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Monday, June 4, 2012

Malaysians urged to keep house plants with health benefits

INDOOR green plants are more than decorations because many of them also have the power to make a difference to our quality of life.

From clearing cigarette smoke to repelling mosquitoes, houseplants such as peace lilies and geranium are set to feature more prominently in Malaysian houses soon.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong, who was captivated by the plants during a visit to the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Develop-ment Institute (Mardi) in Serdang recently, said plans were afoot to raise public awareness on such plants so more people could enjoy the benefits.

“They are also beautiful and easy to maintain. All them of them have different uses and strengths,” he said, citing peace lilies which help to clear the air of cigarette smoke as an example.

For people who are allergic to dust in the air, Chua suggested that they plant bamboo palms at home because it could reduce irritation caused by air pollution.

“One can also trade their mosquito coil or spray for geranium plants which have the ability to ward off mosquitoes,” he added.

Chua said geranium plants could also double as an insect repellent when placed on balconies of apartments or condominiums.

Meanwhile, Mardi director-general Datuk Dr Abd Shukor Abd Rahman said these plants, costing between RM5 and RM10, were God’s gifts.

He said some of the plants originated from tropical rainforests but had long been planted as decorative plants in local households.

“Mardi is trying to identify the active compound in these plants which enable them to have these special abilities.

“If we can process the compound, we can create products for commercial use,” he said. The following are some of the indoor plants and their uses.

Peace Lily

Peace lily has the ability to purify indoor air from tobacco smoke and trading it for fresh oxygen. The plant also gets rid of toxic gases such as formaldehyde found in paint, and benzene, which is found in cigarette smoke. With its dark green leaves and spade-shaped white flowers, it is also a beautiful plant that adds a fresh touch to home surroundings. Peace lilies thrive in shady areas and needs to be watered about once a week. Keeping several peace lily plants at home can help reduce stuffiness in the air.


With the citrus smell of its leaves, the geranium plant has the very practical and useful ability to repel mosquitoes. It is suitable to be placed in bedrooms and gives off a slight fragrance in the air. While it can be kept indoors, the plant needs to be brought out for some sunshine every two to three days. The plant takes about two months to grow from seed to a mature plant.

Aloe Vera

Perhaps more well known than other houseplants, the aloe vera is believed to have healing properties and can be used to treat wounds. This succulent plant is also able to clear the air from toxic gases like formaldehyde and benzene. Commercially, aloe vera gel is processed into facial products, yogurt, beverages and some desserts.

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese evergreen plant has the ability to filter various toxic gases such as ammonia, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene. It is easily maintained and does not require much sunlight. This leafy plant grows from 20cm to 150cm in height. It is a popular ornamental plant seen in shopping malls, hotels and offices as it is easy to grow.

Spider Plant

With its leaves stretching out like spider legs, this plant is helpful in purifying the air and reduces indoor air pollution. It clears the air from pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene. This plant thrives easily but grows best at temperatures between 18°C and 32°C.

By The Star

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