Healthy Houseplants

Perk Up Your Views — And Freshen The Air — With A Winter Collection of Bright Blooms


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If those views of brown lawns and shriveled flower beds are causing a case of the winter doldrums, local horticultural experts say there’s nothing for it but to aim for a green infusion indoors with a few cheerful potted plants and live table decorations.

A mix of vibrant blooms or exotic succulents are the perfect reminder that winter doesn’t last forever, and there’s no shortage of plantscaping options for filling favorite spaces with color, texture, fragrance and — better yet — oxygen-infused air.

Our little green friends can help restore balance to home environments (and residents’ lungs), cleansing the air by reducing mold spores, neutralizing free radicals and adding humidity to dry, stale interiors. And there’s even a technical term for the way humans gravitate to lush, natural settings — biophilia, which means “love of life or living systems.” 

Local plant experts have their fair share of favorites.

Sharon Smith, co-owner of Blue Moon Gardens in Edom is a fan of Kalanchoe. “The blooms hold up for months and it’s a very inexpensive plant,” she says. “It’s almost like a succulent, it holds water well. It’s versatile too. You can put a small one on a windowsill or use more in a larger pot, just about anywhere.” 

Smith also touts the merits of tropicals like Bromeliads as well as the ever-popular begonias. 

“Bromeliads tolerate indoor environments really well and they’re easy to keep around,” she says.  “And begonias have a lot of foliage and come in lots of colors — silver, red and pink are all nice. You can’t go wrong.”

Coincidentally, Barbara Leal, manager at Harris Nursery in Tyler is also a fan of Bromeliads and begonias for indoor winter blooms.

“The only danger with begonias is that sometimes people over-water them,” she warns. “They hold water in their stems, so you can go easy on the watering can.”

Another favorite of Leal’s is Anthurium, a plant with dramatic blooms that handles indoor environments well and can be propagated with cuttings. And for foliage and texture, she loves ZZ plants — short for Zamioculcas Zamifolia. 

“Everyone seems to be using these nowadays,” she says. “They don’t have a lot of color, but the texture is nice and they’re extremely hardy. It’s almost impossible to kill them.”

Fresh Air Favorites

Aiming to take advantage of the air-scrubbing properties of interior greens, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America have studied the merits of various houseplants in space facilities since the ‘80s. This research has created a list of stellar performers that also work nicely in home environments on planet Earth. They range from chrysanthemums and Golden Pothos (also known as Devil’s Ivy) to dracaena and bamboo palm. Here are a few others:  

Aloe: A sun-loving succulent, aloe takes on formaldehyde, a common ingredient of cleaning products and personal care products, and benzene, affiliated with ink and a frequent ingredient in glue, paint, plastics and detergents. Aloe also thrives when perched on a sunny windowsill and gel squeezed from a cut leaf is a common remedy for cuts and sunburns.

Peace lily: A plant that calls for shade and weekly waterings, Peace lily is worth the effort because it combats three of the most common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene — plus toluene and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.

Gerbera daisy: A bright, flowering plant that demands sun, Geberas battle benzene and trichloroethylene, chemicals that come home with the dry cleaning. 

Weeping fig: A Ficus in your living room provides a natural filter against formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene — pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture.

Azalea: Bring this beautiful flowering shrub into your home to combat formaldehyde. Because azaleas do best in cool areas around 60 to 65 degrees, they’re a good option for improving indoor air in a cooler room of the house, if you can find a bright spot.

English ivy: Besides filtering out formaldehyde, English ivy is a plant that reduces airborne particles from fecal matter, making it a great fit near a cat litter box.

Spider plant: With rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant is hard to kill and takes on benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.

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