Besides brightening our winter weary days, house plants clean the indoor air. In the process that adds oxygen to the atmosphere, house plants absorb gasses and chemicals, such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde.
Most house plants come from the tropics, where the weather is warm and humid. There are many, however, that will tolerate, even thrive in the low-light, low-humidity environment of our Midwest winter homes.
The tips of house plant leaves may turn brown, which usually indicates a lack of humidity. Consider placing the plant on a tray of pebbles and water, but don’t allow the pot to sit in water. Or, group house plants so that they can create a slightly more humid micro-climate.
House plants benefit from an occasional shower to wash the dust off of leaves. Also, it’s best to under water than over water house plants. Here are three house plants that are beautiful, easy and extremely tolerant of benign neglect.
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is a long-lived house plant that blooms, even in low light. The flowers are white and rise on sturdy stems above dark green, long oval leaves. It should get medium to low light, so it can be placed in a bright area, but out of direct sun.
- Water when the soil surface feels dry. Peace lily goes limp if it gets too dry. Apply a water soluble fertilizer monthly according to label directions. Do not fertilizer in winter.
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is another plant that is extremely tolerant of low- to high-light exposure. The foliage may be solid green or variegated green and white. The more light this plant gets, the more likely it is to bloom. The flower resembles a jack-in-the-pulpit bloom and is not particularly showy.
This is one tough plant that can tolerate long dry spells, although it does best watered when the soil surface feels dry. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer every two or three months according to label directions. Do not fertilize in winter.
- Red-edged dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) has a completely different form than the two house plants above. Dracaena’s sword like leaves grow upright from a central stalk. The more mature the plant, the wider the leaves. As the plant matures, it usually drops its lower leaves.
Dracaena tolerates low light but would be happiest with bright, indirect light. Soil should be well drained and evenly moist, but not wet. It’s best not to let dracaena dry out. Apply a water soluble fertilizer every two to three months according to label directions. Do not fertilize in winter when growth has slowed or stopped.
See Web extra for a complete list of air purifying house plants.