We put them in our cars, offices, homes, garages, and everywhere that odors may linger. We mist, spray, plug in, and sprinkle toxic “smell good” chemicals without knowing the health risks. Products that we think are making our air fresher are actually making it toxic.
These products claim to remove odor molecules but don’t actually accomplish it; the molecules are still there, just masked by the smell of the chemical cocktail you have sprayed. What’s worse is that because your home is a closed environment, the chemicals linger for a very, very long time.
Air fresheners that are chemically made are highly dangerous and are known to cause many health complications, including:
- Burning eyes
- Breathing problems
- Hormone disruption
- Irregular heartbeat
What if there was a way to skip the chemicals and the health risk (which is very real) and still have a home that smells fresh and inviting? The good news is that this is possible with something we all love – plants!
That’s right, not only do plants give off oxygen and take up carbon dioxide – many do a fabulous job scrubbing the air leaving nothing but their enticing fragrance behind.
The scent of jasmine is indeed intoxicating. This group of plants is in the same family as the olive and contains over 200 species. Many jasmine plants are found in tropical and sub-tropical areas and have either vining or brushing habits. The best indoor jasmine plant for odor control is Chinese or Star jasmine and is as beautiful as it is aromatic.
This prolific climber bears small, star-shaped flowers that entice you to come closer and take a whiff. It only takes a few beautiful flowers to fill a room with a warm and delicious scent. Best of all, blooms last for weeks at a time.
Care: Jasmine plants like plenty of light – even a little direct sun is appreciated. Provide water when the plant is flowering but do not overwater. Misting the leaves helps to keep this beauty happy and healthy. Propagate by cuttings and share this beautiful natural air freshener with friends!
Gardenias are native to southeast Asia and tropical areas in Africa and bear sweet yellow or bright white flowers highly scented. The foliage on this plant is equally attractive and glossy green. The sweet and fresh aroma of the flowers makes this plant a winner for home odor control. The best variety for indoor growing is ‘Buttons,’ a dwarf variety, growing up to 24-30 inches tall with stunning 2-inch flowers.
Gardenias are often thought of as fussy or difficult to grow and care for indoors. However, if you give it what it wants, this plant will reward you with its fantastic aroma and beautiful flower for years.
Care: Gardenia plants need bright, indirect light – near a sunny window is usually a good spot, but not in a sunny window where it will get too hot. A south-facing room is the best place for your plant, but you may have to experiment to find just the right spot. To keep your gardenia happy all winter long, use a supplemental grow light unless you live somewhere like Arizona or southern Florida, where the sun shines most of the year. Gardenias love humidity -which can be tricky in the wintertime. Relative humidity of 50 to 60 percent is needed to keep your plant happy. If you struggle with dry air, use a spray bottle to mist plants daily or place the plant in a dish filled with pebbles and add water daily to the pebble tray. As the water evaporates, it will provide humidity for the plant. Provide regular water but always check that you are not overwatering. Gardenias also prefer rich and well-draining soil. Use a fertilizer formulated for gardenias and prune right after the plant blooms to encourage new growth.
Annual Scented Geranium
Geraniums add antique elegance to any room and do a great job at eliminating odors – replacing them with their own unique, soft scents that have been used in the fragrance industry for hundreds of years. These odor-busting plants have glands at the bast of their leaf hairs, where the sweet scents form. When you touch the leaves,’ the aroma is released along with some plant oil. The leaves are similar to other plants in the geranium family and can be round, lacy, finely cut, and vary in shades from gray-green to lime green. Choose from scents like rose, lime, coconut, pine, pineapple, and more. I keep a couple of these enticing and beautiful plants in my kitchen because they do a great job tackling cooking odors – even fish!
Care: Geraniums are easy to propagate and grow indoors. The most important thing to provide is plenty of bright light and well-draining and sterilized potting mix that helps to keep weeds and disease away. Provide a general, all-purpose organic fertilizer twice a year and let the soil dry to 1-inch down before watering. For a bushy look, allow three pairs of true leaves to grow before pinching new growth back. Be sure to remove spent blooms as this encourages flowering.
Are you ready to replace your dangerous chemical air fresheners with a greener option?
-Susan Patterson, CHBC and Master Gardener