Vital breath of fresh air

If Father Christmas was good enough to bring you a houseplant, don’t think that he left a last-minute gift from a thoughtless relative. Believe, instead, that that kindly aunt or uncle was not just remembering you at Christmas but was also concerned about your health.

Because not only do plants look good, but many can also do you good by cleaning the atmosphere in which you live.

Many house palms and old friends like the rubber plant (Ficus robusta) and the elegant Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) are known to help remove toxins from the air as well as providing welcome moisture.

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And the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), the Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens), dumb cane (Dieffenbachia) and Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) also deserve points for their ability not only to brighten up the great indoors, but also to clean the air of nasties.

Even tulips are known to remove formaldehyde, xylene and ammonia from the atmosphere, so a few in a vase can do a bunch of good, not only to brighten up a dull hallway but also to help you breathe more easily.

Thankfully, many helpful, long-lived houseplants are old favourites. Who hasn’t cared for at least one spider plant? Or tried to get to grips with watering and feeding a pot chrysanthemum?

And while not all plants can boast the ability to act as air purifiers, they are all capable of bringing something extra to the home. That’s why ivies and ferns, azaleas and cyclamen, tradescantia and cacti are still bought and grown in their millions.

Some are chosen because they are virtually indestructible; others because they are easy to look after and provide all-year-round interest. And some are picked because they will tolerate spots where few other plants will thrive. For instance, the age-old aspidistra which can still hold its own in dark and cheerless corners.

So if you did receive a plant this Christmas, accept it with the knowledge it could well bring a breath of fresh air into your home.