Plants: My new toxic avengers


I am now a plant person, not by desire but because of my downstairs neighbors and Twitter. My neighbors because they smoke, smoke rises, and flipping the building upside down is not a feasible solution (and would make it really hard to shower). Twitter because @idontlooksick told me plants remove toxins from the air. The funny thing is I Googled “air purifiers” when these people moved in and didn’t get any results regarding plants. Mother Nature really needs to work on her search engine optimization.

Anyone who says that I should have first done radical things like complain to the condo association, seal any cracks in my walls or baseboards, or, God forbid, talk directly to my neighbors about the problem, please know that I have considered those things and done some of them. Also know that I will never, ever solve a problem when I can work around it. It’s a Fulda thing. We avoid conflict at all costs. My Dad once told us he was going on a business trip out of state and then never came back because he didn’t want to sit down and tell my Mom he wanted a divorce. See what I’m working against here? Fulda’s don’t fight. We evade! We seethe silently! We buy lots of plants!

This article on How to Purify the Air Using Plants gave me a list of the best ones to pick. I cross-referenced this with the ASPCA list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants to be sure air purification did not lead to cat vomit. Then I headed to Lowe’s and spent a lot of time bending over reading tags stuck in potting soil. A piece of advice: if you’re going to buy big, tall plants, put them in your cart at the end of your shopping trip. Otherwise it makes it really hard to see where you’re going. I felt like I was driving the rain forest around the store, minus the monkeys. I didn’t run anyone down, but if I had they would have identified their assailant as a rogue Majesty Palm, not a 30-something white girl.

Majesty Palm

I now have two majesty palms, a fern, and a spider plant. I will try to keep them alive, but I make no guarantees. I’m going by what the little white tags say, but I don’t have any idea if the “High Light” plant is getting enough rays or if the plant labeled “Tolerant” will be harder to kill then the “Delicate” one. I don’t know if I want to take advice from the same tag that encourages me to “Collect all 400 of our plant varieties from around the globe.” Seriously? Where am I going to put 400 plants? Do you know what that’d do to my water bill? I bet my air would be really pure though.

That reminds me that I do feel a bit guilty for buying these plants. I am essentially using them as a biomass shield, hoping they’ll suck up the nasty carcinogens instead of me. All I can say is better them than me.

Spider plant

I probably shouldn’t anthropomorphize the plants by painting eyes and mouths on the pots, should I?

Spider plant smile

(OMG, I spelled “anthropomorphize” correctly before spell check! This is my biggest achievement of the year.)

The death pool is now open if you want to take wagers on when I kill each of these or when Java Bean knocks a pot off the window sill. He’s gone 195 days without breaking a glass. I know his paws must be itching.

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[…] might have been wondering how those houseplants I bought a few months ago are doing. And if you were, I hope you’re not a member of the Society Against Cruelty to […]

Debbi • January 3, 2012 at 8:56 am

If you have room, you should add a Meyer lemon to your arsenal of plants. Then you’d have a biomass shield AND lemonade! (How weird is it that I wrote about my plants today?)


Merry • January 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

I suppose moving would be too radical a thought… Even if you offered to help them pack?
A friend of mine once told me about the time she and her young brother stuck pins into their parents cigarettes, right at the base so that the smoke went out the side instead of into the mouth. Didn’t stop their parents from smoking, but it made the children feel a whole lot better.


SG • January 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

I really like that Majesty Palm. I would get one myself but my house is where plants come to die.


Susan • January 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Pretty plants! Hopefully they’ll help with the smoke smell from your neighbors, yuck.

The last part of your post reminded me of the SNL Christopher Walken sketch – The Googly Eye Gardner. He plays a gardener who is so afraid of all his plants that he glues googly eyes on them:)


Kim • January 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Java Bean is going to be sooo excited. He will think you have bought him new toys! Good luck…that’s a nasty problem.


JenFul • January 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

@Susan – Ha! I’d never seen that sketch before.


Jen • January 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Cool plants! If they don’t help with the smell, I got a pretty high-powered Honeywell air purifier for my cat allergies and it seems to make the air really fresh. They are about $100 on Amazon. Supposedly it completely filters a room in 15 minutes.

Or you could just take up smoking too so you wouldn’t notice the smell. I’m sure that would be a terrific workaround!


Tricia • January 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I became a fan of houseplants when I read that NASA recommended X many houseplants per X sq.ft. and has a list of the best ones. Pretty cool stuff. I read it years ago, but if you google “nasa houseplants” stuff comes up.


Melissa • January 7, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I sister had the biggest pain keeping one of those palms alive. Spider plants are super easy for me and my cats always munched on them. Good luck with the smoke smell. We upgraded the filter in our furnace and used a smaller filter with an ionizer and that helped.


Dan Spinato • January 28, 2012 at 4:31 am

Well if they don’t help much to purify the air, at least they definitely help beautify the room! Those are really nice-looking plants. Good luck with the nasty smoke smell.


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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

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