Plant Power

Indoor plants have a transformative effect, bringing us closer to nature and turning a house into a home. Not only do they complement the decor – a retro cheese plant adds ’70s appeal, while an imposing palm brings to mind Hollywood glamour – plants also come with a wealth of added feel-good benefits that go way beyond the aesthetic

Certain house plants release moisture into the air, acting as natural humidifiers, proving themselves particularly beneficial during the colder months when the central heating is on. When it’s not quite warm enough to throw open the French doors, fill your front room with foliage and you’ll reap the rewards. Look for luscious greenery such as an areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens), which has multiple bamboo-like shoots and feathery, dark green fronds. Reaching the heady heights of up to 8 feet, this air-purifying plant is perfect for larger spaces and creates an arresting focal point. If you’re short on square footage, however, the ever-popular spider plant (Chlorophytum Comosum) scores highly when it comes to both cleaner living and good looks. Effective at fighting pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, these stripy wonder plants work best when hung high.

Where contemporary kitchen design is increasingly sleek and minimalist, a splash of natural greenery can breathe life into your cooking space. But a plant has to earn its place in a busy kitchen. No chef worth his chilli salt would be without an indoor herb garden from which he can grab a sprig of rosemary or a handful of basil leaves in a hurry. If worktop space is an issue, consider terrariums and hanging planters. Or forgo the geraniums and fill a window box with your favourite cooking herbs instead – a far more functional idea that’s just as attractive. The aloe vera plant (Aloe Barberae) is also handy to have around in the kitchen. Known as the ‘plant of immortality’, this spiky succulent comes with various healing properties – its inner gel being a natural remedy for cuts and burns. Sun-loving and easy to grow, aloe vera is known for its air-cleaning qualities, too, which counter chemical-based cleaning products.

The key to getting a restful night’s sleep is in the air we breathe. House plants have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen – unlike us humans, who do the opposite. Therefore you can avoid a stuffy bedroom with a well-placed plant or two. Sansevieria Trifasciata, or the comically nicknamed mother-in-law’s tongue, is particularly useful in sleeping spaces because, unlike other house plants, it releases its oxygen into the air at night rather than in the day. As well as being able to tolerate low lighting conditions, its striking sword-like leaves remove airborne nasties including benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. Scented plants used in aromatherapies are a no-brainer when it comes to choosing flora for the bedroom: lavender is an obvious de-stresser. But it’s jasmine (Jasminum Polyanthum or Chinese star) that wins top marks as a natural sleep aid, with one study claiming its aroma is as calming as valium.

Finding plants that will flourish in the bathroom can be tricky. A combination of low lighting (or no natural light at all), high humidity, and bursts of warm temperatures when the shower goes on or the bath is running, results in a room that can be dank and gloomy one minute and practically tropical the next – so you need to choose wisely for these volatile conditions. English ivy (Hedera Helix) is low-maintenance and comes with great filtering qualities. This humidity-loving vine is known to work wonders combating mould as well as common household toxins. A natural climber, hang ivy high and you’ll be rewarded with cascading tendrils that add a romantic charm. Similarly, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum Wallisii) is an elegant plant that thrives in low light and tropical humidity. As its name suggests, the peace lily comes with purifying qualities, allowing you to breathe easy and relax.