Houseplants for Health and the Home

Neill Strain offers a wide selection of gorgeous plants at the Belgravia boutique. But not just for their decorative qualities. Neill reveals the incredible value of houseplants in the home or any interior for their natural ability to clean the air and improve your health and well-being. 

Ferns are one of the most efficient natural filters for purifying the air

We all love to have houseplants in our homes, offices or any interior because their colour adds freshness to a room and the container can be as chic or organic as the interior style demands.  It's the perfect way to create a focal point in a room or liven up a drab corner when one wants a change from cut flowers or fresh floral arrangements.  What you may not realize is how essential these plants are for our physical and mental health and for just making us feel good on a daily basis.

Phlebodium, in one of our luxury, hand-made containers, is an epiphytic fern renowned for herbal medicine and helps reduce formaldehyde and xylene in the air.

Research shows that all houseplants (leafy and flowering) help purify the air that surrounds us in varying degrees through their photosenthesis.  Some are incredibly powerful for reducing household toxins, carcinogenic chemicals like benzene, formaldahyde and trichloroethylene that pollute our homes, removing up to 90% of these chemicals in the air in as little as twenty-four hours.  These carcinogenic chemicals are used in the manufacturing of synthetic substances and materials and are off-gased from new materials for sometimes several years afterwards, depending on the material of the product. Benzene can also be emitted from gas stoves when in use.

Triple Aloe Vera plants are one of the most effective removers of formaldahyde from the air.

One of the most powerful plants is the succulent, Aloe Vera (shown above). Their sap is renowned for curing skin burns, but they are also one of the most effective houseplants for removing formaldahyde from the air.  Aloe Vera grows wild in tropical climates around the world and as a houseplant it needs little care and watering, just a well-drained soil.  

The best general air purifying plant is the Boston fern (below) which also acts as a natural air humidifier.  Ferns like bright but indirect sunlight and damp soil (so keep it well watered) although they can tolerate drought or partial light if necessary. 

Neill Strain fern houseplant attractively decorated with Birch bark in a glass container

Another houseplant on the top of the list for removing pollutants (benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene) is Sansevieria, commonly known as "Mother-in-Law's Tongue" or "Snake Plant."  These are long lasting plants which are very easy to maintain, just occasional watering, especially during the winter months, and they tolerate low light levels.

Sansevieria "Mother-in-law's Tonque" houseplants designed by Neill Strain

In addition to purifying the air, scientists have proved that the presence of plants indoors also makes you feel better.  They help reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood and self-esteem and ease depression.  They naturally humidify the air, so help prevent the dryness of skin, lips, nose and throat, and ease the symptoms of colds and flu.  By increasing the oxygen in the air, they improve concentration and memory and enhance creativity.  This added oxygen in the air also promotes deeper sleep - Gerbera plants are particularly renowned for this and hence make a perfect decoration for the bedroom.  Hospital patients with plants in their rooms are usually faster to recover, are more positive and have lower blood pressure and stress levels.  

Succulent plants make you feel good, not just because they look so lovely but they are said to keep you more alert and reduce stress.

An unusual Succulent plant, Echeveria/Crassula decorated with bark and moss

Another Succulent plant, Echeveria, with contemporary styling

Soleirolia plants are from the nettle family and also known as "Peace-in-the-home."  Most attractive when placed in groups of 2 or more.

A variety of Sansevieria Mikado plants, originally from Brazil, that help create humidity in the air.

Of these five houseplants pictured above, all but the Soleirolia are succulents and thrive in tropical climates.  Hence they require minimal care in the home, occasional watering and they tolerate well-heated homes in the winter months.  Soleirolia plants, from the nettle family, also known as "Peace-in-the-home," "Baby's Tears" and "Mind your own Business," are rapidly growing ground covering plants in nature and hence we pot these individually so they don't dominate other plants.  You can let their tiny leaves overflow down the sides of the container, or trim them with scissors for a more tailored look.  Keep them moist at all times; while they prefer bright, indirect sunlight, they will tolerate low light.   

Some other plants that remove most quickly and efficiently indoor air pollution are Palms, Dracaena, Anthuriums, Philodendrons, Pothos, Rubber Plants, Cane, Ficus, Gerbera and even the common Ivy, Hedera Helix.  Although less effective, I also recommend the novelty Ananas plant from the Bromeliad family which produces miniature Pineapples!

Ananas plants surprise you with their miniature pineapples. Also available with variegated leaves.

The most popular of all houseplants is the Phalaenopsis Orchid.  They rid the air of xylene (the chemical found in many glues and paints) and they give off oxygen at night so are perfect for decorating a bedroom, like Gerberas.  There are many other lovely Orchid houseplants such as Cambria, Dendrobium and Cymbidium.  Orchids grow mostly on tree branches in tropical climates and are "air plants."  They take their nutrients from the air rather than soil which explains why we pot them in tree bark.  Water the bark once a week but drain well.  Any left over water would drown these beautiful creatures!

Phalaenopsis Orchids exist in many colours and are quite striking designed in our hand-made containers.

Dendrobium Orchids decorated by Neill Strain

Cambria Orchids designed by Neill Strain

A few rare Cymbidium Orchids are "Trailing" like this exquisitely elegant white one. Also available in pale and dark pinks and purple.

Last but not least, given the time of year, spring bulbs and flowers are both ornamental and add a splash of seasonal freshness and colour to your interiors.  Here are some of my favourites, Muscari, Lily of the Valley, Hyacinths and Paperwhite Narcissi.  These require little but regular watering and once they have flowered you can plant the bulbs in the garden for next year!

There are many more planter designs displayed in the Belgravia boutique right now so do drop by to enjoy their beauty and sweet scents - and grab some of the positive energy and pure air we create!

Florally yours,

Neill x