As the coronavirus continues to infect around the world, many are turning to creative measures to avoid contracting the sometimes deadly virus. Though wearing unrated surgical face masks while traveling may prove to be ineffective, houseplants might help to lessen the potential of getting infected via airborne particles.
According to the CDC, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus—called COVID-19—is thought to spread through respiratory droplets when someone afflicted with the illness coughs or sneezes.
Currently, recommended preventative actions include washing hands with soap and water or sanitizer, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, disinfecting objects and surfaces, and staying home if you’re sick.
While those are wise steps to take to prevent spreading the virus, individuals looking to take extra measures to avoid contracting the illness may want to consider whether houseplants prevent sickness or limit the spread of contagious particles.
A 2013 study found that the flu virus quickly becomes ineffective in high humidity. Though you could add an industrial-looking humidifier to boost moisture in your home, there are more attractive-looking houseplants available that have the ability to add humidity to the air naturally.
Plants use a process called “transpiration” to create humidity. Dry air encourages water to move from the roots up to the stems and leaves and evaporate through a plant’s pores, called stomata. Transpiration not only supplies water to the plant and assists in keeping it cool, but it also creates a humidifying effect.
Nearly every plant will add a bit of humidity to the air, but some plants are certainly more effective than others. NASA scientist, Dr. Bill Wolverton, conducted studies on ways plants can help improve air quality. He wrote a book detailing and ranking the overall transpiration rates of 50 plants.
Consider the top five recommended plants mentioned in his book that can naturally help to humidify your home.
One of the most efficient humidifying plants is the areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens). A six-foot areca palm transpires almost one quart of water in 24 hours. Beyond being one of the most efficient humidifying plants, they are fairly low maintenance. With bright, indirect light, moist soil, and the occasional pruning, these plants are easily able to thrive.
The bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) is a tolerant plant. It will grow in a variety of light conditions, and though it prefers moist soil, it is typically acceptable to let the top few inches of soil dry between waterings. Though it is slow-growing, it can reach heights of up to five feet tall!
A classic houseplant, Boston ferns (Nephrolepsis exaltata“Bostoniensis”) are unassuming and fairly low-maintenance. Ideal for hanging baskets, the leaves on a Boston fern grow downwards as they age. They don’t require bright light, and reportedly release an abundant amount of moisture into the air.
kimberly queen fern
The Kimberly queen fern (Nephrolepsis obliterata) loves moisture and low light. Consistently moist soil is key to ensuring this plant thrives. Though it can last with indirect lighting, the more light it receives, the more it will need to be watered. However, keeping the soil moist (but not over-watered) is essential for transpiration.
Partial shade or indirect light is best to maintain a lady palm (Rhapis excelsa). Long, glossy, narrow leaves, narrow bamboo-like trunks, and tiny little flowers that appear in the spring add to its attractive appearance. These plants need low light, a well-draining potting medium, as well as regular moisture to ensure consistent transpiration.