Your Guide to Houseplants and Their Many Benefits


Winter is the season when we start spending more time indoors and start feeling a little overwhelmed — even blue — about all those hectic holiday obligations. Luckily, adding some green can boost indoor air quality and your overall outlook. Here are the top, and easiest (you won’t need a horticulture degree to keep them alive), houseplants to chase away air pollutants and the bah humbugs. Take a deep, fresh breath and read on.

Xander Wessells, co-owner of Green Jeans Garden Supply in Mill Valley

TIPS FROM THE EXPERT “An important thing is to situate your houseplant in a way that makes it easy to properly water,” says Xander Wessells, co-owner of Green Jeans Garden Supply in Mill Valley. “Take your plant outside and douse it with water to clean off dust or to knock down pests, but remember to bring it right back inside to avoid shocking it,” she says. As to favorites, she’s partial to the twisted tendrils and fragrant flower of hoya.

Trying to find successful ways to clean the air in space stations, NASA conducted numerous studies and found that certain plants remove harmful airborne pollutants like ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde produced by furniture, paint and certain cleaners.


How It Works
Plants take in water, air and chemicals through their leaves and roots. Like nutrients, pollutants are broken down in the plant’s roots and made into something the plant can use and then fresh oxygen is released.

Mood Freshener
Houseplants help reduce stress, headaches and anxiety because an indoor brush with nature can produce the same relaxing calm that the great outdoors provides.

The A-list
Coming in at No. 1 for promoting good health is English ivy. This plant is proven to reduce mold by 94 percent, which in turn reduces fatigue and allergies. Other top choices are aloe vera — the gel has healing qualities and the plant’s released oxygen improves the air — and Sansevieria, which absorbs carbon dioxide.

Good Vibes
For additional plant goodness, try peace lily, a reliable bloomer and fuss-free (plus, it humidifies the air with its high transpiration rate); golden pothos, which stays green even in dark conditions and is a true mood enhancer; parlor palm, which, while emitting a tropical vibe, is also stellar at removing benzene and gases, so it’s best to place it around new off-gassing furniture; and Boston fern, a classic that requires little maintenance and gets high marks for clearing out formaldehyde.

Find the Zone
Know what each plant likes it terms of light and water. Also, place well-suited plants in your “breathing zone,” usually within six feet of where you lounge or catch some z’s.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Breathe Deep”.