2011-08-05 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

Another Reason To Stop Smoking … It’s Killing Your Plants
By Danielle Of Danielle’s Rockaway Florist

Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 harmful chemicals that affect people and our environment. It has been proven that cigarette smoke can cause cancer, bronchitis, heart disease and other health problems, and that some of the chemicals released from the cigarettes are more harmful than those that are directly inhaled. Just a few may include: methoprene, which is used to kill fleas on animals; turpentine that is commonly used as a paint remover; formaldehyde used in embalming; and ammonia, a powerful and corrosive agent commonly found in cleaning products. Research has found that houseplants play an important role in cleaning the air that we breathe, but do all of the harmful gases and chemicals take a toll on our houseplants? You may be surprised to learn that there is actually a plant virus caused by cigarette smoke.

The tobacco mosaic virus is a bacteria that harbors in the plant’s tissue, and usually shows little or no signs of infec- tion before killing the plant entirely. It attacks the veins and leaves of a plant, sometimes showing ring spots, or causing yellowing of the veins. Abnormal growth patterns may develop, and unexplained wilting may occur. This bacteria is not often bred in well-ventilated areas, but harvests in rooms such as a sun porch, or enclosed area with little or no air flow. Since often times there is no sign of infection, the disease is easily spread. When pruning your plants, always be sure to clean your hands and tools so that if any plant should be infected, the healthy ones can continue to thrive.

The tobacco mosaic virus can also be transferred between plants by insects such as aphids or tripes, as they carry the bacteria from one plant to another in their travels. Plants that show any sign of disease or infestation should be kept separate, and treated until cured before letting them near your other plants.

In well-ventilated areas, the air may be better for your plants to breathe, but keep in mind that in most situations, our air is much cleaner because of these plants.

We have to be sure to take care of them, as they help us in return. There are extremely high levels of gasses and indoor pollution in all of our homes. Insulation, plywood, inks, oils, paints, adhesives and cleaning products all have chemical properties, and release gasses that can affect our health.

It is shown that houseplants help absorb air pollutants and give us a healthier home to enjoy.

Azalea, philodendron, spider plants, bamboo palm, dracaena, English ivy and peace lilies are some of the plants that really help to purify our air. It is suggested that a 1” - 6” potted plant will do its job to clean about 100 square feet of your home. Rubber plants, Boston ferns, areca palms and sword ferns are also effective in maintaining humidity and contributing to healthier, cleaner air.

It works out perfectly ... Take special care of your houseplants, and they will take care of you in return. Plus – quitting smoking wouldn’t hurt! Please feel free to write to us with gardening questions or tips for our readers at: Danielle’s Rockaway Florist, 436 Beach 129 Street, Rockaway Park, NY 11694.

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