When you breathe, your body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas exchange makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.

Consider your houseplants as a means of “growing fresh air” in your home. Adding some green to your room sharpens your focus, and improves your health besides purifying the air.

Indoor air can be as much as 12 times more polluted than outside air due to compounds in paints, furnishing, clothes and building materials. According to NASA research, plants remove toxins from air and up to 87% of volatile organic compounds every 24 hours. VOCs include substances like formaldehyde (present in rugs, vinyl, cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint). Benzene is commonly found in high concentrations in study settings, where books and printed papers abound.

During this time of homeschooling, each home with children likely has more books and papers around day in and day out. A plant in the middle of the study table could help “clear the air” and relieve some of the stress of taking a test. A study in England found that students demonstrate 70% greater attentiveness when they are taught in rooms containing plants.

There is evidence that plants in the office can reduce sickness and therefore, absence due to sickness. In a study done in Norway, sickness rates fell by more than 60% in offices with plants. The positive effect of plants on health could be due to the fact that they increase moisture levels in the air. Plants release roughly 97% of the water they take in. Plants have been shown to reduce coughing and dry, dehydrated throats and skin.

When choosing a plant, make sure it’s suitable for your room. The first step is to determine the light levels and space needed. For instance if your room is windowless or you rely on fluorescent lights, you won’t want a plant that requires a lot of sun. You should consider how much space you have available for the plant, and how much care you are willing to provide.

For more information on choosing and growing indoor plants for your home go to: www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/houseplants. Your local favorite greenhouse or nursery can also give you good information.

Some beneficial indoor plants are Boston fern to humidify the air, philodendron and snake plant to purify air and remove formaldehyde, and peace lily to remove mold from the air. Good luck choosing just the right plant to make your home healthy.

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but also click on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website -- www.extension.umn.edu -- for gardening information, or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.

Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916, and leave your name, number and question.