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Green Plants: Nature's Air Purifier

It's no secret that green plants can add instant style to any home or office décor. But did you know that having house plants is actually one of the best ways to improve air quality at home and work? That's because green plants actually absorb toxins from the air, making it safer for us to breathe. They even help improve our concentration too! Here's why bringing plants into your indoor space can make it a much healthier and more productive place to live.

How Plants Clean the Air

In the world of science, plants are known as Mother Nature's air purifiers. Through the natural process of photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release the oxygen that we breathe. But over the years, scientists have also discovered that carbon dioxide isn't the only substance sucked up by plants. They also remove many harmful compounds from the air and store them safely in the soil.
These compounds are called volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, and include ammonia, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene. Each of these is found in building materials and in the everyday products that we use, and they all contribute to sick building syndrome—illness caused by spending time indoors and inhaling these toxins.
In 1989, a team of NASA researchers led by B.C. Wolverton studied more than 15 different houseplants (including chrysanthemums, gerbera daisies, and aloe vera) to see how they changed the level of pollutants in small enclosed spaces. They mainly focused on the toxins formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene because they're most commonly found in the materials used to build homes and offices.
The team found that the plants removed up to 87% of indoor air toxins within 24 hours. The study also showed that the plants' soil and roots played a big role in cleansing the air: As time passed during the experiment, the tiny micro-organisms in the soil actually started to use some of the pollutants as a source of food. The soil was even more effective at devouring the toxins when the bottom leaves that covered the soil were removed, giving the soil even more contact with the air.
The outcome of the study: NASA suggests that having one 6-inch houseplant per square foot of your home or office does a good job of cleaning the air. The bigger and healthier the plant, the better it is at getting rid of harmful pollutants.

The Best Plants for Cleaning the Air

Although just about any plant can help alleviate indoor air pollution, some houseplants are better at removing specific pollutants than others. Here are the top plants we recommend to help you purify the air in your living space:

How Plants Improve the Workplace

Plants aren't just great to have around the house; they can also help you at work in many ways. According to the organization Green Plants for Green Buildings, plants in the workplace can greatly improve employee health, performance and job satisfaction. In offices that have at least one plant per employee, absenteeism can be reduced by a whopping 14%. So you get to miss less work and avoid falling behind, and your employer gets to save money too. Having trouble focusing? Plants also absorb noise, which in turn can help your concentration levels climb and increase creativity and productivity. Some studies even suggest that plants help people feel more confident and optimistic, helping to keep us calm and reduce stress in a hectic work environment.

How Plants Improve the Workplace

The hyacinth can grow to about 6-12 inches in height, and it typically blooms between late winter and early spring. It only needs partial shade to grow, but it can also thrive in full sun exposure. However, the hyacinth's blooms last longer when they're kept in bright but indirect sunlight. It normally prospers in neutral or slightly acidic soil, but it deteriorates in overly wet soil. For early spring flowering, hyacinth bulbs can be planted in the autumn in the garden, or it can be forced indoors for blooming.

More Benefits of Plants

We don't need much more convincing that having plants at home and at work is a must, but here are some bonus benefits to being around leafy greens:

  • Green plants reduce headaches, sore, dry throats, dry or itchy skin, fatigue, and other cold-related symptoms by more than 30%, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.
  • Need help recovering from surgery? One study showed that hospital patients who faced a window with a garden view recovered more quickly than those who faced a wall.
  • Tired of burning? Plants come to the rescue! Count on them to shade us from the sun.

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