Clean your air with plants [UPDATED]Published 10:13am Monday, February 4, 2013 Updated 12:16pm Monday, February 4, 2013
NASA discovered what gardeners have known for years. Houseplants make for a healthier house.
They did a study in conjunction with Associated Landscape Contractors of America to determine that the astronauts breathe cleaner air, with fewer chemicals when they have plants in space with them. Houseplants remove chemicals that can foul our air including formaldehyde, found in wood paneling and new carpets, and benzene, both known carcinogens.
But, you say, I kill plants. Most house plants are killed with kindness rather than neglect. They are over fertilized, over watered and fried.
Many houseplants don’t do well in full sun; they need it filtered. If the only window you have to put plants in is a south facing one, hang a sheer curtain in front of it, or put your geranium and hibiscus there.
Stick the rubber plant in a corner.
Now to watering. Let the soil dry out before you water again then give it enough water that the container under it gets water in it. Let it sit an hour then dump out any remaining water. Leave it longer and the roots start to rot or, you get fungus gnats. They love wet soil. The two exceptions to this are African violets and poinsettias. They both like constantly moist soil.
To determine if the plant needs water, after a dry period, stick your finger in the soil up to the first joint. If the tip of your finger feels dry, water. Or, make a schedule. Water every Saturday for instance. It will at least keep the plant alive.
When you buy a houseplant, it will fill the pot. Usually this is because there are several plants in the pot. It’s a good idea to separate the plants and repot in smaller containers. Do not, under any circumstances, use garden soil. It not only is full of bacteria, but funguses and who knows what else. Also, it is too dense for an indoor plant. Get potting soil. It’s cheap insurance. You can fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer or, if you are more the Martha type, feed them monthly with a water soluble fertilizer made just for house plants. Keep an eye out for diseases.
When you bring a new plant into the house, give it a good shower and quarantine it for several weeks to prevent bringing in any problems.
If you touch your plant and stick to it, you have a sucking type bug to deal with. Aphids will be on the underside of the leaf. Spider mites leave webs. Scale looks like brown spots mostly on the leaves. Schefflera is particularly susceptible to scale. A good treatment for all these stinkers is a good shower followed by a shot of insecticide.
Plants that are easiest to grow are spider plant, Boston fern.
In addition to Marfinata, also known as dracaena, peace lily, golden pothos, English ivy, Aloe Vera, snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, Chinese evergreen and Areca palm. These plants can remove Xylene and small amounts of carbon monoxide along with the formaldehyde and benzene.
Give them a vacation outdoors in the summer in a shady spot and you will have healthy air all winter, if you don’t smoke that is.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County .