The secret to breathing cleaner air and feeling better is stocking your home with more plants.
Tucked in a nook off Northwest 43rd Street, Garden Gate Nursery overflows with the emerald leaves of its ferns, shrubs and palms, interspersed with splashes of red and yellow and blush-pink daisies. There is a constant smell of a freshly mowed lawn, or a garden in early morning, with just a tinge of jasmine and morning dew. If you’re Shirley Marcoux, owner of Garden Gate Nursery, you may smell the sheets “mom used to hang on the line outside.” She attributes her improved health to the 37 plants she keeps in her home.
During her time as an interior designer in California, Marcoux read NASA’s Clean Air Study, published in 1989. Today, working at Garden Gate Nursery in Gainesville, she applies the report’s findings to help budding plant owners select flora for their aesthetics and practical needs. Plants such as Boston Ferns and Turf Lilies, already common additions to a household, can help filter and remove gases that can cause or aggravate headaches, as well as allergy-like symptoms such as irritation in the eyes and throat, among a multitude of others. These gases, like formaldehyde and ammonia, can be quite commonplace; they’re found in paints and printing inks and used in the manufacturing of paper towels and cleaning products.
Marcoux recommends that people get one clean-air plant for every 100 square feet of their homes to act as a natural air filter. Having these plants around is a great, simple way to make your home healthier while at the same time bringing nature into your living room.
“Clean air — I love that smell,” Marcoux said. “And I keep thinking it’s the plants doing it.”
BOSTON FERN: If you suffer from irritation of the eyes, mouth or throat, a Boston Fern would be an ideal addition to your home. It thrives in low light and high humidity and can vary in size, giving you a variety of decorating options.
DWARF DATE PALM: In addition to enhancing your home’s tropical vibe, this petite plant can help improve headaches and allergy-like symptoms, such as an irritated throat or runny nose.
GERBERA DAISIES: These daisies are a must-have for two reasons. Their vibrant shades will brighten up your home no matter what decoration style you favor. More importantly, they have been found to remove gases responsible for symptoms like drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, nausea and irritation to the eyes.
GREEN SPIDER PLANT: This is another plant that goes a long way in alleviating headaches, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. It’s fairly low-maintenance and requires small amounts of water. As an added bonus, Marcoux suggests giving the seedlings as gifts to friends.
BAMBOO PLANT: This plant clears your home of gases, like formaldehyde, that may cause irritation to the throat, mouth and eyes. It works well with all sorts of interior decorations and retains water in its shoots, so it requires minimal attention.
GOLDEN BUTTERFLY PALM OR ARECA PALM: This plant can reach about six to eight feet indoors, which may suit some decorating styles better than others. The spring green fronds of this plant absorb gases that can cause headaches and irritation of the eyes and nasal passages.
TURF LILY OR LILYTURF: The tiny blue and white flowers on this plant sprout several times a year and will add a lovely touch of color to your home. In addition, it will help get rid of gases that may cause headaches, coughing and irritation to the eyes and throat.
MOTH ORCHID AKA PHALAENOPSIS ORCHID: For those with an affinity for structural florals, the moth orchid is just as enchanting as it is practical. This plant will help get rid of gases that may cause headaches and irritation of the mouth and throat. And as a bonus, it requires little water so it’s fairly low maintenance.
*DISCLAIMER: The plants listed below are toxic to household pets.
SNAKE FERN: “These became just like human beings,” Marcoux said, as she gestured toward the plants’ waxy green leaves. These perennials circulate oxygen throughout the air 24/7. As they breathe out oxygen, they absorb other gases that may cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, irritation to the eyes and throat and other symptoms.
PEACE LILY: This plant produces lovely ivory lilies that sprout from its dark green stems. The plant will start to droop if it is not watered frequently. When you give it a drink, it will visibly perk up, Marcoux said. It also helps filter gases that may aggravate symptoms like eye irritation, headaches and drowsiness, among others.