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New study says indoor plants are more than pretty decor

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We’ve long been lovers of indoor plants. And LOTS of them. They add colour and interest to interiors and add a good-old healthy dose of nature, too. And there’s more.

What we already know is that indoor plants can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen and as such help to improve air quality. And now there’s research that is going to take this further.

A report published on April 19 in Trends in Plant Science by a group of Italian researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection reveals that more research is needed in order to better understand plant physiology and come up with the integration of smart technology that could improve indoor air quality in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

“Although it has been demonstrated that plants can improve indoor air quality by the pioneering work made at NASA during the ’80s, there is still a limited understanding and scant knowledge of the plant metabolic processes able to remove indoor air pollutants,” said Federico Brilli, a plant physiologist at the National Research Council of Italy.

Plants aren’t usually chosen for their air-purifying abilities but rather for their appearance and depending on how much maintenance they need.

“For most of us plants are just a decorative element, something aesthetic, but they are also something else” says Brilli.

“Research should provide new insights into the physiological functions, genes and enzymes characterising the plant’s capacity to purify air.”

In order to gain these insights and identify the characteristics of the best-performing plant species in indoor environments, plants will have to be tested in different settings and bacteria found on plants and in their soil will also need to be looked at.

“This micro-biome can contribute to the removal of airborne pollutants, but could also have some negative effects on human health,” Mr Brilli said.

10 plants known to improve air quality

  1. Madonna lily or Spathiphyllum

  2. Mother-in-law’s tongue or Sansevieria

  3. Devil’s ivy or Epipremum aureum

  4. Aspidistraor cast-iron plant

  5. Diffenbachiaor philodendron

  6. Ficus Benjamina

  7. Begonias

  8. Umbrella trees

  9. Dracaena plants (dragon tree and happy plant)

  10. Kangaroo vine


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