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How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office Paperback – April 1, 1997

4.8 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

In research designed to create a breathable environment for a NASA lunar habitat noted scientist Dr. B. C. Wolverton discovered that houseplants are the best filters of common pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. Hundreds of these poisonous chemicals can be released by furniture, carpets, and building material, and then trapped by closed ventilation systems, leading to the host of respiratory and allergic reactions now called Sick Building Syndrome. In this full-color, easy-to-follow guide, Dr. Wolverton shows you how to grow and nurture 50 plants as accessible and trouble-free as the tulip and the Boston fern, and includes many beautiful but commonly found varieties not generally thought of as indoor plants. He also rates each plant for its effectiveness in removing various pollutants, and its ease of growth and maintenance.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140262431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140262438
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The book is laid out beautifully. The 50 plants are listed by rank based on removal of chemical vapors, ease of maintenance, resistance to insect infestation, and transpiration rate. Each plant gets a two-page spread; one page discusses the plant's ideal environment, sunlight conditions, care, and general information about the plant along with a full photo of it. The next page has a zoomed-in full-page photo of the leaves and/or flowers so the reader gets a feel for what the plant looks like and how it will fit with their decor.
The book begins by discussing the research about the air purification qualities of houseplants. The initial chapters explain how air contaminates enter our homes, the adverse effects these toxins have on humans, and how plants remove the contaminates from the air. I was surprised to learn that common household items such as blankets, toys, gas stoves, computers, and carpets can lead to allergies, asthma, even cancer, and that they might contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Once I read how certain plants can remove these dangerous microbes from the air, my husband and I immediately discussed adding these plants to our home.
The author explains in great detail how to care for the plants, which I found very helpful as a novice indoor gardener. The author also details the specific toxins that different plants remove, and indicates whether the plants transpire at night (which is good for a bedroom) or during the day.
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Format: Paperback
We all live in houses/apts (at least most of us do!) & thus are all exposed to indoor pollutants. This book starts out w/ an overview of what NASA has found out about indoor air pollution & how to combat it... with plants. Plants not only beautify the home, & bring the outdoors in, but they can also provide a big plus to our health. My husband & I got some new windows installed last fall & have done some painting in a couple of the downstairs room. I have kept peace lilies in the kitchen ever since, as well as a spider plant and have had a rubber plant in the living room. All of which are good at absorbing toxins from the air & are good in low light (which is what we have in those rooms).
In addition to being informative, this book has beautiful photos of all the plants & is very attractive. Makes great housewarming gift!
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully put-together book focusing on a unique aspect of plant ownership. Entries include both a full-on picture of a healthy, attractively potted specimen, plus a close-up detail of leaves &/or flowers. Descriptions of plant care are concise, well organized and accompanied by a more generalized description of the plant and particulars. Each plant is rated on four characteristics (removal of chemical vapors, ease of growth & maintenance, resistance to insect infestation, & transpiration rate), using an easy to read bar chart which appears on the same page as the description & picture.
This book is an excellent addition to an avid collector's plant library, both for its curiosity value & beautiful coverage of basic houseplants, and doubtless of interest to people concerned about air quality as well. It also provides enough basic information on each plant to be a useful reference for beginning enthusiast, but I would qualify that by saying that newbies will probably want a more broadly based work as their first home reference guide. For people looking for gift books, the pictures & layout are lovely.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
PROS:
There are many positive aspects of this book - nicely shot photos and overviews of many plants, including various rankings for each plant: Removal of Chemical Vapors, Ease of Growth and Maintenance, Resistance to Insect Infestation, Transpiration Rate. It also does a good job explaining why each of these aspects is important.

CONS:
I took off one star for how brief and general the overview and care are - while this is a good basic listing of plants, you're going to need another reference for tips on purchasing, planting, placement, etc.

I took off another star for something I find much more important - it's probably enough to knock off the two stars on its own. There is NO indication on any of the plant pages as to toxicity. For those of us who have pets and/or children, it is critical to know what in our homes is poisonous. I specifically checked the pages for plants that I know offhand to be toxic - Poinsettia and Peace Lilly - and neither mentioned anything about it.

This could be a forgivable omission in a general listing of plants, but for a book that claims to "Purify Your Home or Office" it seems unnecessarily reckless.

For example, it recommends the Peace Lilly, saying its "ability to remove indoor air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant," without mentioning that if ingested by pets, it can cause symptoms leading to "convulsions, renal failure, coma and death." [...]

I plan on going through the book, searching online to find out how toxic each listed plant is, and labeling them as such in the book. If you're willing to do this, then the book should be useful to you.
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