live in darker locations but will produce fewer stems that contain smaller plants. Spider plants prefer a well-drained soil. Repot when the plants are completely rootbound. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch and fertilize regularly during the spring and summer months.

l English ivy (hedra helix) can overtake a garden in warmer climates but in Central Alberta it is a house plant that thrives in bright light or even fluorescent light. Water, keeping the soil moist but not wet as the ivy’s roots do not like to be soggy or dry. Less water is usually needed during the winter months when the plant can become dormant. Fertilize regularly when the plant is putting out new growth. English ivy is prone to infestations of spider mites. Avoid this problem by keeping the plant healthy and checking plants before they are purchased. As with all ivy plants, the strands can be let grow or they can be pruned back, making it a bushier plant.

l Snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata) is one of the easiest plants to grow. It appears to thrive on neglect and will grow in any light. The more light the plant receives, the quicker it grows. A sunny area will see maximum plant growth, but the plant will live and put out new growth in minimal light conditions. Water the plant according to the amount of light it receives and the speed it grows.

l Corn plants (dracena fragans) Janet Craig, red edged and warneck dracena are all cultivars of dracena deremensis. Like the snake plant, the rate of growth will change with the amount of light received. Pot plants into well-drained soil and leave them in the same pot until they becomes rootbound. Some varieties of dracena will grow in cooler temperatures but these varieties do not. They should never be placed outside in the summer as night temperatures drop too low.

l Golden pothos (scindapsus aures) has variegated foliage and makes a good addition to any room. Like most ivy, it is shallow rooted. This only becomes a problem if the plant is given too much water and the soil stays wet between watering. Golden pothos will grow in low to bright light conditions. For a bushier plant, trim the plant back on a regular basis.

A few plants in the room can make a difference in the air we breathe. Add some to the home or workplace.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at or

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