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Inhale, Exhale and Breathe: Air Cleaning Houseplants

Here at ‘Thought’, nature immerses everything we do, from the materials we use, to the inspiration behind our collections, and the respect we have for the planet.  So, it’s only natural that the offices are full of green, luscious plants, and for our photoshoots, the creative team dress the studio with stunning air cleaning houseplants.

air cleaning houseplants

It’s a lovely environment to work in, and plants are well-known for their air-cleansing properties, as well as providing essential oxygen.  But don’t just take my word for it, the NASA Clean Air Study has done extensive research on the benefits of houseplants, with the aim of providing recycled, breathable air inside space stations.  In the home, they recommend at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space to detox the air of commonly found chemicals and allergens, found in many cleaning products, paints, furniture and mould, to name just a few.

As well as the scientific facts, plants are good for the soul, and our general wellbeing.  Who doesn’t feel more refreshed and calm, after spending time in nature?  With a few air cleaning houseplants, you can bring the outdoors in.

The number and types of plants for the home is huge.  Here are just a few types to help you get started.  Don’t worry if you think you don’t have green fingers, most plants on this list don’t require much maintenance.

air cleaning plants

Inhale, Exhale and Breathe: Air Cleaning Houseplants

Potted Plants

Display:  There are a myriad of options for potted plants, and any garden centre will stock a variety.  Large potted plants look smart on raised stands, and smaller ones look impactful when grouped together.  Reusing old teacups, teapots, tins, jam jars, buckets and even boots are alternative examples to traditional pots – just make sure they have enough drainage, by adding gravel, or drilling holes into the bottom.

air cleaning plants

Suggested plant types

  • Snake plant: Also known as ‘Mother-in-Laws Tongue’, this plant has strong, architectural leaves, which are very efficient at removing airborne toxins.  Even better, it requires very little maintenance, and will survive almost any light conditions, and needs only a small amount of watering
  • Peace Lily: this lovely leafy plant with white flowers will improve your air quality by a whopping 60%. It even absorbs mould spores through its leaves, circulating them towards its roots to be used as food.
  • Aloe Vera: another plant which is easy to grow, needing only medium light and little watering. Too much attention, and it starts to wither, so try to neglect it! It absorbs toxins from the air, and the gel inside the leaves helps heal burns and cuts.
  • Cacti: along with succulents, cacti are on trend and in every interior shoot and clothing print this summer! (Find ours at wearethought.com).  Wonderfully sculptural, and fun to look at, they are great either on their own, or make a statement in groups.  All they need is a bit of light, (but weirdly, given that they grow in the desert, strong, direct sun is a bit too much for them indoors).   Water them only once every one to two months, and make sure the soil has good drainage.

air cleaning plants

Hanging Plants

Display: if surface space is an issue, then why not hang your plants by screwing a hook into the ceiling or a wall?  There are lots of hanging pots available to buy, but you can make your own by tying twine or any interesting ribbon around a pot.  I love this one made from a vintage, crochet doily. The most successful hanging plants are those which trail, such as those used for the Thought photoshoot. Kokedama string balls, use moss wrapped around the plant and the soil to retain moisture, and are completely self-contained.

air cleaning houseplants

Suggested plant types

  • Spider plant: if you want bang for your buck, this is the one for you. The most effective of NASA’s top ten, this humble plant will remove a giant 90% of the toxins in the air.  90%!  It absorbs mould allergens, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide.  It’s cheap and easy to propagate.
  • Devil’s Ivy: great at home or in the office, as it absorbs pollutants often found in electronic equipment, cleaning products, furniture and carpets. While it can be toxic if ingested by cats and dogs, it does absorb the bacteria they can carry.  If your pet likes to eat plants, either keep them out of reach, or choose a non-toxic alternative.
  • Air plants: I’m currently living with air plants for the first time; cute little plants, that don’t need any soil. Contrary to popular belief, they do need regular watering – they need a weekly soak, and misting a couple of times a week, preferably with rainwater, of which we have in abundance!  (But distilled or filtered water seems to be okay too).  My air plants are hanging, but they work equally well in small pots.
  • String of Pearls: This is a stunning succulent, with trails of circular ‘beads’, which works well in good light and is drought tolerant, i.e. you don’t need to water it very often, maybe once every couple of weeks.

air cleaning plants

Living Walls

Display: Indoor vertical gardens are a huge trend, popping up in shops and restaurants, as well as homes.  You can go the full monty and introduce a system which circulates air and water mechanically, or maybe start with something a little less daunting.  A free-standing, moveable shelving unit, open on both sides is something to try if you need to screen off an area in your home or office.  Even simpler options, are to build a frame, fill with gravel, soil, chicken wire, and then fill with plants and hang on your wall (make sure it has a waterproof backing).  Easier still are pots or jars hung onto racks – this is a brilliant solution for your own kitchen herb garden.

air cleaning plants

Suggested plant types

  • English Ivy: with amazing toxin absorption, cheap to buy and easy to grow, this works well planted vertically.
  • Boston Fern: these help humidify the air, and so are great in centrally heated homes, and for anyone suffering from dry skin.
  • Moss: this works particularly well in hanging frames.  All it needs is low light and regular misting with water to keep it green.  Like ferns, it has humidifying properties, and absorbs disease-causing bacteria, so it’s great during cold and flu season.
  • Succulents: small succulents grouped together in frames, make attractive compositions, and are easy to maintain. A living piece of art!
  • Herbs: Basil, parsley, mint, coriander, rosemary, thyme, etc, are all great for your kitchen wall.  As well as their aromatic scents, they all have individual health benefits when eaten.

air cleaning plants

Care and Maintenance

Light:  A rule of (green) thumb, is if your plant is getting any brown, crispy edges, then it’s getting too much direct sun.  If the lower leaves are starting to yellow, then it’s likely that the plant needs more light.  It’s often a good idea to move your plant into a sunnier spot during the winter, and a shadier one in the summer.

Water:  Most plants prefer their soil to dry out between watering, but not all, so check when you buy your plants.  Wilting leaves when the soil is damp, is a sign that they’re getting too much water.  If this happens, drain the containers of any standing water, and leave to dry out.

air cleaning plants

If you’re going away for a couple of weeks, stand your plants in a baking tray of water, out of direct sunlight.  There are also slow-watering ‘spikes’ which slowly leech water into the soil, which work well.   Most plants benefit from the occasional dose of plant food.

Dusting:  Use a dry, or slightly damp cloth and gently wipe the leaves, or place the plant under a very gently spray to remove dust.  For cacti, use an old paintbrush, to avoid being pricked!

This is only the tip of the iceberg of how houseplants can help you and your home become healthier.

Inhale, exhale and breathe!

Elaine Air Cleaning Houseplants

If you have any tips or facts to share about air cleaning houseplants, we would love to hear them! Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet!

We think you’ll love reading about our Terrarium Making Workshop or our DIY Plant Wall Tutorial.

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