Many Australian families rely on air conditioning services to keep them cool in summer or warm in winter, but cooled or heated air can sometimes cause problems for other occupants in your home. Indoor plants add colour and beauty to any room in the house, but some varieties are hardier than others. If you're a fan of cool air AND attractive indoor foliage, find out if your air conditioner and indoor plants can ever live in harmony.
How indoor plants boost air quality
While most people choose indoor plants to brighten up their homes, it's useful to know that these shrubs do more than just add colour. In fact, your indoor plants can actually help boost the air quality in your home.
You may assume that air quality is only an issue outside, but studies show that the air in your home can actually contain 2 to 5 times the level of pollutants you may breathe outdoors. This problem often occurs because of the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by carpets, paints and furniture.
Indoor plants can actually remove harmful compounds and carbon dioxide from the air in your home. While the plants naturally remove carbon dioxide, it is the micro-organisms in potting soil that can combat the VOCs. In fact, in the United States, NASA conducted a study that proved certain indoor plants could effectively remove VOCs.
How air conditioners can cause trouble for indoor plants
Your air conditioning system is an efficient way to quickly cool down or warm up a room, but this temperature changing process isn't always easy on indoor plants.
Every species of indoor plant is different, and each variety depends on different living conditions. Factors that affect your indoor plants include:
- Brightness of light
- Amount of water
- Drainage and potting
Your air conditioning system can easily affect some of these conditions. For example, drastic temperature changes in the room can affect certain varieties of indoor plant. Similarly, as the temperature of a room increases, the relative humidity in the air will fall, which could quickly upset some potted plants. Indeed, many plants enjoy stable growing conditions, and the rapid changes that an air conditioner can cause can easily cause problems.
To make sure your indoor plants can cope with your air conditioning, you should choose species that can cope with variations in temperature and humidity. Hardy specimens will deal with almost anything the air conditioner throws at them, but delicate blooms are likely to die as soon as you turn the system on.
Plants with large leaves can normally cope with the rigours of your air conditioning. Examples include the Parlour Palm, Mother-in-Law's Tongue and Peace Lily. Ask an expert at your local garden centre for more advice about other hardy indoor species.
Of course, if you only use an air conditioner in one or two rooms, you can move more delicate varieties to other parts of the house. Tropical plants don't tend to cope well with an air conditioner. As such, you may choose to have tropical plants in a conservatory or sun room, where they will stay safely out of reach of the air conditioning.
Some plants can cope with air conditioning as long as the foliage does not come into direct contact with jets of warm or cold air, so set these plants as far away from vents as possible. You can also help some varieties by regularly misting the leaves and watering the potting soil. These measures can keep the plant's immediate growing zone humid enough for the shrub to survive. Keep smaller plants under glass or in a terrarium, as this will protect them from the effects of your air conditioner.
An air conditioning system doesn't have to signal the death penalty for indoor plants. By choosing the right varieties in each room, your indoor plants and air conditioner can definitely live in harmony.