STEPHEN THOMPSON: Plants can help beautify, freshen rooms in your home

Designers have for centuries brought plants inside to beautify living spaces because plants are the perfect decorative accessory. Their colorful indoor presence nourishes our spirits while at the same time their respiration quietly renews our bodies with life-giving oxygen.

By their very essence plants quietly neutralize the artificialness we've woven into our modern world. Visually, if you think about it, what could be more natural than a plant? Plants weave a subtle influence upon us that dances between our minds, our bodies and our spirits. They satisfy a deep spiritual connection between us and the earth and help us to live in beauty.

On a deeper level, physical research has shown that certain plants do much more – they purify and renew our indoor air by filtering out artificial toxins and pollutants we inadvertently bring into our homes. For example, Philodendrons, Spider Plants and Pothos are the three best plants known to remove formaldehyde given off by new carpeting and other petroleum based fabrics.

Golden Pothos mentioned above is an easily grown, insect-resistant vine. It bears a graceful cascade of green heart-shape leaves with gold or cream highlights. Commonly cultivated in hanging baskets or trained to climb a pole, it grows quickly, tolerates most environments, and doesn't lose its color when placed in dark settings. It is also known by the names of Devil's Ivy and Marble Queen.

Janet Craig Striped' produces stalks of cascading green leaves marked with white stripes. The plant can grow to 10 feet tall, is tolerant of low light and dry air, and is especially effective in removing benzene. It has the ability to grow in low light and can tolerate considerable dryness. Its also goes by the names of Dracaena or Dracaena deremensis.

Peace Lily is a broad green leafed plant which blooms reliably indoors. Its flowers are shielded by lovely white unfolding sheathes called spathes. When NASA did a study on “sick building syndrome,” peace lilies were found to be effective in removing alcohol, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde.

Spider Plants have been cultivated as an indoor plant for 200 years and were the first plants proven to remove indoor air pollutants (carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides). It bears green leaves with a cream or yellow stripe down their centers, as well as small white flowers that bloom year-round. As Spider Plants mature they send out thin stems with small star shaped flowers that give the plant the appearance of spiders dangling from strings. Its other names are Airplane Plant and Ribbon Plant.

Chinese evergreen or Deborah,' with its silvery, light-green, lance-shaped leaves, has the ability to increase its formaldehyde removal rate with exposure. This slow-growing plant blooms in late summer and early fall and can reach heights of 3 feet. Chinese evergreen is a versatile low light, low growing, durable plant. It comes in many different varieties with foliage of either silvery green with some dark green or the reverse, mostly dark green with light green streaks.

Aloe plants, orchids, tulips, azaleas, cyclamen, and gerbera daisies are other low cost solutions to high cost air filters. How many plants should you use as air purifiers? Allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living space. The more hearty the plant, the more air it can filter. Consider using an electronic air filter if someone smokes in your home. Though effective in removing nitrogen oxides, unfortunately plants leave carcinogens behind.

Stephen Thompson is an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Questions and comments may be addressed to Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or e-mailed to: Thompson@CatHymns.com