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When it’s been a long day at work, social media is getting you down or a family member is causing anxiety, one thing you can count on at home is … your houseplant.

You thought I was going to say a dog or cat, didn’t you?

A houseplant doesn’t require trips outside every few hours or a litterbox clean-up.

And, much like petting a dog can lower blood pressure, studies show that plants can reduce stress and improve mood. Plants in office settings have been shown to improve job satisfaction.

There may be physical health benefits as well. Oxygen production is the most well-known. In addition, plants release moisture from pores in their leaves, providing extra humidity in our dry winter homes. And, according to research by the National Aeronautic Space Administration and Associated Landscape Contractors of America, some indoor plants are living air cleaners, absorbing pollutants – such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene – found in synthetics, paints and cleaning products.

Here are a few of my favorite, easy-to-grow houseplants with air-cleaning properties:

Aglaonema Crispum (Chinese evergreen) is by far the easiest houseplant to grow, at least for me. I have subjected these plants, originally my mother’s and inherited more than two decades ago, to all manner of light and water deprivation. Yet, they continue to thrive, grow and bloom, producing small red berries.

Aloe vera not only cleans the air of toxins, but the gel inside the leaves can help heal sunburns, cuts and burns.

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Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant) battles multiple toxins and is safe for pets.

Figus benjamina (fig) filters out several toxins. Figs can get picky about light, temperature and watering. Mine become quite testy during changes in seasons and drop leaves a couple of times a year. If you can tolerate occasional leaf litter, figs are an attractive, long-living plant. I have one that is well over 30 years old.

Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii” (snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue) filters formaldehyde. I keep one in the bedroom because it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night.

A plant that is not a favorite of mine but enjoyed by many is the Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa.” This plant was the big winner of NASA’s study, removing all three of the most volatile organic compounds from the air, along with a couple of other chemicals. They are very easy to care for. The plant even tells you when to water – it droops when it’s time.

Love a houseplant and it will love you back, offering the pleasure of being surrounded by nature during a Great Plains winter, and possibly making it easier – and safer – to breathe.

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Mari Lane Gewecke is a Master Gardener volunteer, affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus program, and a self-employed consultant.

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