Plants improve indoor air

Question: I read recently that plants improve the air in our homes. How do they do that?

Answer: We have become so efficient at insulating our homes and workplaces to reduce energy loss, that we sometimes reduce the quality of our indoor air. The percentage of oxygen available in the air we breathe is reduced.

Many of our furnishings and the adhesives used to manufacture them give off gases which can be toxic.

Mold can develop when leaky pipes produce wet conditions inside walls or under the house. Toxic mold spores can find their way inside the home. Smoking also adds toxicity.

The combination of oxygen shortage and other contaminants can cause fatigue, congestion, and even depression.

Research conducted by NASA many years ago determined that plants improve the air quality in confined spaces. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in their natural growth process. But plants and the soil they are growing in also absorb many other pollutants.

Research in horticultural therapy has also confirmed many other benefits of indoor plants. People simply enjoy living and working more in an environment with natural features such a plants and running water. Work efficiency is improved in offices with plants. Plants in homes create an atmosphere which is more relaxing and peaceful.

Plants are similar to pets in giving us something to nurture. There is a sense of fulfillment which comes from seeing a plant grow and develop. These benefits are even more significant to those who are handicapped or otherwise restricted in their activities. Plants can be very meaningful in teaching children about nature and caring for something outside themselves.

Plants are quite economical compared to other furnishings. As they grow and change they add value. If you already have some indoor plants, why not try growing something new and different. If you have not had a lot of success with plants in the past, try something which is easy to grow. Information is available in books and on the internet. Most stores which sell plants have someone who can give you some guidance.

Allen Wilson can be contacted at