In the past two decades, home décor has taken a sharp turn in the direction of the organic and green, namely in the form of indoor houseplants. It’s nearly impossible to look at a design publication without seeing lush, verdant plants dotting the interior landscape either minimally or, in many cases, maximally. Books, magazines and blogs are filled with tips on how to decorate with plants. There’s even a Trend Forecast in this month’s Architectural Digest that highlights the best houseplants for 2022.
Choosing the right plant(s) for your interior can take some research. Northern New Mexico’s dry climate may not be ideal for certain plants like ferns, elephant ears, Cyperus and Selaginella, as they require constant moisture. But there are plants that not only can handle the lack of moisture, they thrive in dry, with the added bonus of providing oxygen — a true benefit for those living at higher altitudes.
Waterwise, varieties like cacti, succulents and certain low moisture tropicals are hugely popular with their sleek desert allure. As our climate progressively changes, these plants are smart choices, since they require less water. One succulent that stands out in this category is the Dracaena trifasciata, a well-known houseplant that possesses a very unique beauty and a special ability to filter air pollutants and household toxins while also producing oxygen at night, earning it the nickname “the bedroom plant.”
Formerly known as Sansevieria trifasciata, Dracaena trifasciata is a unique tropical evergreen that is one of the most easy-care and forgiving plants you can buy. It will adapt to bright or dim lighting and requires very little watering. As a matter of fact, overwatering Dracaena trifasciata causes rot, which can kill the plant.
Known for its spiky, sword-shaped leaves, Dracaena trifasciata has also been called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Saint George’s sword, and Devil’s Tongue, as well as Vipers Bow String Hemp (its plant fibers are used to make bowstrings). But most popularly, Dracaena trifasciata is referred to as the snake plant. The snake plant is in the Asparagaceae family and is native to tropical West Africa, where it is known to grow up to 4’ tall in the wild.
Due to its tropical nature (USDA Zone 10-12), it is more commonly kept as an indoor plant versus an outdoor one, where it can grow up to 2’, tolerating a wide range of cultural and environmental conditions. Flowers rarely bloom on snake plants, though some plants, mainly in tropical environments, may produce fragrant, greenish-white miniature flowers, followed by orange berries.
Marked by upright leaves that rise stiffly in a rosette from a thick rhizome, the snake plant’s leaves boast an attractive array of colors, ranging from light to dark green and yellow (its Latin adjective, trifasciata, means “three bundles”).
With attractive foliage and a distinctive shape, it’s easy to see why the snake plant reigns supreme among the houseplants, but its real superpower is the oxygen it produces at night. There are a few other plant species, including aloe vera, orchids and the gerbera daisy, that share this special quality. These three, however, require brighter light and more frequent watering. The snake plant does just fine wherever it is, as long as it’s out of direct light. The snake plant is also a champion at removing toxic air pollutants.
The toxin-removing and oxygen-producing properties of the snake plant (as well as 11 other plants) was first documented in the seminal 1989 NASA Clean Air Study, led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America. The purpose of the study was to find organic ways to clean the air in space stations. While the results concluded many of these plants could absorb carbon dioxide, remove volatile pollutants and release oxygen, the study was conducted in a sealed environment. Still, it is widely maintained by landscape experts and plant enthusiasts alike that certain varieties, like the snake plant, are very beneficial when kept indoors.
Even if you are skeptical, you can be sure having plants inside your home will help improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15%), reduce stress levels and boost your mood. You may even get a better night’s sleep.