It’s the time of year when we close the windows and turn on the heat. It’s also the time of year when people get more colds and flus because they stay indoors so much. Fresh clean air is so important, and a high quality furnace filter can only do so much. That’s where house plants come in. They naturally clean the air and pump out oxygen. Remember the process of photosynthesis from high school biology? Plants use carbon dioxide (what we exhale), sun, water and soil to live. All plants filter and purify the air from one extent to another, but tropical and sub-tropical plants do the best jobs of ridding the air of pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene and ammonia. English Ivy, for example, absorbs formaldehyde — the most prevalent indoor pollutant, which shows up in wood floorboard resins and synthetic carpet dyes. Likewise, Lady Palm targets ammonia (nasty on the respiratory system), which is a major ingredient in cleaners, textiles and dyes. — This Old House Magazine.

Just go to any nursery or plant store and you should be able to find houseplants like ferns, ficas and Philodendrons. Houseplants are relatively easy to care for. You don’t have to take them for walks, give them baths or read to them . . . although they enjoy the CO2 you breathe out. Remember that plants respire at night, so don’t have plants in your bedroom or they will compete with you for oxygen when you sleep. Plants also vary in the amount of sunlight they need, so sticking one in a dark corner won’t work too well. Watering your houseplants doesn’t need to be a chore either. Just make it part of your routine as you do your dusting, vacuuming and cleaning. Still too lazy? Then try a watering globe or watering bulb. We usually use them when we go away for a few days. Earlier this week we came back from having Thanksgiving with my family in California, and when we entered our house the air was clean and fresh. Thank you very much, plants!

House plants
A couple outdoor plants (on the floor) join the group over winter.

Living room house plant
Another happy plant. Next to a row of windows and safe behind a chair.