In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
February, 2013
Regional Report

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Grow low light plants indoors for glamour, drama, and clean air.

Garden Indoors for Good Health

No matter the season, I always feel a certain chill when I enter a building devoid of indoor plants. Their presence softens angular architecture to set a calm mood even in a hectic office, but their beneficial effects go farther.

Plants clean the air around us in a process called phytoremediation. The illnesses that beset 19th and 20th century hatters, printers, and asbestos workers as a result of exposure to pollutants have been well documented. But modern home construction and building materials can be sources of volatile organics, too, and that is why phytoremediation is a necessity for healthy indoor air everywhere. Indoor gardening adds beauty to living spaces, but its ability to clean the air gives this passion a most practical benefit.

Grow Cleaner Air
Indoor environments are recognized sources of air pollution as documented by NASA in experiments conducted on Skylab III nearly four decades ago. These discoveries really pushed the efforts to understand indoor air pollution and led directly to the installation of atria in shopping malls. Research conducted in Bay St. Louis, MS, at the Stennis Space Center by Dr. Bill Wolverton devised methods used today to measure phytoremediation. We may not see the interior of space ships filled with houseplants, but we can put the research to work right away at home by choosing high performance air cleaners.

Choose Great Air Cleaners
Popular, easy to grow plants that have been shown to remove carbon, VOCs such as formaldehyde and benzene, and carbon dioxide as well or better than commercial filters. The list has grown, thanks to the University of Georgia in Project Carbon, the National Foliage Foundation, and others. You can depend on a variety of popular houseplants for air cleaning, including the cane-stemmed Draceanas such as corn plant, Sansevieria or snake plant, elegant peace lily (Spathiphyllum), and Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema). If you like palms, choose Chamaedorea, the bamboo palm. Gerbera daisies also make the list for indoor gardens with sunny windows or supplemental lighting.

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