There are many reasons to grow plants indoors -- they clean the air, soften and infuse our décor with nature, and reduce the amount of stress we feel. There are a stunning array of leaf colors and textures to brighten spirits even on the shortest, dreariest winter days. But that's not all: Pick carefully and they also provide scent -- from rich and flowery to warm and spicy.
Air fresheners are known to be strong home air pollutants. Known toxic chemicals that can be found in air fresheners include formaldehyde, camphor, ethanol, phenol, petroleum-based artificial fragrances (which contain their own mix of toxins) and benzyl alcohol. These chemicals can cause symptoms like headaches, rashes, dizziness, migraines, asthma attacks, mental confusion, coughing and more. Some of the substances in air fresheners are also known carcinogens and others are hormone disruptors.
Asthma is a major problem related to air fresheners and perfumed cleaning products among children and the elderly. A study published on July 10, 2010 in Environmental Health found that women who used more household cleaning products, including air fresheners and mold removers, had a 2x higher risk of breast cancer.
So ditch the Glade and Febreze, and let nature do what it has been doing best for millions of years: clean the air.
An angel's trumpet in full bloom is nothing short of spectacular. A common patio tree, you can also move it inside for the winter to try to coax more blooms from it. Be warned, though: It's not the best plant for beginners and all parts are extremely poisonous.
Name: Brugmansia selections
What it needs: Provide angel's trumpet with a bright spot and protection from drafts. The plant is a heavy feeder, so fertilize regularly in spring and summer with a general-purpose plant food. Reduce water and fertilizer a bit during the cool, dark fall and winter months.
Test Garden Tip: A lot of common pests love angel's trumpet; be on the watch for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies.
Arabian jasmine flowers almost all year long if it gets enough light. The starry, pure-white flowers produce a soft, flowery fragrance and are used to make jasmine tea.
Name: Jasminum sambac
What it needs: Grow Arabian jasmine in a bright spot protected from drafts and provide abundant humidity. Water regularly and feed it in spring and summer with a general-purpose houseplant fertilizer.
Test Garden Tip: Arabian jasmine is a shrubby vine; you can let the stems grow long and train them on a trellis or grow in an arching mound.
Begonia "Tea Rose"
Begonias are old-fashioned favorites. While most aren't scented, use your nose while shopping to discover varieties such as 'Tea Rose' that are. This beauty offers clusters of fragrant pink flowers over lustrous green leaves.
Name: Begonia "Tea Rose"
What it needs: You'll find 'Tea Rose' begonia isn't too temperamental, but performs best in a medium to bright spot that has high humidity and protection from drafts. Water and fertilize this begonia regularly in spring and summer to ensure a steady show of flowers.
Test Garden Tip: High humidity and warm, sunny conditions enhance the flowers' fragrance.
You're sure to fall in love with the sweet scent of orange, lemon, grapefruit, or other citrus blossoms. Most are surprisingly easy to grow, provided you give them enough light. If you're patient, you may even get to enjoy homegrown fruits.
Name: Citrus selections
What it needs: Choose a bright spot protected from drafts and provide abundant humidity for your citrus. Water regularly, and fertilize in spring and summer with a general-purpose houseplant food.
Test Garden Tip: If you grow citrus from seed, your plants may take many years to flower and they'll likely have long, sharp spines. Your best bet for citrus as a houseplant is to purchase a named, grafted variety.
Showy corsage orchids are so lovely to look at that it may not occur to give them a sniff. But like begonias, there are some selections that are wonderfully scented.
Name: Brassolaeliocattleya selections
What it needs: Find a medium to bright spot that offers high humidity and protection from drafts for your corsage orchid. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; keep it drier and cooler in autumn and winter.
Test Garden Tip: Do your research before shopping for your orchid; some corsage orchids flower once a year, others bear blossoms twice.
A big-leafed plant with a distinct spicy aroma, Cuban oregano is an easy-to-grow relative of Swedish ivy. (Interestingly, neither plant is native to the locations from where they get their common names.) You can cook with the fleshy, fuzzy green leaves or just brush them to release their scent.
Name: Plectranthus amboinicus
What it needs: Cuban oregano does best in a medium to bright spot with protection from drafts. Water it enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated for extended periods.
Test Garden Tip: Cuttings from this plant root easily in potting mix, so it's easy to propagate and share with friends.