Indoor House Plants for Improving Air Quality

Outdoor air is often the focus in most discussions of air pollution and poor air quality. One might assume that the indoor air is much cleaner and healthier to breathe, because of the pollution produced from cars, buildings and other industrial sources. Unfortunately, many overlook the hazardous chemicals accumulating within their own residences. Indoor air quality is typically worse, not better, than outdoor contaminates. For the majority of the day, most homes are closed tight, with no windows or doors open to let out pollutants and let fresh air circulate. Furniture, cleaning products, paints, and other products or items in the home bring in and release toxins that can negatively impact the quality of the air that people breathe. Common volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are found in a majority of homes are benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Formaldehyde can be found in paints, upholstery, carpets, and glue. Another VOC, trichloroethylene, is often an ingredient in paint remover and solutions used in dry cleaning. Other materials containing VOCs such as benzene are plastics, pesticides, and rubber. According to a study conducted by NASA, there are certain types of houseplants that can filter out these harmful toxins and help clean the air. By learning which of these plants are effective at improving air quality, people can make their homes a greener, cleaner and healthier place in which to live.

  • Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is a succulent, perennial plant that is also known as Aloe barbadensis. There are approximately 250 different species of Aloe, which is a member of the Lily family. This type of plant is often kept in homes for the medicinal qualities of the gel that is stored in the leaves. Another less recognized benefit of Aloe Vera is its ability to filter the air. More specifically, Aloe Vera is an effective way to filter small quantities of benzene and formaldehyde.
    Spider Plant: Chlorohytum comosum, or Spider plants, are an effective means of improving indoor air quality. NASA has named the Spider Plant as one of the best plants to effectively remove formaldehyde from indoor air. In addition to formaldehyde, it is also an efficient filter of carbon monoxide, benzene, and xylene. An effective place to grow spider plants is near fireplaces or in kitchens.
  • Gerber Daisies: Gerber Daisies are identifiable by their big, colorful and bold flowers. Their beauty isn’t the only reason to bring this plant into the home, however. In addition adding an infusion of color to any room, they are also great at absorbing carbon dioxide. People may also feel as if they are breathing easier as it also gives off oxygen at night. Gerber daisies are also effective in removing trichloroethylene and benzene. The bedroom is an ideal location for Gerber daisies.
  • Snake Plant: Like many plants that improve air quality, the Snake Plant is an effective way to filter out formaldehyde. It is also effective at removing nitrogen oxide. The plant is relatively simple to care for requiring minimal lighting and can tolerate irregular watering. Snake plants release oxygen at night and absorb carbon dioxide. This makes it a good choice in bedrooms.
  • Golden Pothos: The Golden Pothos, or Epipremnum aureum, is a hardy plant that is simple to care for and grows well in any type of light, with the exception of direct sunlight. It is suitable for people who do not have much experience with caring for plants. In addition to its ease of care, it is also one of the most effective plants at purifying the air. A few of the toxins that are eliminated by the Golden Pothos are carbon monoxide, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde. Care should be taken in homes with children, pets, or both as this type of plant is toxic if consumed.
  • Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemums are a seasonal flower lasting roughly six weeks. During that time it does an excellent job at purifying indoor air by removing xylene, ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. They should be placed in a relatively bright location, but kept out of direct sun.
  • Red-Edged Dracaena: Dracaena marginata is also known as the Red-edged Dracaena or the Madagascar Dragon Tree. This attractive plant is slow-growing and attractive with red-edged leaves. It is known for its ability to filter out formaldehyde and benzene. Households with dogs or cats should use care as it may be poisonous if consumed by pets.
  • Weeping Fig: The Weeping fig, or Ficus benjamina, is one of the top fifteen indoor air purifying plants. This type of plant can be difficult to care for, particularly for people who are unfamiliar with plant care. They are, however, useful in filtering out formaldehyde, trichlorothylene, and benzene.
  • Azalea: Azaleas are a beautiful plant with bright pink flowers. They do well in cooler temperatures. This type of plant is good at neutralizing formaldehyde. This makes them an ideal housewarming gift as formaldehyde is often associated with plywood used in new construction.
  • English Ivy: The English ivy is a very common climbing household plant that grows well in low light conditions. Homes with English ivy’s benefit from its ability to remove benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide from the air. It is also ideal in homes for people who suffer from allergies as it is effective in removing certain allergens from the air such as mold or even airborne fecal matter.
  • Warneck Dracaena: The Warneck dracaena, or Dracaena deremensis, can reach heights of up to nine-inches or potentially more. It can grow in areas with minimal lighting and in normal room temperatures. It is known for filtering toxins from paints and varnishes. Specifically, it removes benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.
  • Chinese Evergreen: Chinese Evergreen is useful in removing airborne toxins. This includes formaldehyde and benzene. It can grow to between one and three feet. It should be kept in areas that receive moderate to low light.
  • Bamboo Palm: The Bamboo Palm, is also known as Chamaedorea seifritzii. It is a natural humidifier which can be beneficial in areas with dry air. Bringing a bamboo plant into one’s home will help to eliminate carbon monoxide, chloroform, xylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air. Bedrooms are a good location for bamboo palms.
  • Heart Leaf Philodendron: The Heartleaf philodendron, also known as Philodendron oxycardium. This type of plant excels at removing formaldehyde from the air. This beautiful plant with heart-shaped leaves does best in locations that receive partial shade. Homes with pets and animals should avoid this plant as it is extremely poisonous.
  • Peace Lily: Peace Lilies improve indoor air in a number of ways. This attractive flowering plant removes toxins such as trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, but they are also useful in removing mold spores and ammonia in the air. Peace lilies will also absorb acetone releases by certain types of cleaners and even electronics. Keep a Peace Lily in locations with a high likelihood of mold growth, such as in bathrooms. In order for the plant to obtain its maximum air cleansing potential, the plant should remain free of dust as the more pristine the white blossoms the better their ability to purify the air.

Miscellaneous Plant Information

  • Green Links: Clicking on this link will lead to a page of listed green links. The links are sectioned off into categories including, “Children’s Gardening,” “Gardening Supplies,” and “Internet Resources.”
  • Purdue Extension – Garden Tips: On this page readers are given a list of garden related links. All links are to Purdue departments or to information found at Purdue.
  • Perry’s Perennial Pages: A page full of links to perennial information. Includes general information, organizations, and specific plant websites.
  • Economic Plants: A list of links to plant related articles. Certain links lead to gardening or plant associations.
  • House Plants: This page leads to house plant information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners website, which is a part of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. There are three links under this section leading to the Indoor Gardening Society of America, The American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society, and the Bromeliad Society International.
  • University of Maryland Extension – Home and Garden Information Center Links: On this page readers will find a list of home and Garden links. At the top of the page readers may click on a subject to jump directly to related links.
  • Plant Resources and Links: On this page readers will find links to garden directories, nurseries, landscaping, hydroponic and green house. The page is on the New Zealand based Ambius website.
  • NPR Ketzel Levine’s Talking Plants: Clicking this link will take the reader to a list of links on houseplants, organic gardening, and more. To go directly to the houseplant links, readers may click on the “Houseplant” link at the top of the page.
  • Houseplants Help Clean Indoor Air: This is a University of Minnesota article on air quality and houseplants. The article discusses the discovery of certain houseplants ability to remove pollutants from the air. It includes a list of plats that were tested by NASA.
  • Plants and Indoor Air Quality: By clicking on this link readers are taken to an article that discusses improving air quality with houseplants. The NASA study on this topic is discussed, and it also includes a list of household toxins that were used during the study. A study done in India is also discusses as well as any potential downsides to having indoor plants.
  • Environmental Clearinghouse Links: By clicking on this page readers will find a list of links related to air pollution, health and the environment.
  • Clean Air Links: This is a page on the Public Interest Research Group’s website. It lists links to clean air related websites and information.
  • Clean Air Standards – Links: This page appears on a website that is associated with the American Lung Association. Links that are found on this web page will take the reader to information regarding clean air. It includes links to agencies and organizations.
  • Plant Oasis – Houseplant Links: This page lists links to plant societies and botanical gardens. Readers will also find other useful links about plant care and specific plants.
  • House of Plants – Links: A list of plant related links. The page includes a link on how to grow household plants and set up an indoor garden.
  • Safe and Poisonous Houseplants: This article appears on the Home & Garden Education Center website for the University of Connecticut. Readers will learn about houseplants that are both safe and poisonous. The article includes two lists, one for poisonous plants and one for non-poisonous.
  • Solutions for Your Life – Favorite Links: Clicking on this link will take the reader to a University of Florida web page. The page lists links on several topics including sustainable living, Florida friendly landscaping, and general resources.
  • CPC Plant Links: This is a page on the Center for Plant Conservation website. It includes links to information on plant conservation, plant science, resources and organizations.
  • TechKnowledgy Spot – Plant Resources: This is a page designed for teachers of children in kindergarten through the first grade. It includes lesson plans on plants and links to websites for research and children’s activities.
  • Colorado State University – Cool Links: On this page of links visitors can review a variety of plant, gardening and nature links.

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