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The Best Holiday Houseplants

Give the gift of clean air


The Best Holiday Houseplants

Indoor air is often full of pollutants. Give a houseplant this holiday season, but choose one that cleans the air of toxins. We even supply the gift tags!

Indoor air is often full of pollutants. Give a houseplant this holiday season, but choose one that cleans the air of toxins. (We even supply the gift tags!)

Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins such as formaldehyde from paints and adhesives, and chemicals from personal care products and building materials. And with so much time spent indoors during the winter months, a gift of one of these indoor houseplants will truly improve the lives, and health, of housebound loved ones.

Natural air purifiers

Study after study has concluded that ordinary houseplants—from spider plants to English ivy—act as effective air purifiers.

In the late 1980s an extensive study conducted by NASA tested the cleansing properties of a host of indoor plants by exposing them alternately to benzene, TCE (trichloroethylene), and formaldehyde and logging their various removal rates.

The results were astonishing. Exposure to houseplants drastically reduced all three tested chemical compounds, with different plants emerging as particularly effective for scrubbing each pollutant.

In a 24-hour period English ivy reduced benzene, a known cancer-causing agent found in common household products such as glues, solvents, paints, and art supplies, by 89.8 percent. For TCE, the pot mum proved the most effective (41.2 percent in 24 hours), while the mass cane was best for formaldehyde (70 percent in 24 hours).

Subsequent studies have expanded the list of toxic substances neutralized by common houseplants. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, for example, are dealt with effectively by the spider plant and English ivy, while toluene, aliphatic hydrocarbon (octane), and terpene (α-pinene) stand no chance against the wax plant, red and English ivy, Sprenger’s asparagus, and many other ornamental species.

A sight for stressed eyes

Houseplants are also pretty—the kind of pretty that is good for you.

Researchers in the Netherlands, curious to find out if the mere sight of indoor plants might be enough to reduce stress, tested subjects’ reactions to pictures of hospital rooms containing either indoor plants or paintings of urban environments.

The indoor plants were the clear winners, as subjects who were shown the plant pictures reported lower stress levels than those who were shown the urban painting pictures.

Another study found that surgical patients recuperating in rooms containing ornamental plants responded positively to having that bit of leafy life around. The mere presence of indoor plants helped reduce the tested patients’ systolic blood pressure, pain, anxiety, and fatigue and improved their general outlook.

The plants even made the patients look more favourably on the hospital staff who cared for them—no doubt reason enough for nurses and doctors everywhere to stampede the nearest plant store.

The perfect gift

All of this combines to make houseplants the perfect gift this holiday season. With Canadians on average spending about 90 percent of their time indoors, the more natural air purifiers around, the better.

And if the mere sight of houseplants does indeed lower stress levels and make those who view them more amenable to the people around them, there is no better time than the holidays—those stressful, demanding holidays—to spruce up a room with something green. The in-laws’ living room might be a good place to start.

Great houseplant gifts that pack an air-cleansing punch

Plant Effective for
bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE
common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene
Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE
mass cane (Dracaena massangeana) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE
peace lily (Spathiphyllum) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE
pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE
purple heart, wandering Jew (Tradescantia pallida) benzene, TCE, toluene, terpene
red ivy (Hemigraphis alternata) benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene
spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum, Chlorophytum elatum) formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide
Sprenger’s asparagus (Asparagus densiflorus) benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene
weeping fig, ficus tree (Ficus benjamina) benzene, formaldehyde, TCE, octane, terpene
wax plant (Hoya carnosa) benzene, TCE, toluene, octane, terpene

Free gift tags

alive gift tagsIf this article has you thinking about the people in your life who could benefit from fewer toxins and less stress, download free gift tags for the purifying plants mentioned here. The tag will tell your loved ones how the gift you’re giving will spruce up their living space and their health. How’s that for easy holiday shopping?

Each gift tag contains information about each plant. To use these gift tags, simply download the appropriate files, print them, and cut along the dotted lines. Files are in Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format and require Adobe Reader to view and print. To download the latest version, go to



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