Clean air, whether it’s what you breathe inside or out, keeps us healthy, active and happy. Your community can maintain and expand its tree canopy, increase energy efficiency measures and program services, and convert its fleet to ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles). You can also do similar things inside your home and in your backyard. Here, we’ll discuss measures that require you to utilize your green thumb. If you’re not especially gifted in this area, don’t fret! I’ll outline some expert tips.
Inside Your Home
NASA released a Clean Air Study in 1989 that determined which indoor plants best removed toxins, reducing “sick building syndrome”. The list of these plants were originally researched to determine how best to keep the air in space stations clean, but it is usefully in homes as well. NASA recommends keeping one plant for every 100 square feet of living or office space.
**Important for pet owners: make sure to note the last column in this chart!**
|Plant, removes:||benzene||formaldehyde||trichloroethylene||xyleneandtoluene||ammonia||Toxic to dogs, cats |
|Chinese evergreen(Aglaonema modestum)||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||toxic |
|Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata'Laurentii')||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||toxic |
|Aloe vera (Aloe vera)||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||toxic |
|Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis "Janet Craig")||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||toxic |
|Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis "Warneckei")||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||toxic |
|English ivy (Hedera helix)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||toxic |
|Devil's ivy, Money plant (Epipremnum aureum)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||toxic |
|Peace lily (Spathiphyllum'Mauna Loa')||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||toxic |
|Red-edged dracaena(Dracaena marginata)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||toxic |
|Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana')||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||toxic |
|Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||non-toxic |
|Florist's chrysanthemum(Chrysanthemum morifolium)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||toxic |
|Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Kimberly queen fern(Nephrolepis obliterata)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic|
|Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||non-toxic |
|Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum)||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||toxic |
|Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Broadleaf lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||non-toxic |
|Heartleaf philodendron(Philodendron cordatum)||No||Yes||No||No||No||toxic |
|Elephant ear philodendron(Philodendron domesticum)||No||Yes||No||No||No||toxic|
|Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||toxic |
|Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)||No||Yes||No||No||No||toxic |
|Dendrobium orchids(Dendrobium spp.)||No||No||No||Yes||No||non-toxic|
|Dumb canes (Dieffenbachiaspp.)||No||No||No||Yes||No||toxic |
|King of hearts (Homalomena wallisii)||No||No||No||Yes||No||toxic|
|Moth orchids (Phalaenopsisspp.)||No||No||No||Yes||No||non-toxic |
|Banana (Musa Oriana)||No||Yes||No||No||No||non-toxic |
Chart from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Clean_Air_Study
Tips for keeping your houseplants alive:
- Sunlight, sunlight, sunlight. A south-facing window is best for houseplants because the plants will get the brightest and longest stream of natural light. If you don’t have a south-facing window, put your plants wherever they will get as much natural light as possible in your home or office.
- Water, but not too much. I water my plants every 3 days. This allows the water to seep all the way through the soil and soak it, but not keep it constantly drenched. If you water too much, your plant can become susceptible to root rot and you’ll likely lose your plant quickly. Make sure your plants are in pots with drainage holes at the bottom (like this or this); these types of pots will help get rid of excess liquid.
- Only fertilize if necessary. Your houseplants should not need fertilization unless they’ve been in the same pot for a long time. You can add a fertilizer spike if your plant is a little wilted, but if you’re really worried about it, take your plant to a local nursery. They will be your expert in this field!
- Recognize when there’s a problem.
- If you water too much, if your plant tilts a lot and/or if there’s a rotten smell coming from your plant, it could have root rot. Dry out the soil and, if necessary, cut off rotting parts of the roots before replanting.
- If your plant is leaning towards the sun a little, keep rotating it. Your plant wants as much natural light as it can get! So as long as the lean isn’t extreme, a rotation every few weeks is good.
- A plant with yellow leaves is another sign of overwatering.
- A plant losing its leaves usually means its not getting enough sunlight.
- Use filtered water on your plants as often as possible. Minerals can build up in the soil and cause a white dust to form on your plant. This won’t cause you to lose your plant, but filtered water will minimize this. If you do see buildup or dust on your plant, gently wipe it off with a damp rag; this will allow the leaves to breathe more easily and thrive.
|See how plants can transform a space?|
Photo Source: HouseBeautiful
In Your Yard
I’ve written about the importance of maintaining tree canopies before, but this drought seems to complicate the issue. Not to worry! There are plenty of drought resistant plants and trees out there and there are plenty of wonderful guides to help you do this!
|Go to this great event!|
Photo Source: USGBC-CC
In addition, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Central California (CC) chapter is hosting a Resilient Landscaping: TransformationStrategies and Tools workshop on October 27th in Sanger. It is open to anyone who wants to “save water in style” and, since the workshop will be hosted by the Belmont Nursery, you can pick up some plants for your home, office or yard while you’re there! Plus if you're a USGBC member, you'll save $25! Register HERE.
I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and spread the word to your community and community leaders! As more residents, business leaders and public agencies invest some time in resilient landscaping, the community will see more water and cost savings. Furthermore, since the plants will get just the amount of water they need and not more (since there’s no more to be had!) the landscape will thrive and help the community look and feel more alive and healthy!
Now that you are equipped with all of this information and the chance to attend a great informational event, how many of you will add plants to your home and transform your yard? What are you favorite indoor and drought-resistant outdoor plants?