bookryder
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Indoor plants & air quality

Hi folks, I'm new to the forum and growing plants in general, so please pardon my ignorance. I have a very specific concern and would appreciate your expertise:

My new place is old and musty in a downtown urban area. I am worried about the indoor air quality. I own and am using a cheap air purifier to help the cleaning effort. Thinking long-term, I believe a few good plant would go a long way towards mitigating my unsubstantiated paranoia of living in an old building.

I've found a list of "air scrubbing" plants. The list includes:

Areca palm
Reed palm
Dwarf date palm
Boston fern
Janet Craig dracaena
English ivy
Australian sword fern
Peace Lily
Rubber plant
Weeping fig

I don't know the first thing about taking care of plants so I need your help. Here are some criteria that I believe might be important:
  • Plant must be totally safe for cats.
    Plant should be able to survive almost entirely indoors.
    I can get a good amount of eastern sun, moderate west. North and south sun are basically out of the question.
    I have whatever is opposite to a green thumb, but I'm willing to learn to care for a plant if it helps. Low-maintenance takes priority.
Based on these criteria and your own experience, do any of these plants sound more appropriate than others? As a follow up, where do I get these things?

Many thanks,
wb

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Kisal
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Location: Oregon

I live in a 65-year-old house, and air leaks in around the windows so much that I might as well have them open all year round. No worries about places like mine being "airtight", like new houses. :lol:

IMO, the easiest plants for a beginner would be the Peace Lily, Boston fern, English ivy, Janet Craig dracaena, and Rubber plant. I recommend you begin with one or two of those. I listed only varieties from your list, but any other varieties of these plants would be equally easy, although I know nothing about their air-cleaning abilities.

Go to a plant nursery or garden store in your area. Your local phone book will have a list of them. You could even phone ahead to see whether they carried the specific plants you're interested in. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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rainbowgardener
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In the meantime, if you want to check whether a certain plant is safe for your cats, the ASPCA makes it easy. Here's a list they publish of plants that are toxic to animals. If you want you can set it for just plants toxic to cats, or dogs, horses...

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/
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bookryder
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Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:58 pm

Thank you both for your useful responses,

I never realized how many plants could be hazardous to my cats. I sincerely appreciate you sharing that link. After checking the ASPCA database, my list is cut down considerably.

Pity that the Peace Lily is no good for kitty. That's a very attractive plant.

I like the looks and care instructions for a rubber plant, but there seem to be a lot of varieties and not all of them are safe for me or for kitty.

Both the Boston and Reed Fern seem easy enough, but I think I'd have to see a few in person to decide how attractive I find them.

After the Peace Lily, though, I find the Areca palm the most attractive. I might investigate it further unless someone here is convinced it is a bad decision for a beginner.

Thank you once again for your assistance.

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Kisal
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I struggle with my Chamaedorea elegans palm. I don't think I would even attempt an Areca, myself. But that's just based on my own experience with indoor palms. I've managed to maintain the Chamaedorea because I only have dogs now. When I had cats, I never was able to keep a palm long enough to see any new growth, because my cats immediately devoured them. Palm trees must be very tasty to cats, because mine had the whole outdoors available to them, but it was always my palm trees they ate. :roll:

I have read that the fronds of Arecas, when mature, flop down, instead of standing erect. I gather they aren't considered a "long term" plant, and are just replaced when they grow past the juvenile stage. They also have major problems with browning of the leaf tips and the fronds turning yellow. They're extremely sensitive to getting too much or too little water, which might make them difficult for a beginner to handle. And, like all palms, they are subject to spider mite infestations.

I know I sound very negative about Areca palms, but that's just based on what I've read about them, and the difficulties I've had with my own little palm. (I can't imagine trying to deal with one that's even touchier! :lol: ) Keep in mind that you will always lose some plants and succeed with others, so if you like a particular plant, you definitely should give it a try. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

sweet thunder
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Location: Eureka, CA

Wow, that ASPCA list looks very conservative to me. Not that you should ignore their warnings, but I've had a few of those plants around my cats with no ill effects.

I have always heard that spider plants are good for air quality. They make the non-toxic list and they are very easy to care for. You may want to hang them out of reach of the cats anyway, because if they're like my felines, the plant will get munched on mercilessly.

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Kisal
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:lol: I had a spider plant hanging near my kitchen window, and my cats loved to get up on the counter and bat at the baby plants! :lol:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

bookryder
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Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:58 pm

Kisal wrote:
I know I sound very negative about Areca palms, but that's just based on what I've read about them, and the difficulties I've had with my own little palm.
Hey, no worries. I joined and asked precisely because I needed expertise like the kind demonstrated here. I take your worries seriously and think I'll just learn to love a fern, rubber or (as thunder just pointed out up thread) a few hanging spider plants.

One must learn to crawl before they walk. :D

rocketfiredash
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Location: Southwestern Ontario

Spider plants are fantastic! Pretty easy to care for, and they tend to grow fairly quickly, which is nice because for beginners (myself included) growth means you're doing somethingright! :lol:

Spider plants like to be root bound, especially in order for them to produce baby spiders!

good luck :wink:

bookryder
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Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:58 pm

Okay!

Thanks everyone for their feedback so far. I think I've reached a couple of conclusions:

I will grow some spider ivy/plant. Apparently, kitties will nibble on this but I can hang it indoors and still get direct light.

For now, I will give up on the Areca palm. Sounds like too much work for me.

I am, however, attracted to the Bamboo Palm/Good Luck Palm and might try that one in addition to the spider ivy unless someone here suggests it is a poor choice for a novice.

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