Houseplants: We love them for so many reasons. They bring warmth, color and life into our homes. The fussiest of them become almost like our pets. But they do even more to enhance our lives, and acknowledging that is the basis of what has become a regular event each year, National Indoor Plant Week. This year it is Sept. 15-21.

Indoor plants are "green heroes" for a variety of reasons. This week-long initiative raises consumer awareness on the value and benefits of live indoor houseplants. Here are some of the things houseplants do for us:

• Cleaner air — decreases stress

• Noise reduction — enhances productivity

• Creates oxygen

• Removes carbon dioxide

• Connects with the outdoors

"The oxygen arrives when the plants do," said event founder Mark Martin. According to a news release, since beginning in NYC in 2008, “O2 for You: Houseplants with a Purpose'“ (o2foryou.org) has continued to raise awareness on the benefits of houseplants. These green beings help to purify the chemical pollutants (volatile organic compounds) emitted from products and materials found in our homes and offices.

“Emerging research also indicates that certain varieties of indoor houseplants work best to help cleanse interior spaces of indoor pollutants and improve productivity in offices where we spend most of our day,” adds Martin. “Plus, studies from the US Environmental Protection Agency have found that levels of indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher — and in some cases 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. Since most of Americans spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, these findings are particularly alarming.”

According to the release, this is where nature's natural air purifiers take center stage. Working 24/7, certain plants absorb almost all volatile organic compounds (VOC's) in indoor air. Some common VOCs include ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. These toxins are emitted from products such as carpets, printer ink, tobacco smoke and cleaning products.

During National Indoor Plant Week and throughout the month of September, look for varieties such as peace lilies, ferns and spider plants with 'O2 for You' plant tags at your local retailer and reap the benefits of these hard working plants.

“This national movement addresses the very core of the growing need to take better care of our environment; the place and space where we live and breathe, says Martin. “Plants are the lungs of the earth: they produce the oxygen that makes life possible, add precious moisture and enhance air quality by removing toxic chemicals.”

He goes on to point out: “When a friend or relative is sick or in the hospital, the first thing we think about sending is flowers or a plant. There’s a reason why this tradition began so many years ago. Flowers and plants have proven benefits to dramatically reduce anxiety, recovery time, and just make us happier.

"We can naturally reduce our ecological footprint by making indoor plants a priority for all our living spaces. It is in part through the important work of live indoor plants that we are able to have cleaner air. Plants can also increase learning. European research found that university attendance improved, test scores rose and behavioral problems were reduced by more than 60 percent in classrooms with plants as opposed to sterile “non-plant” environments. Recorded health improvements in offices where interior plants were added were significant. Results show a large reduction among employees in the areas of fatigue, headache, coughs and their overall well-being rose dramatically.

In the meantime, this is a good time to take a good look at all of our houseplants that have been “vacationing” outdoors for summer. Soon they will be returning indoors as the weather cools, and it is important that they don’t return with some unwanted hitchhikers. This a good time to get them ready for the change of location. Here are some things to look for and to do to get them ready for life back indoors:

• Check leaves, top and bottom for the presence of eggs or insects, wiping with a soft cloth to remove

• Examine soil surface for insects or eggs, repot with fresh potting soil if any are detected

• Trim away damaged foliage with scissors

• Cut back leggy growth

• Repot and/or divide and repot those plants that have outgrown their pots, using fresh potting mix

• Give plants a good watering with fish emulsion to wash foliage and fertilize

For more information on National Indoor Plant Week visit nationalindoorplantweek.com. To learn more about 'O2 for You': Houseplants with a Purpose', visit o2foryou.org.

And if you don’t already have some, go shopping for some indoor plants to decorate your rooms and take a deep cleansing breath.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the Garden Writers Association’s Silver Award of Achievement, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: gardeningonthego.wordpress.com or ”friend” her on Facebook to see what’s new in the garden day-by-day.