Incorporating elements of plant life into your space can do wonders for its look and feel, especially in high-rise condos and other urban dwellings. While a tall palm or a bouquet of roses can make for some pretty stunning accent pieces, the green stuff can also bring a host of other practical benefits.
Whether your ceilings are too low, your wall plugs are too prominent or you’re suffering from an incurable cold because of your home’s air quality, plants can solve almost any irritating issue. Forget apps — when it comes to matters of the home, there’s a plant for that.
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Even if there are no obvious odors or visible clouds of gas in your home, there are often more chemicals floating around than you’d think. Barbara Nyke of Nikka Design, a Toronto-based sustainable interior design firm, said that common household items and cleaning products could contain chemicals that are potentially harmful to residents’ health.
“Chemicals called volatile organic compounds or VOCs are found in many things such as paints and synthetic materials like rugs and plastics. Some common VOCs are formaldehyde and benzene, which can be found in plastics, foam insulation, nail polishes and nail polish removers,” she explained.
Nyke recommended a few common household plants to decrease the amount of pollutants in your space.
“Dracaena is a hardy, spiky plant with long, thin leaves, and it’s good for removing VOCs. Peace lilies also remove VOCs like formaldehyde and benzene and also xylene and toluene,” she said.
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Nyke said that fleshier plants that retain water can help with the problem of dry air in the home, which can in turn benefit those who are suffering from a cold or chronic cough.
“The plants that contain a lot of water and absorb water like succulents can contribute to creating humidity indoors. Because they contain so much water, they release moisture and so that can help, especially in the winter when our houses tend to be dryer,” she said.
Trying to transform a small apartment into a cozy home can be frustrating, especially when there’s little to no available space for your favorite plants or home accessories. Arranging your plants in creative, space-effective ways can make a cramped room feel more natural and relaxing. Shelley Elgar, the Seasonal Plant Product Manager at Sheridan Nurseries, said that placing smaller plants on a nightstand is a good place to start.
“Cacti are small and compact, but you wouldn’t want to reach for a glass of water in the middle of the night and hit its spikes! There are a bunch of other succulents like cacti without the thorns or needles,” she suggested.
She also said that more plant lovers are purchasing round, hanging glass terrariums to free up their floor space.
“There are all kinds of new hanging glass balls, so you’re not limited to counter space. You can hang them from a curtain rod or from a hook on the ceiling or almost any place where you have an opportunity to hang things. You can hang them in glass bottles or bowls and they come in various sizes,” she said.
Dark, dingy dungeons
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Homes with low ceilings can sometimes feel suffocating and oppressive. Adding plants to a basement apartment can make it feel less grungy, but it’s also important to find greenery that can survive in darker environments. Elgar listed a few plants that can thrive in a basement, even if you can’t!
“If you live in a basement apartment, you really need to look for the plants that require a small amount of light and a small amount of water to survive, so sansevieria and ZZ plants are appropriate choices.”
Photo: Emily May/Flickr
From wires to extension cords to crayon marks from your four-year-old, eyesores along your walls and baseboards are often tough to ignore. Luckily, plants can be an easy fix for an ugly, yet unavoidable, feature in your home. Nyke said that there are plenty of full-leafed options that can conceal the bane of your living room.
“A Fiddle-Leaf Fig Palm is a great way to hide eyesores in the home because it has a width of about two feet and it’s a substantial plant, so it’s a great way to hide eyesores because it draws the eye,” she explained. “Palms are a great way to hide things because they can be put in a pot and stand anywhere between six feet or higher.”
Photo: Maja Dumat/Flickr
One of the most common design phobias among homeowners today is the fear of color. It might seem like a good idea to decorate your living room in only whites and beiges, but you could end up with a lack of vitality and energy in your space. Adding just one pop of color can really change up the dynamics of a room, and plants are an easy and natural way to achieve this.
“For an indoor space and for longevity, it’s very hard to beat phalaenopsis orchids because they bloom for a long time and they’re very easy to deal with. They’re fairly straightforward, they just like a lot of light and a small amount of water and they’re fairly happy,” Elgar said. “There’s also a new plant that was introduced a couple years ago called medinilla and they have very big, pink blossoms and the blooms hang down.”
Nary a nurturer
And finally, the age-old conundrum which stops the majority of city-dwellers from incorporating greenery into their homes: a missing green thumb. If you’re lacking that nurturing instinct but would still love a plant to call your own, have no fear — Nyke said that there are plenty of low-maintenance options available.
“Spider plants are one of those indestructible plants. Even if somebody doesn’t know anything about gardening and doesn’t feel that they have a green thumb, spider plants are very hard to kill,” she said.
Elgar suggested air plants for those who missed out on the green thumb gene. Air plants are different from most other greenery because they can survive in just a bowl of water without soil, which tends to be more appealing to non-gardeners.
“You don’t really need to water them, but they’re very happy to be dunked in a sink with water and they have them in various colors and flowers attached to them as well. They’re quite pretty,” she said.