Low light, Houseplants, and Health

March 10th, 2009

Houseplants in my kitchen
I’m laid up right now with a hurt back again, not much I can do, sitting hurts, doing anything active hurts, I can lay in bed with my laptop and an icepack. So, figured best to get some blogging done.

One topic that has been on my mind a lot lately is houseplants, I always start jonesing for gardening in the winter and usually end up buying houseplants around this time of year. I want more houseplants, but they’re hard for me to grow.

Did you know that houseplants have been linked to health? NASA has done tests showing how they remove pollutants, including cancer causing compounds. Numerous studies have shown that houseplants in the workplace reduce worker sick days and even over the long term the occurence of many times of cancer. The issue is called sick building syndrome and it is a big issue.

Unfortunately in my house, there are not a good number of places for houseplants. Not a single window faces south, and many rooms upstairs have just one window. Additionally, almost all houseplants I’ve tried to grow have ended up being eaten by our cats. The only one I’ve had any luck with, other than a cactus that can defend itself, is pothos.

For whatever reason since we bought this house I’ve not thought about hanging a basket from the ceiling. When I lived in an apartment the first thing I did was hang an ivy from the ceiling, but I never thought to do it here, until my wife mentioned it this weekend. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it, so that is my agenda, and that will allow me to place some planters near windows but not on tables (so the cats can’t get them).

But still, I want more houseplants. My wife is pregnant and I want to provide good clean air for our baby, and if NASA says the average home needs 14 plants, I’m behind, especially if they need to be dispersed. Plus, 14 was the minimum, no reason not to make it even cleaner. No such thing as too many carcinogens filtered out is there? My kitchen has a lot of plants. It has a big window (east facing) overlooking my garden and gets a lot of light (the most light of any room in the house). So I have 6 ot 7 pothos plants on top of the cabinets that then hang down. I also have others including some cacti in a windowell at that big window. But the rest of the house has very little. The basement is dark, the bedrooms are dark, the living room is dark, the dining room is a tomb (we need more windows).

I plan to plant more pothos, that plant is awesome. Reproducing it is as easy as sticking a cutting in a cup of water, and it takes abuse like crazy, and can be overwatered, but maybe I’d like a plant that grows upright or something?

The point is, I need plants that tolerate very low light, and mostly, I have a hard time finding them. Compounding the issue is that at many places houseplants are not adequately labeled. Some are sold with a light indication, others are sold without even a name that I could look up on the Internet to see.

So, I ask you, blog readers, anyone have a recommendation for a [u]very[/u] low light houseplant, that perhaps cats won’t eat?

PS, three of the best plants for cleaning your air are ivy, mother-in-law’s tongue, and peace lily.

9 Responses to “Low light, Houseplants, and Health”

  1. Mildred  Says:

    I didn’t know that in fact – and I can’t be of much assistance, since my cat eats everything I try to grow inside as well 🙂
    Hope your back straightens out soon!

  2. zoe  Says:

    Have 2 cats and they do munch on the plants every now and then. They don’t really touch the mother-in-laws tongue. We also have a ficus by a NE facing window, which we out ouside in the summer. A peace lily in a dark corner, the cats mainly leave it be. I heard Aloe Vera is good for cleaning the air, haven’t had much success with it, but the cats didn’t really touch them. One of my cat’s likes dirt more then the plants themselves! I know spider plants do well with cleaning the air, but I don’t have any. I have a plant hanging from a woven plant holder (a small palm). Cats tore it to shreds, but now they can’t get to it at all as it hangs from the ceiling.

  3. Jen  Says:

    Try the rubber plant, a variety of ficus. My cat completely ignores it. It’s lovely, easy to grow, and is known to be one of the best air cleaners. Good luck!

  4. vidhya  Says:

    Love your blog! I love gardening…so that explains!:) you do a great job…I will keep visiting!
    I know this post was done really long time back…but here are a few suggestions.
    I have had spider plants in a studio apartment as a student. It did great…in fact its off-springs are doing well in several houses! 🙂 I now have a peace lily…doing great but is not flowering! 🙁 I have heard that corn plants require less light and maintenance. These come in many varieties. You could try a palm tree. If you like tiny ornamental ones then try plants like ‘hens and chicks’ or was it ‘chickens and hens’ I am not sure (I am not joking that is what they are called)…they have a rosette arrangement of succulent leaves…beautiful.
    Good luck…keep posting!

  5. Liz  Says:

    Many houseplants suitable for low light conditions are also poisonous to cats (just Google “Houseplants poisonous to cats”. Other than using hanging plants only, why not solve each problem separately. To keep your cats away from your houseplants, buy some “cat grass” seeds at the pet store (I believe it is simply wheat) and grow it in a pot. Place it where your cats can easily get to it. If necessary, put a trail of catnip to the plant and put a little cat nip between the “grass” to entice them.

    Then buy some of the low light houseplants suggested: Mother-in-laws-tongue also called snake plant, Chinese evergreen, and corn plant, to name a few.

  6. David  Says:

    Unfortunately, every one of the plants mentioned here are poisonous to cats. Since I had a cat pass away from eating a house plant I’d strongly recommend avoiding them (even though he was fine with them for about a year). Check:


    I’m sorry to be a downer. I’m in the same boat and I’m looking for a low-light cat friendly plant.

  7. Sarah  Says:

    I have the same problem: North/East facing windows and two cats. These are the plants that have worked well for me (all low light, non-toxic to cats and very pretty): Zebra Plant, Rex Begonias (regular begonias are poisonous), Spider Plant, Regular or Variegated Wandering Jew, and Parlor Palm. Most ferns are also non-toxic and hanging baskets are great for the poisonous indoor plants. The ASPCA has a good online search engine of poisonous plants.

  8. Kim  Says:

    Oh jeeze, we have 18 in our living room alone! And a second jungle in the kitchen, along with 4 orchids.

    We also keep a lucky bamboo in the bathroom, which loves the low light and the humidity.

    We always buy houses with huge picture windows, like the 18 foot one we have, and in this house we also have a big 8 foot doorwall.

    Oh, and if you ever want a cactus, we have an unidentified one that seems to grow really easily from cuttings, which we take all the time. I’m in MI too. Farmington Hills.

  9. Arlene  Says:

    Any cat or dog person should check into the ASPCA website, which lists both toxic and non-toxic plants.

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