Well Read Wednesday: How to Grow Fresh Air

Happy Wednesday everyone! I feel bad for being a little slow about posting in April, so I'm making more of an effort this month. One of the things I've been wanting to share are some of the books that have helped me on my various projects. To keep me better about posting at a regular pace, I thought I'd start one of those alliterative blog series where I periodically share one of my favorite gardening books. I'll start by posting on the first Wednesday of every month until I forget or until you get bored of reading about reading about plants. In the interest of full disclosure, I do have Amazon Associate links on my site, and while I will link things I've bought and used, I commit to only blogging about things I've done, recommend, or care about, not things motivated by those links.

So with all of that out of the way, let's kick off our first Well Read Wednesday with How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by Dr. B.C. Wolverton.


This is an amazing reference book for anyone considering a more than casual relationship with their house plants. The author, Dr. B.C. Wolverton, is a fancy NASA scientist who has devoted most of his career to the NASA Clean Air Study (which you've probably heard about around the internet, including in my post about English Ivy) as well as his later research on how we can counter-act the nefarious Sick Building Syndrome by nurturing certain plants in our indoor spaces. This is a great book becase it has great science, helpful tips, and beautiful, full-page photos of all the plants.

The book is broken up into five parts. The first talks about how we've polluted our indoor air, describing common, everyday sources of pollutants as well as the effects they tend to have on people who are overexposed to them. The second part is about the science of plants in general, which is nice because it preps you for the third section, which describes the NASA study and the results they observed. The fourth is a general growing guide for house plants, and categorizes the fifty plants based on their growing needs. The last and largest section is a description of each of the plants with a picture and stats on how beneficial they are versus how hard they are to take care of. This part even includes a note on optimal grow media for each plant, which for a hydrophile like me is an amazing bit of insight to have for a house plant!

Why I read it

I have a long term project I've been working on to create a vertical garden of house plants in my apartment. Since we don't get a ton of light up here, I was looking for information on shade-friendly plants. I was also looking for information on people growing house plants hydroponically (which is a weird thing to do, I admit). Somewhere in all my online research I came across the clean air study and wanted to know more. This book was a great, accessible summary of what I cared about from the study in a way that wasn't as dry as the pubished research.

Some things to note

One really big thing I want to mention is that I don't love growing things in soil in my apartment. That said, both the study and the book note the many boosted benefits of growing the plants in soil. So if you want to maximize your impact on your air quality, this is something to consider.

Also, in case you did a quick internet search on the word hydrophile, I know that's not technically what it means. But much like those water-loving molecules, when it comes to my plants, there's no better way to go in my mind.

Last but not least, the internet is a crazy place and keeping your house safe is a great way to sell things. So there are plenty of sites that make false claims about which plants clean air and there are also sites that claim the study only worked because of activated carbon filters despite many published papers claiming otherwise. In this outrageous day of false news and fake facts, I encourage you to do your due diligence and take online facts (including mine) with a grain of salt. Hopefully books like this one can bring us all a little truth and a little indoor plant zen.