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.
While most gardeners don't think of eucalyptus as a houseplant, this easy-growing tree makes a pretty showpiece indoors in a high-light spot. It offers blue-gray foliage with a distinct aroma when you rub it.
Name: Eucalyptus cinerea
What it needs: Eucalyptus thrives in bright spot protected from hot and cold drafts. Water it regularly throughout the year.
Test Garden Tip: Don't be afraid to prune eucalyptus back to keep it full and bushy. Otherwise you may end up with a plant that looks too tall and sparse.
Renowned for being one of the most fragrant flowers around, gardenia is a lovely, but tricky houseplant. Its glossy green leaves put the spotlight on the single or double white flowers that emit a heavy, flowery scent.
Name: Gardenia augusta
What it needs: Gardenia prefers a humid, very bright environment. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; hold off on the fertilizer and let the potting mix barely dry between waterings in fall and winter. Protect it from hot and cold drafts.
Test Garden Tip: Keep your gardenia happy by periodically using a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants such as azaleas.
Hoyas are old-fashioned plants coming back into style. Easy-growing vines, many feature waxy, sweetly scented pink or white flowers. Their glossy, dark green leaves are attractive even when the plants aren't in bloom.
Name: Hoya selections
What it needs: No-fuss hoya prefers a medium to bright spot and protection from drafts. This plant is good for forgetful gardeners because it likes to be on the dry side and doesn't mind if you sometimes miss a watering or two. Fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant food in spring and summer.
Test Garden Tip: Hoyas can take a while to bloom. If you've had one for a couple of years and never seen a flower, give it more light.
There are hundreds of types of fragrant orchids. While the corsage types are among the showiest, oncidiums are among the easiest. They offer a range of bloom colors and sizes, as well as bloom times.
Name: Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'
What it needs: Pick a medium to bright spot that offers high humidity and protection from drafts. Water and fertilize this orchid regularly during the spring and summer; keep it drier and cooler in autumn and winter.
Test Garden Tip: The fragrance varies as much as color and size. Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance', for example, has a distinct chocolate scent; Twinkle 'Fragrance Fantasy', on the other hand, smells more herbal.
Orange jessamine makes for a beautiful foliage plant when it's not flowering. But it delights the nose as much as the eyes when it bursts into bloom with clusters of long-lasting white flowers that smell like orange blossoms.
Name: Murraya paniculata
What it needs: Grow orange jessamine in a medium to bright area that has high humidity and is protected from drafts. Water and fertilize the plant regularly in spring and summer; stop feeding it and reduce watering in autumn and winter.
Test Garden Tip: Orange jessamine will survive low-light conditions, but probably won't bloom in them. Happily, the leaves are fragrant if you rub them so you can enjoy its scent even as a foliage plant.