Keep your home cool with plants
When the Northern Territory heat descends, our homes can get pretty warm. Short of running your air conditioning 24/7, what can you do to keep the interior cool and comfortable? One way is to use plants.
When the Northern Territory heat and humidity descends, our homes can get pretty warm. Short of running your air conditioning 24/7, what can you do to keep the interior cool and comfortable?
One way is to use plants. By planting the right things inside your home and out, you can make summer much more pleasant. Some house plants absorb warm air and release oxygen and cool moisture into the air via the transpiration process. Not only that – they remove carbon dioxide and toxins from the air, and beautify boring interiors!
How can you not love them!
Here are some handy ways you can use plants to cool your home from the extreme NT climate.
Shade screen plants
Choose plants that grow vertically and plant them on the side of your home that gets the most sun. By growing your plants against a wall or window, you’ll be able to block the worst of the heat from entering your home.
One option is to try climbing food plants, such as beans, pumpkins or peas. You could also try grape or passionfruit vines, which grow strongly but may take a couple of years to bear fruit.
You could also go ornamental with flowering vines or climbing roses, which you’ll need to prune back at the end of the summer.
A longer-term strategy could be deciduous trees. Fully grown trees tend to be very expensive, so you may have to plan for this approach. However, if you have the patience, it can be very rewarding. Choose fruiting trees or introduce scent to your garden with frangipani or deciduous magnolias.
Indoor plants absorb water through their roots, and some of that water then evaporates through their leaves, via transpiration. This evaporation cools the air around the plants.
All house plants can help take down the thermostat, but some species are more effective than others. Try the following:
With their wide, thick leaves, rubber plants release more moisture back into the air than most other plants. As a bonus, they’re very easy to care for. Peace lilies are another plant much prized for their wide, lush leaves and transpiration qualities.
Snake plants and aloe vera
These succulents not only release a lot of moisture into the air, they’re also great at removing toxins like benzene and formaldehyde. And if you’ve had too much sun yourself, aloe vera is one of the most effective remedies out there. Just cut open a leaf and use the sap as an intensive moisturiser. It works to soothe insect bites as well.
There are a huge variety of palms, and all of them will help cool your interior. They feature small stomas, which take in CO2 and release oxygen: purifying and cooling the air. Choose from fern palms, fishtail palms, lady palms, bamboo palms or many others. Palms look great grouped together for your own mini rain forest.
Devil’s Ivy / Pothos
One of the most popular indoor plants due to its lush mass of large, heart- shaped leaves and tolerance of low light, this evergreen vine from French Polynesia is an ideal air coolant. It also gets the big tick from scientists for removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and carbon monoxide.
The more leaf area a plant has, the higher the amount of oxygen and moisture it releases during transpiration. The lush leaves of a peace lily, especially the larger types, are therefore invaluable for helping to cool the air in a room. Scientists from NASA, the University of Technology Sydney and elsewhere also rate the peace lily highly in their studies of plants that can reduce toxins in buildings.
Tip: Position plants in indirect light and keep room temperature above 12°C. Water regularly (less in winter) and mist leaves often if air is dry.
Ask your local nursery for further recommendations.