Plants & Pets
Arunima Sen Gupta
The weather has turned harsher over the years, with summers getting more intense and unbearable. There are hardly any dense tree covers around us in urban areas which account for the heat being felt with a vengeance. Most of us instinctively know that being close to plants and greenery makes us more at ease with our surroundings. We experience less stress when there are plants around us. Buildings feel quieter and more relaxed but, at the same time, more stimulation and interesting. As a result, indoor plants have a dramatic effect on our wellbeing. Plants have long been heralded throughout history for their medicinal properties, from ancient apothecaries to European medieval monks who experimented with leafy herbs in the treatment of diseases. Houseplants offer a much-needed breath of fresh air. Popular species like the peace lily, Chinese evergreen, and red-edged dracaena improved the indoor air quality by removing pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia-all of which often lurk in the form of plastics, furniture, and carpet fibres. And, above all, a touch of green can cure a case of the blues. And despite what you may think about having a green thumb, caring for a houseplant engenders positivity. In one study, elderly residents in an assisted-living facility were introduced to indoor gardening. They reported having a much happier mood and better-perceived quality of life. We must plant trees and shrubs outside in our lawns. But, for those who live in society flats, you have an alternative too. Beside the now mandatory ACs, there are some plants that keep your homes and offices cool. And the plus point is, these plants require less water and are modest maintenance. Here is how we can convert our homes, offices and schools into eco-friendly cool places just by bringing in some air purifying plants.
Areca Palm is mostly used for decorative purposes. It is one of the most refreshing plants to bring in your home that acts as a natural air humidifier. You can grow it as an ornamental plant in your garden or lawn or bring it inside in case there is a lack of outdoor space. It is also considered as the most efficient in indoor air purification. Apart from this, it has great potential to absorb harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and more. There are no toxins associated with this plant hence it is safe around the little ones. This bold, attractive and easy to care houseplant requires both water and light in moderation. The best approach is to place it in a bright spot that doesn’t receive direct sunlight, and water it just enough to keep the soil moist.
Aloe Vera is a well-known succulent plant found in tropical climatic zones. The long pointed green leaves bear gel inside them, which has many applications. This plant reduces the hot air and can very well balance the dry climate in their surrounding through transpiration. Aloe Vera plant also releases oxygen at night and offers a sound sleep even when the weather is extremely hot outside. Aloe Vera naturally lowers the temperature around it and can do wonders for your sunburn too! It is a magic gel, that can be applied to small cuts/bruises, rashes or just be used for the upkeep of your skin and scalp. Bright sunlight is all that this plant needs. Plants prefer a regular watering in the warmer months, but very little moisture during winter.
Also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue, this is one of those plants that release oxygen at night and thus helps the air to remain clean and cool both. It absorbs heavy toxins like benzene and formaldehyde from the air. It requires moderate water and good sunlight to prosper. Just like aloe vera, the leaves of the snake plant have high water content, so when it transpires, it releases cool evaporated moisture into the air. One of the most tolerant plants, the snake plant can be neglected for weeks together and still look fresh. Additionally, they can survive low light levels, drought and has almost no insect problems. It is an ideal plant to have staged in your window to help block out the excessive sun from a room.
To keep your indoors cool & purified, pothos/money plant requires only a little amount of sunlight & water. They can be an ideal humidifier if added in mass. The heart-shaped leaves of this plant can be entirely green or in a combination of white, yellow & green shades. Regular pruning of this plant will help this leafy vine to grow vigorously. Position your Money Plant in medium to bright indirect light, water it sufficiently for even growth and leaf development. This prefers deep but infrequent watering. Water the plant until it runs from the drainage holes.
It is well-known for its lush foliage and feathery ferns, which is referred to as a hanging plant. They are the perfect natural air purifier for your home and are also safe for your pets because they are not toxic. Boston ferns are delicate plants, and need to be handled with care. Any vigorous movement will cause the leaves to turn brown due to stress. Also, make sure you inspect your plant thoroughly for bugs before bringing them home. These plants are prone to spider mites and whitefly, which can be controlled by using soapy water spray.
One of the few trees that grow well indoors in containers, weeping fig normally grows to about two to three metres when kept indoors (higher when planted outside in warm gardens). Its leafy nature means a high rate of transpiration, which keeps the air around a weeping fig moist and cool. It can also decontaminate the air by absorbing any heavy metal particles that are present. Bring the tall trunk with bushy top weeping fig plant home and see how cool your summer days become. Just don’t forget to water this plant regularly and provide medium light. Position plants in medium light and water regularly during warmer months, allowing the top half of the potting mix to dry out in between.
It is also known as Chlorophytum comosum and is considered as one of the most adaptable of houseplants and the easiest to grow. These plants can withstand lots of abuse, and an excellent choice for newbie gardeners. Spider plants prefer a semi-potbound environment. It is best you repot them only when their large, fleshy roots make watering a difficult task. Ensure they enjoy cooler temperatures around 55 to 65 F. (13-18 C) Occasional pruning can be beneficial for these plants; you can cut them back to the base.
If you are residing in a smaller home or apartment, you probably don’t have enough space to position bigger plants. It is best to use plants that is easy to maintain and takes up little space. If your house doesn’t receive more sunlight, you may still be able to grow houseplants, however, ensure you go for plants that don’t require a lot of natural light. Houseplants need not be just green. There are few African violets, cyclamen, poinsettias and azaleas, which provide colour during winter and early spring months. These plants can also add a little colour to your home. Decorating your houseplant is as important as the interiors for any home. You can use colours and materials like copper pots, ceramic glazed pots, other decorating ideas for its stands or shelves can add some spice to your indoors.
Apart from keeping indoor plants, if you have a terrace garden or a garden outside your home, you can keep your home cool during summer with terrace gardening. One of the tricks to keep them hydrated is to water them after sunset and before sunrise. In the evenings, they absorb moisture better. Else, you can water them twice. Alternatively, the good-old mosses can be soaked and left in the plants for soil temperature control. Houseplants like Half Moon Philodendron Pink Princess and Fiddle Fig leaf are expensive and might not be best suited for Indian weather. Some of the trending houseplants in today’s age are Areca Palm, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Ficus Elastica, Cactus, Pilea etc. So, go ahead and turn your house into paradise.