Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Indoor house plants improve decor, air quality

Indoor house plants improve decor, air quality

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:00 am

Indoor air quality has been an area of concern in commercial settings for years. "Sick Building Syndrome" -- defined as an acute incidence of indoor air pollution that can occur in closed or poorly ventilated offices has become an issue in residences as well. Poor air quality is blamed for "nuisance" type health conditions, all the way to serious life-threatening health issues.


Several testing mechanisms are available to check the indoor air quality where you live and work. A quick Google -- "air quality testing supplies" revealed 34,500,000 sites offering supplies to do the testing. There are several ways to combat indoor air quality problems and the professionals in this industry have many ways to help improve indoor quality from a mechanical standpoint. A way to supplement those efforts or to combat small problems lies in your thumb. Your green thumb that is!


Green and flowering plants improve the aesthetics of our homes and offices. To some, that in itself is enough reason to have them around. But the benefit of having plants around goes far beyond décor.

In a joint study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ACLA), plants were put to the test. Inside a Plexiglas box, many plant species were isolated while toxic pollutants were injected into the chamber. The results were compelling.


Simple plants like Philodendron, Spider Plants and Golden Pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Gerbera daisy plants and mums were best at removing benzene.

Plants do not replace properly functioning air systems. But, these little natural ‘air purifiers' can sure be a key component to your indoor air quality plan.


Many plants thrive on neglect. Start out with a low maintenance variety like the Sansevieria or a Golden Pothos. You'll be amazed how they can change a room. Just in case you need a brush up on plant care, here are some pointers from the Society of American Florists.


Most plants come with care instructions specified for the type of plant. The Society of American Florists provides these additional general guidelines to keep most green houseplants thriving:

Keep plants in medium-light locations -- out of direct sunlight. Natural light is best, but some plants can also thrive in office fluorescent light. Most flowering potted plants should be placed in areas with the most light in order to maintain good flower color and promote maximum blooming.

Foliage plants typically tolerate lower light levels and can be placed in reduced-light areas. Plant soil should be kept moist at all times. Plants should not be allowed to dry out or wilt. Be careful to avoid over-watering. Don't allow plants to stand in water, and avoid getting plant leaves wet. Keep away from excessive heat or cold.


Plants should be kept in a cool spot (between 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit) for best performance. They should be kept away from direct sunlight and heating or cooling vents. Don't place directly under ceiling fans, or on top of televisions or radiators. (Appliances like televisions give off heat, which causes plants to dehydrate.)


Top 11 plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air:

Common Name Scientific Name

Bamboo Palm Chamaedorea seifritzii

Chinese Evergreen Aglaonmea modestum

English Ivy Hedera helix

Gerbera Daisy Gerbera jamesonii

Janet Craig Dracaena ‘Janet Craig'

Marginata Dracaena marginata

Mass Cane/Corn Plant Dracaena massangeana

Mother-in-Law's Tongue Sansevieria laurentii

Pot Mum Chrysanthemum morifolium

Peace Lily Spathiphylum ‘Mauna Loa'

Warneckii Dracaena ‘Warneckii'