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.
Among the most exotic plants you can grow indoors, passionflowers feature bizarre, almost alien-looking flowers. Not all are fragrant, so shop and sniff or read the plant tags and descriptions to ensure you get a scented selection. Some of the best are Passiflora x belotii, 'Inspiration', and 'Elizabeth.'
Name: Passiflora selections
What it needs: Grow passionflower in a bright spot protected from drafts. Keep the soil evenly moist (but not wet) throughout the year. Fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant food in spring and summer.
Test Garden Tip: Passionflowers are fast growers and will need support, such as trellis to climb on. Because they grow so fast, don't fertilize them much. In fact, too much plant food can encourage lots of leafy growth and few blooms.
A tropical tree famous for its beautiful flowers and stunning fragrance, plumeria flowers are often used to make Hawaiian leis. They appear in wide range of shades, including reds and pinks, yellows and oranges, whites, and mixtures.
Name: Plumeria selections
What it needs: Give plumeria a warm, very bright spot and protection from drafts. Keep it moderately moist in spring and summer and reduce watering in fall and winter. The tree may go dormant and lose its leaves but will begin to grow again once days get warmer. Move the pot outdoors in the summer to ensure it gets plenty of light.
Test Garden Tip: As gorgeous as it is, plumeria can be a bit tricky and isn't recommended for beginners.
Start exploring the world of scented geraniums and you'll be amazed at the range of aromas they offer: Choose from rose, lemon, lime, nutmeg, ginger, or chocolate scents, just to name a few. They also present a lovely range of leaf shapes, from lacy to shield. And many have soft, fuzzy foliage that's as fun to touch as it is to smell.
Name: Pelargonium selections
What it needs: Grow scented geraniums in a bright spot protected from drafts. Water and feed regularly with a general-purpose plant food.
Test Garden Tip: Make sure your scented geraniums get plenty of light; otherwise they'll grow long and leggy. If they become lanky, pinch them back to encourage bushy growth. Use the parts you pinched off as cuttings.
A favorite flower for wedding bouquets, stephanotis shows off starry white flowers with a waxlike texture. Each bloom emits a delightful floral fragrance. It's attractive even when not in bloom because of its shiny dark green leaves.
Name: Stephanotis floribunda
What it needs: Place stephanotis in a very bright spot protected from drafts. Water and fertilize it regularly in spring and summer; stop feeding it and reduce watering in autumn and winter.
Test Garden Tip: Stephanotis grows more slowly than many other vines when grown indoors. Get more growth and blooms by moving it to a partly shaded spot outdoors for the summer.
An attractive slow-growing shrub that may become a small tree, sweet bay shows off shiny green leaves with a savory, herbal scent. Use the leaves in soups, stews, and other delicious winter treats.
Name: Laurus nobilis
What it needs: Sweet bay isn't fussy, but it does best in a medium to bright spot. Keep the potting mix evenly moist in spring and summer; let it go a bit drier in winter. It likes high humidity.
Test Garden Tip: You may allow bay go dormant in winter if you have a cool room (between 45-60F) to keep it in. Water every few weeks -- just enough to keep the potting mix from drying out.