Houseplant benefits: air- purifying, happiness


In Iowa, gardeners turn their attention to houseplants when the temperatures drop during the long winter months.

If you are searching for a new plant, consider those that improve the air quality. Although the study of air-purifying plants to remove airborne toxins, dust, and germs is inconclusive; plants can clean the air, however, more research is needed to determine how many plants are needed to be effective.

But we can agree that indoor plants are beneficial for a host of reasons.

Bloomscape horticulturist and plant program manager Joyce Mast says indoor plants have health benefits, from improved cognitive function and creativity to reduced stress. Plants make people happy and caring for them brings them joy. Not only do plants add color, beauty, and style to our homes, houseplants are another way for us to interact with Mother Nature, even indoors.

There are several very easy-to-care-for houseplants to consider:

Goeppertia makoyana. Photographed at Lincoln Park Conservatory by Melissa Serenda.)
  • Spider plant – Chlorophytum comosum
  • Parlor palm – Chamaedorea elegans
  • Bamboo palm – Dypsis lutescens
  • Snake plant – Sansevieria trifasciata
  • ZZ plant – Zamioculcas zamiifolia
  • Zenzi – Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’
  • Hedgehog aloe – Aloe humilis
  • Rubber tree – Ficus elastica
  • Heartland philodendron – Philodendron hederaceum
  • Boston fern – Nephrolepis exaltata
  • Silver pothos – Scindapsus pictus
  • Dragon tree – Dracaena dorado
  • Monstera – Monstera deliciosa
  • Kimberly queen fern – Nephrolepis obliterata
  • Peace lily – Spathiphyllum
  • Money tree – Pachira aquatica
  • Calathea peacock – Goeppertia makoyana
  • Maranta prayer plant – Maranta leuconeura
  • Date palm – Phoenix dactylifera
  • Chinese evergreen – Aglaonema

Air plants add style

Another plant that deserves your consideration is an air plant, Tillandsia in the bromeliad family. Air plants are epiphytic organisms that grow on the surface of a plant and derive moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water, or debris accumulating around it. The term epiphytic comes from the Greek epi- (meaning “upon”). The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads, but epiphytes may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. In their native tropical and subtropical habitat in North and South America, epiphytes can be found clinging to trunks and branches of other plants or anything else they can sit on including rocks and buildings.

Air plants (image by ISU Extension and Outreach)

There are a few general rules when it comes to air plant care that should be followed.

Air plants prefer warm, humid conditions so they don’t dry out. It’s best to keep them away from cold drafts or temperature shifts. That means avoiding heating/cooling vents or rooms that are particularly dry. Plants generally
thrive well in rooms that have more humidity – the bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.

Air plants are accustomed to medium indirect light—avoid exposure to direct sunlight which can burn their delicate leaves. Regular watering is important because they thrive without soil, watering is different from other houseplants. A soaking method—letting the plant soak in a bowl of distilled water for 20 minutes every week or two—usually works. Some air plants prefer regular misting or a quick dunk versus a longer soak.

If you’re buying an air plant, be sure to research the specific plant to determine which watering method is best.