Many people enjoy indoor tropical plants because of their natural aesthetic appeal and comfort qualities. It is also believed that surrounding office workers with healthy plants helps to reduce stress.

Beyond looking nice, plants also play an integral role in cleaning the environment. Considered the “lungs of the Earth”, plants produce life-sustaining oxygen and produce valuable moisture while filtering harmful toxins from the environment.

People are becoming more and more aware of the effect that indoor environment has on their health. As buildings become more energy-efficient, gases, from common synthetic materials found in carpet, paint, furniture, adhesives, consumer paper products and wall coverings, become trapped inside and may result in a term coined the Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

SBS manifests with symptoms such as asthma, allergies, fatigue, headaches, respiratory illnesses, sinus congestion and nervous system disorders. Modern research suggests that indoor air pollution can be 10 times that of the outdoors.

Houseplants are nature’s eco-friendly, living air purifiers.

By choosing the right plant for the right location, you improve the air quality within that particular breathing zone while contributing to the overall health of the building.

Studies at NASA show that plants, placed within a personal breathing zone of six to eight feet, reduce bacteria and moulds by up to 50 per cent. In the average 1,800-square-foot home, NASA recommends placing up to 18 plants in eight-inch containers.

Try “growing fresh air” in your home or office.

In a semi-sunlight indoor area, with lots of room to grow, try the chrysalidocarpus lutescens or areca palm. This plant releases copious amounts of moisture into the air (up to one litre every 24 hours) while removing toxic chemicals such as benzene, trichloroethtylene, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. This popular, graceful palm rates first for eco-friendly plants.

Another popular choice for removing harmful toxins from the air is the ficus elastica or rubber plant. Also a good choice for semi-sunlit areas, this plant rates high by interior plant designers for it’s ease of growth and aesthetic appeal.

For a semi-shaded area indoors, the dracaena derenebsus or dracaena (the “Janet Craig”) is a good choice for the office. Ranking first for removing trichloroethane, a harmful chemical found in printers and photocopiers, this hardy dracaena will thrive in both brightly lit and dimly lit areas. It’s tall and slim growth pattern makes it well-suited as a corner plant.

Try growing a little fresh air in your home or office. By producing oxygen, filtering harmful toxins and releasing moisture into the air, houseplants are nature’s eco-friendly living air purifiers.

Shari Morash is a gardening enthusiast and an accredited designer. Contact her at shari.morash@gmail.com.