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Green indoors: Plants that improve air quality and allergies

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    Renee Tratch
    Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

    Thursday, March 30, 2017, 3:34 PM -

    Leaves bagged. Plants pruned. It’s now time to shift from outdoor gardening to keeping the green going inside.

    Hello houseplants. They aren’t just pretty. Many of them do double duty in clearing out pollutants in the indoor air, one of the top sources of discomfort for allergy sufferers. This air purification factor has been widely shared thanks to NASA who in 1989 looked at which plants were best at filtering the air in their space stations. The Clean Air Study found that plants not only produce oxygen from CO2, but also absorb benzene, formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene. So why not try for the same effects in your own space?

    For Paul Zammit, Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, "... The more plants the better.

    “I find many people seem to have forgotten the power of living plants to produce and purify the very air we breath and survive on,” Zammit explains.

    The self-described “plant nerd” won’t divulge the number he has in his home, but to achieve the air purification benefits, he suggests a ratio of one plant growing in a 8-10 inch container for every 100 sq. ft. of living or office space.

    Here are some of his top plant picks:

    For durability:  Draceana, Dracaena marginata (removes formaldehyde and other select gasses) and Golden Pothos, Epipremnum aureum (removes formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene.) Since they are durable and adaptable plants tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions, Zammit says they make excellent office plants “and often appear on list of houseplants that are impossible to kill.”

    For kids:  Spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum (removes benzene, formaldehyde.)  The Toronto Botanical Garden opts for these for their children’s programs as they propagate and multiply easily. When gardening moves outdoors, Zammit suggests mixing some of the extra plants into summer containers.

    For foliage lovers:  Aloe, Aloe (removes formaldehyde and benzene – also great for soothing skin after a burn) and Snake plant, Sansevieria (removes benzene, formaldehyde and reduces carbon dioxide.) Succulents are one of Zammit’s favourites. Snake plants come in very wide-ranging sizes and in an assortment of leaf colours. Both are drought tolerant and can go for extended periods with limited water.

    For flowers:  Gerbera daisy Gerbera jamesonii (removes trichloroethylene and benzene.) These simple and often very bright blossoms add a pop of colour to a home or garden. Zammit suggests deadheading or removing each flower as they begin to fade to keep it blooming.

    If you’re worried that plants won’t survive your indoors, there are other places in the GTA to see green and breath in that plant-purified air.

    First, go downtown. The City of Toronto operates three conservatories. The Cloud Gardens is a tropical-like forest located among the downtown’s office towers. Allen Gardens, a historic site and a botanical gem, has six greenhouses with plants from around the world. Centennial Park boasts unusual fruit trees like sour sop and papaya, a cacti collection and tropical plants that bloom year-round.

    The annual Christmas Flower Shows at Allan Gardens and Centennial Park (free admission and run until January 11, 2015) feature over 40 different varieties of poinsettias. The two conservatories have extended hours on select evenings for visitors to enjoy the floral displays by candlelight.

    For more festive plant ideas:

    The Royal Botanical Garden, on the border of Burlington and Hamilton, is the largest botanical garden in Canada. You’ll find indoor and outdoor displays year round.

    Should you want to move on from seeing and breathing, watch as these hipsters taste some edible houseplants.

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