Monthly Archives: January 2016

Winter Survival Tactics

Contributed by Lynn Hutchinski

Isnake plant with snow in background don’t know about you, but about this time of year I start to get a little stir-crazy.  The holidays are over – the fun and energy and bright colors are gone – and it’s cold and snowy out there and no way will I be heading to my garden to play any time soon.

One of the things I turn to every winter season to keep me sane is my houseplants. We have just missed “Houseplant Appreciation Day” which falls on January 10th. Some people give their houseplants names – I haven’t gone that far yet – and some people talk to their plants, but most of us appreciate them for the many benefits they provide to us in this dreary New England winter season:

  • Through pores on the surface of their leaves, houseplants absorb many of those nasty volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that pollute our indoor air, such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene (found in some plastics, detergents, fabrics and building materials).
  • Plants help to maintain indoor humidity levels, which can alleviate the problem of breathing dry air causing respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and over all dehydration.
  • Negative ions, such as those produced by air purifiers, are created when plants breathe out. These negative ions attach themselves to dust particles, mold spores, bacteria and more and they fall to the floor, where they can be vacuumed up.
  • And, of course, plants drink in carbon dioxide and pour out oxygen to refresh us from our winter doldrums.3 window plants - rosemary

There are many easy-to-grow houseplants that will improve your indoor air quality, but some of the best according to a 1989 NASA Clean Air Study are Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum),  Dracaena reflexa, Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) and even the simple Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum).

Finally, if houseplants don’t provide enough greenery to see you through to spring, then try a field trip to one of the outstanding greenhouses in the Greater Boston area. Here are two I recommend – one at Wellesley College:

http://www.wellesley.edu/wcbg/our_gardens/margaret_c._ferguson_greenhouses

And another in Waltham at the Lyman Estate:

http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/lyman-estate-greenhouses