Clean Air for Your Home
Foliage Plants are like adding a breath of fresh air to a room and in fact, that’s exactly what they do is increase the amount of oxygen in a room. They are also very attractive, decorative and functional, as well as being relatively easy to care for.
Light is the most important element in successfully growing a houseplant. Without adequate light a plant cannot produce the food it needs to survive.
It is almost always better to give a plant more light than it needs rather than not enough. For example, the Draceana family is generally regarded as a low-light to medium-light family of plants, but it is common to see Draceana massangeana and Draceana marginata, among others, growing in the direct, blazing sun of the tropics. This family of plants grows naturally in high light but it also grows naturally in lower light areas, and is thus well suited for most homes and offices. High-light plants such as Ficus benjamina and Crotons cannot be forced into lower light areas to suit a design function unless they are supplemented with proper additional electric lighting. Additional lighting may be provided in the form of spot grow bulbs, flourescent grow tubes or various kinds of high-intensity, industrial-type lighting.
A good way to determine if an area has enough light to support a given plant is to take a light reading. You can easily do this by purchasing a combination moisture meter available here in the garden centre.
More houseplants are killed by over watering than by all other factors combined. Water requirements vary for each different type of plant. Generally, the more light a plant is exposed to, the more water it requires. Temperature, humidity, soil mix and the type of container are all contributing factors to a plant’s need for moisture.
It is a good idea to check plants at a regularly scheduled time, but it is almost impossible to say that a particular plant will need water every week or any other time frame because of all the above factors may vary from time to time.
Moisture Meters can be a valuable tool when checking plants to see if they require water. However, they should be used as a guide only; always use your senses to determine if the Moisture Meter is working properly. Droopy plants usually indicate a need for water, but may also be a result of stress caused by over watering.
A plant standing in a saucer or pot of water will absorb too much moisture through its root system. The plant will not have an opportunity to dry out. This will result in a plant performing poorly, even though the water given at any one time may not have been excessive.
Temperature and Humidity
Tropical plants will survive a wide range of temperatures, but like ourselves, tropical plants find that moderate temperatures in the range of 15 to 30°C are ideal. Evening temperatures should generally drop about 5°C to sustain plant vitality. Drafts, air conditioning and heating ducts usually have an adverse effect on most tropical plants.
Most plants prefer higher humidity levels than the average house can provide, but they adapt to their surroundings and normal house humidity levels are usually not a problem.
Some fertilization of tropical plants is necessary to provide the proper nutrients to sustain overall plant health and vigor. Plants should be fed when in an “actively growing” stage, which in Canada is usually from March to October. It is better to feed more often with diluted concentrations of fertilizer than giving a double dose once in a while. Never fertilize a dry plant as this can cause root burn.
Most foliage plants respond well to balanced fertilizers such as 20-20-20, while flowering plants prefer a higher concentration of phosphorous, such as 15-30-15.
Disease and Insects
Diseases and insects are something that plant owners should be aware of but should not be cause for a great deal of concern as long as the plants are purchased from a legitimate garden centre where they have been cared for properly.
Indoor Plants for Cleaner Air
Studies done by NASA and the Foliage for Clean Air Council are finding that plants have incredible air cleansing abilities in the home or office. Dr. Bill Wolverton, a NASA research scientist, believes that eight to 15 plants in an average size home will significantly improve air quality. The plants take in the harmful molecules, process them, and release fresh air.
By improving the quality of air in the office, employees will feel and perform better. Most symptoms of sick building syndrome (indoor air pollution) are similar to allergy symptoms at first, but can lead to much severe problems. With the installation of plants, these symptoms will subside. Buildings that have natural ventilation and high numbers of microorganisms (associated with sickness) have less employee health problems than buildings with mechanical ventilation and low microorganisms. Therefore, it’s not microorganisms in the majority of cases, which cause employee absenteeism.
Some of the vapours are very dangerous and toxic. The NASA research team has found at any one time, up to 107 different toxins or gases in the air we breathe indoors. Following is a description of three of the most common chemicals found. These chemicals are greatly reduced by plant introduction.
Trichlorethylene is a potent liver carcinogen. It is found in the metal degreasing and dry cleaning industries, in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives.
This chemical has long since been known to cause skin and eye irritation. It can also cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and loss of appetite, blurred vision, respiratory diseases, irregular heart beat, tremors, liver and kidney damage, paralysis and unconsciousness. Benzene is found in gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, detergents, explosives and pharmaceuticals.
This chemical will cause irritation to the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) and eyes. It irritates mucous membranes and can cause dermatitis. Formaldehyde is used in foam insulation, particleboard and pressed wood, grocery bags, paper towels, facial tissues and waxed paper. Most products which require a resin to produce it will probably have formaldehyde. Some plants appear to cleanse the air more efficiently than others do.
Dealing with indoor pollution
With each plant, we are providing you its light requirements and a list of the pollutants in the order they cleanse the air.
Low light: Dracaena marginata, Peace lily, Mother-in-law’s tongue, and Bamboo palm.
Bright indirect light: English ivy and all of the low light plants listed above.
Full sun:Gerbera Daisy
Low light: Mother-in-law’s tongue, Dracaena warneckei, Peace lily, Chinese evergreen, Dracaena marginata, Bamboo palm.
Bright indirect light: Pot mums, English ivy, and all of the low light plants listed above.
Full sun:Gerbera Daisy
Low light: Mother-in-law’s tongue, Bamboo palm, Heartleaf philodendron, Spider plant and Golden pothos.
Bright indirect light: English ivy, and all of the low light plants listed above.
Full sun: Banana tree (use a dwarf variety).
As you can see, the plant world will make or break us. We should see that these years of research have also revealed to us another underlying theme. Man needs to realize how dependent we are on the plants and ecological cycles around us ï¿½ which we are now destroying. We can act now, individually, on this article to change our lives inside our offices or homes, but we need collective action to change and save the indoor atmosphere. All the plants in the world can’t stop the pollution without our genuine and immediate help and hope.