The end of December is a time of new beginnings. Make this the year you chose resolutions that are good for the garden, good for your health and good for Mother Nature. Here’s a resolution you can add this week or as soon as you take down and store away all the Christmas and holiday decorations.
Resolve to grow more house plants
Living plants give off oxygen and grab away carbon dioxide, effectively cleaning the air. Some houseplants do this better than others. Here are five indoor plants that are easy to grow, easy to find at a home center or nursery right now and make it easier to breathe. They all go above and beyond when it comes to removing pollutants and toxins from indoor air.
You can find potted mums, often wrapped in foil, at most any grocery store and the flowers last as long as six weeks if you remember to keep the soil moist. Mums come in bright shades of pink, purple and yellow to add a punch of color to a winter-weary interior but can also be found in pure white, buff and pale pink to calm down a space. Of any plant you can buy, chrysanthemums win the war on toxins because the petal power is purging pollutants as long as the plant is in bloom.
Design tip: Place potted white mums in a row of black pots atop a table or mantle. The look is clean and serene.
The big shiny leaves of the rubber plant absorb formalidhyde and carbon monoxide so give one as a housewarming gift to someone with new carpets or fresh paint. This tropical houseplant comes from India so it likes bright light and moist soil.
Garden gossip: The rubber plant can be toxic if the leaves are eaten so keep it away from curious pets and kids.
The dangling babies that sprout from this spiky houseplant do resemble the legs of a spider but you can take advantage of this unusual growth habit by using spider plants as a hanging houseplant, especially in the kitchen when you don’t want to give up precious counter space. You can also add a few spider plants at the base of larger houseplants so they spill over the edge of the pot in a cascade of young plants.
The good news: Spider plants are easy to propagate by snipping off the young offshoots and rooting them in a glass of water. They are also non toxic so they’re safe around kids and pets.
In your yard English ivy can be an invasive nuisance but indoors ivy can thrive for years and clean the air as it dangles from mantles, is trained into topiary or used as an accent on top of bookcases or open shelving.
Design tip: There are many types of ivy but to lighten your interior chose one with variegated foliage. The contrast of the white with the green on the leaves is a more contemporary look than your grandmother’s ivy in a basket.
Huge, daisy-like blooms in vivid colors make this the most eye-catching of all the air-cleaning plants. Gerber daisies absorb toxic gases while providing sweet eye candy on dreary winter days. You can find them with the blooming gift plants at any grocery or home center store. Remove the foil wrapping from around the plastic pot so water can drain freely.
Garden gossip: Gerber daisy is a rather demanding plant with a bit of a drinking problem. It demands plenty of drinks but cannot handle even one day of wet feet. The stems will rot if they sit on the edge of a damp pot and once the plant is done blooming it is almost impossible to coax it into flower again. (Having said that, someone reading this will write to me and tell me how they keep their Gerber baby plant in constant bloom.)
Growing tip: Set the plastic nursery pot on a bed of pebbles or marbles inside a larger container. Make sure both pots have drainage so the plant never sits in water. A large saucer under the second container can collect the excess moisture from this thirsty plant.
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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.
For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.