Geri Nikolai on the benefits of indoor plants.

I recently turned to the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association for fodder on indoor plants.


This group never lets me down. Earlier I unearthed hints to learn that our homes may contain things we'd rather not be around -- benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, asbestos, radon, lead and carbon monoxide. How much you have depends on the age of your home and your furniture, cleaning agents and other items.


Houseplants, says the landscape association, are "remarkably efficient filters of common and dangerous pollutants."


Among the most efficient filters are the Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen), Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Hedera (English ivy), Dracena (cornplant) and Scindapsus (devil's ivy).


Flowering plants like mums, azaleas, gerbera daisies, cyclamen and tulips help clean the air for short periods of time.


If formaldehyde is your issue, try philodendrons or spider plants. If it's benzene, keep gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums around the house.


If you smoke, sorry. Plants aren't any good at filtering tobacco smoke.


Other reasons to put houseplants around the old homestead: Studies show people feel more welcome and relaxed around plants, and get the impression that they're in a pricey home.


Most of the houseplants listed here are easy-maintenance. Water when the soil feels dry. If it's in a big pot, lift it up. You'll know whether moisture is left in the soil by the weight of the pot.


Before you go to buy houseplants, figure out where you will put them and what natural light they'll receive. Then read the labels or ask a garden center staffer so you end up with plants that will grow for you.


Be careful. I once had no interest in plants. Then a friend brought me a rubber tree. Within a year, I had dozens of houseplants in my small apartment, and I started thinking about buying a home so I could plant outside.


Geri Nikolai writes about home and garden for the Rockford Register Star. Contact her at (815) 987-1337 or gnikolai@rrstar.com.