University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article

PLANTS FOR PURER AIR

By Ailene King, Student Intern
 
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 

With winter here, opening up the windows for fresh air isn't an option as it in the warmer months. One solution is to try some indoor plants that not only green up your living space, but also will help purify or freshen the air inside your home. Golden Pothos, Corn Plant, and Red-margined Dracaena are three plants that reportedly do exactly that.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), also referred to as Golden Pothos or Devils Ivy, gets its name from the Greek epi meaning "upon" and premnon meaning "a trunk," referring to its natural growth on tree trunks. It is native to the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific Ocean.

This plant is generally quite adaptable and is, therefore, one of the most common indoor plants. Usually grown as a hanging plant, its leaves are a glossy, bright green and generally dashed with golden yellow streaks (or white in other cultivars). It seldom flowers inside.

Pothos requires bright to moderate light but tolerates low light with the leaves becoming less variegated. It likes warm to average temperatures, average humidity, average soil, and moderate watering and fertility. The leaves will wilt from the soil being too dry, too wet, or too cold.

Leaves also will fade in direct sun. As the sap may irritate skin and ingestion may cause severe throat irritation, wash hands immediately after touching this plant.

The Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') gets its name from the Greek drakaina meaning "female dragon," which refers to the red sap exuded from cut stems. It is native to tropical and subtropical Africa and is grown indoors for its foliage. The leaves are dull green, with a broad longitudinal yellow-green band with narrow gray-green stripes. Indoors, the Corn Plant usually grows four to six feet high and one to two feet wide, and rarely blooms.

The Corn Plant requires bright light and warm to average temperatures. It does need humidity, but don't worry if your house is dry. You can increase the humidity by placing a dish of water next to the plant, or use a humidifier.

Water this plant moderately so that the soil is evenly moistened. An average potting soil mix is fine, but make sure you fertilize the plant according to label recommendations.

Another Dracaena species reported to purify the air is the Red-margined Dracaena (Dracaena marginata), which is sometimes referred to as the Madagascar Dragon Tree. It is native to Mauritius and Réunion Islands in the southern Indian Ocean and is grown as an indoor plant for its foliage.

This Dracaena reaches a height of six to15 feet with a width of two to three feet. The leaves are dark green with red margins and are mainly at the top on mature plants. Just like Pothos and the Corn Plant, it seldom flowers indoors. The culture for this plant is similar to that of the Corn Plant.


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