Plants and Classrooms: Allergy Concerns

Maybe you want plants in your classroom but you are worried about allergies – either for yourself or for your students. And with how prevalent allergies are it certainly is something to think about. Below are a few pointers to consider when choosing plants for your classroom.

First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and I am not making any sort of medical claim on this blog. I am simply supplying some talking/thinking points for teachers looking for plants in the classroom. 
Second, another disclaimer: Some plants are poisonous. If you are not going to keep your students from eating the plants in your classroom then don’t get them.

You need to consider two main components for plants in your classroom when you are worried about allergies: pollen (obviously) and mold.

Pollen concerns are easy to think about. Skip flower plants or when the plant does flower (like a Peace Lily) simply cut the flower off.

Mold can be trickier. People who are just learning to be plant parents sometimes overwater or fertilize incorrectly. Always follow the plant care instructions that come with your plant to help avoid mold.

If you are more concerned with air purification then check out my first blog on the topic – Six Best Plants for the Classroom!

Plants to Consider

Peace Lily

This is my favorite house plant because it such a great air purifier, I love the large leaves, and I can’t kill it. But Peace Lilies tend to come with a bottom wrapped in plastic because they are put in decorative pots with no drainage.

I highly recommend putting them in a real pot that can drain and removing the plastic. They really do not like sitting in water and will get moldy over time. Only water a Peace Lily when it begins to droop. Peace Lilies will completely fall over and flatten and still are not dead. You can water it and it will bounce right back. Wait till it droops before you water to avoid mold.

They do grow white flowers. I HATE the smell of them and always cut them off with no problems.

Peace Lily

From Wikipedia Commons. Spathiphyllum ‘Sensation’ in the Life Sciences Building of BYU.

Palms

These plants are amazing at air purification and are pretty easy to take care of. They want warm rooms with sunlight. They want to be placed indirectly in southern exposure. These plants will release humidity into the room which is great for dry winters in northern states.

These plants will grow quickly and will need to be repotted more regularly than other houseplants which may be a problem for some teachers.

748px-Neanthe_bella_a1

From Wikipedia Commons. Neanthe Bella.

 

Air Plants

These plants are little and adorable! You can begin with a little air plant garden and expand over time or fully invest and make a really cool feature in your classroom. Hang them from the ceiling and they won’t take up any room.

Some air plants will be fine with a little squirt from a water bottle but others may need a little soak in a cup of water which may make them a little high maintenance for some teachers.

All plants will improve air quality but air plants are much smaller and the air purification benefits will be greatly reduced if this is your only plant. Read Six Best Plants in the Classroom for information on air purification in your classroom.

596px-Hanging_air_plants_terrarium

From Wikipedia Commons. The glass ball hanging terrarium for air plants.

Bamboo

Adorable! They use rocks not soil. They are kept in water but as long as you keep it clean it probably won’t get moldy (I refuse to make a declarative statement of never grow mold because I am sure someone somewhere has done it). The green is vibrant and they just feel lucky.

800px-Bamboo-houseplant

Image listed as public domain on Wikipedia

 

Clean Your Plants

If you never clean your plants they just collect dust. Yes, you have to dust them. Take a little feather duster at the end of the day and give them a little tickle. (And then, in theory, you or the cleaning staff would vacuum otherwise this was a wasted effort to eliminate allergens). Use a wet rag and clean each leaf in order to reduce the dust flying around.

Regardless of your method, clean your plants!

A Plant to Avoid

African Violets

Super cute and one of my favorite houseplants but I would avoid this in the classroom if you have real allergy concerns. The velvety leaves collect dust and are more difficult to clean. Plus, many people overwater these plants and they tend to rot which can lead to mold.

This may be a plant best left at home if you suck at keeping plants alive or really want to avoid allergens.

African_Violet

From Wikipedia Commons. African violets.

This short blog is just a beginners guide. There are TONS more plants that are great for the classroom with allergy concerns. Hopefully, this gets you started and you have a few things to think about.

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