Best Houseplants for Purifying Air
Plants Are Like Children
Through the years, my houseplants have been like my babies. I nurtured, fed, and watered them, watching them grow and blossom into adulthood. Sound familiar? They go through changes and need a trim to keep them strong just as our children need haircuts to keep their hair healthy and strong. Kids, like adults, need a certain amount of sunlight to produce vitamin D. In order to thrive and grow, houseplants need different levels of sunlight too.
Because, our plants are like our children, we need to be extra attentive to their needs. This article explores the best houseplants to help you purify your air. It also explains the science behind this phenomenon and gives useful tips for growing your own plants.
Bringing in a selection of houseplants to your home or workplace not only creates a beautiful environment but can have a beneficial effect on purifying the air of toxins you may not even be aware of. Toxins can be omitted from synthetic plastics, paints, varnishes, house cleaners and even computers.
Choosing the right plants may just help in preventing allergies, cancer, asthma, auto-immune disorders and other diseases as they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.
Many indoor plants have the ability to clean the air to some degree. Some have been shown to be more beneficial than others at removing higher levels of toxins.
The three most common toxins found in the home are:
- Formaldehyde—found in shopping bags, facial tissues, kitchen towels, cooking and heating fuels including natural gas and kerosene, household cleaners, office furniture, carpet backings and cigarette smoke.
- Benzene—found in inks, oils, plastics, rubber, gasoline, dyes, detergents, pharmaceuticals and explosives.
- Trichloroethylene—found in dry cleaning, metal degreasers, printing inks, adhesives, varnishes, paints and lacquers.
These toxins are carcinogenic (directly related to causing cancer) and used in the manufacturing of synthetic substances and materials. Other toxins include Toluene, Ammonia and Xylene.
10 of the Best
Here is my selection of plants, many I have had which are some of the best ones to have in the home.
Believe it or not NASA scientists have shown incredible research into this field as they looked into ways of creating suitable space station environments and habitats which were enclosed confined rooms, just as our homes are.
Botanical Name: Aloe barbadensis
Uses: This plant has many uses in the home and helps rid the air of toxic formaldehyde.
Some of the other uses include making your own mouthwash, eye gel, healing sunburn, insect bites and moisturizer.
Tips: Aloe need well drained soil with good drying time between watering.
Place in full sun preferably but protect from high temperatures.
Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum
Uses: Peace Liles should be in all homes as it is not only pretty but it is the no.1 houseplant for filtering out chemicals. It is excellent for cleaning the air of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene, xylene and even ammonia. Cleaners, solvents, plastics, acetone the list is long of the toxins this plant will remove from the air.
Tips: They can be quite temperamental I have found and if you move them they will not generally like it. Avoid placing them in drafts and make sure they get sufficient low indirect light and not bright sun.
Botanical Name: Hedera helix
Uses: Superb plant for removing the chemical benzene which is commonly omitted from cigarette smoke, pesticides, detergents and off-gassing from other synthetic materials.
It removes formaldehyde and is said to extremely beneficial for asthma or allergy sufferers.
Tips: I have often had this in different rooms around the home in different amounts of light successfully.
As it can often run wild outdoors it makes a great choice for indoor container gardening.
Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
Uses: Another great one to have for air purification it removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene.
Tips: It requires very little attention and can survive in low lighting and with irregular feeding.
Even if you forget about this easy to grow plant, all is not lost as it is one that can come back to life quickly.
Botanical Name: Gerbera jamesonii
I love gerbera daisies with their bright array of colors and love the burst of color they give alongside some green plants.
NASA say it is fantastic for removing benzene from your home and it also removes trichloroethylene which unknown to you may be in your dry cleaning.
Tips: It loves light and yet many people have sworn by it growing better in their bedroom in winter as opposed to outdoors in the summer!
Marginata or Dragon Tree
Botanical Name: Dracaena marginata
Another easy to grow plant that favors bright but indirect sunlight and needs little attention making it easily maintained.
These plants are effective at filtering out formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene toxins leaving the air purified.
Tips: It is best watered with day old room temperature water as it can react to fluoride in tap water.As they are tropical in origin they like high humidity and placing them in bathrooms or laundry rooms may be a good idea.
Mums or Chrysanths
Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum
Not a favourite of mine however a very good all round plant to have as a houseplant. There are approximately 40 species of mums with a large number of hybrids and cultivars.
Uses: Mums help clean the air of benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde and ammonia; they generally only flower once in the year and are treated as annuals.
Tips: Pot mums do best in cool airy rooms and may be placed in any location. Keeping them at 10-15 C usually prolongs their flowering period but they can withstand warmer temperatures.
Dracaena dermensis 'Janet Craig'
Botanical Name: Dracaena dermensis ’Janet Craig’
An attractive easy to grow houseplant, that is perfect for a low maintenance, fuss free option. Although it is tropical by nature it adapts very well to average home conditions.
Uses: This houseplant will filter out benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene leaving the air free of these toxins.
Tips: Water when it needs it and allow the top of the soil dry out in-between watering. It does not like soggy soil so make sure as with all houseplants you have drainage hole in your container or pot. If you see brown scorch marks on the leaf it is being burnt and needs to be moved to a less direct location. Pale leaves indicate too little sunlight so move it to a brighter spot.
Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos
Botanical Name: Epipremnum aureum
Devil’s Ivy is an attractive plant with marble effect leaves and an easily maintained plant.
Uses: Devil’s Ivy removes benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air so an excellent addition for home or office.
Tips: Place these in a position of medium light, not direct sunlight for best results. Water only when the soil is dry and this hardy plant will last years.
Botanical Name: Dracaena dermensis ‘Warneckii’
This plant is a popular one used by those in the interior plantscaping business.
It is easily maintained and grows in both dry air and low light conditions such as offices and commercial building.
Uses: Effectively removes benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.
Tips: Do not allow the soil become soggy but keep lightly moist.
Watch for the same “signals” as Janet Craig” for too much or too little light in the leaves.
More Air Purifying Plants
Elephant Ear Philodendron
Kimberly Queen Fern
Dwarf Date Palm
Broadleaf Lady Palm
Tips on Plants for Air Purification
- Not all air purifying houseplants are safe for pets or children who often ingest them so please take this into consideration if you are introducing houseplants. Many are poisonous so check out a list of plants and dangers for pets.
- As a guide choose one potted plant of 10-13 inch size pot per 100 square feet for your home or office space.
- Make a list of the best ones and decide your own preferences before going to purchase them. Check their growth rate and potential size as it may affect your choice.
- Bear in mind the time of year, and the light you have in your rooms for the best placement and to make sure your plants will thrive.
- Keep the leaves free of dust particles which can block the plants ability to absorb toxins. Wipe with a damp cloth now and again.
- Keep a note or calendar of the watering, re-potting and feeding schedule for plants and keep it somewhere obvious such as the fridge door with a magnet or pinned to a cork board. It is easy to forget, from personal experience.
- Use organic fertilizer and avoid synthetic or non organic varieties for best results.
- Check which plants do well by dividing and start some new ones to keep or give as gifts.
Lemon Essential Oil
Air Purification by Essential Oils
Essential oils are potent volatile oils that have a huge benefit in cleaning the air. They may be diffused in a variety of ways. Their benefits cross into therapeutic, health, skin care and home.
House cleaners: Substitute all your chemical based cleaners for the home and may your own easily utilizing suitable oils such as lemon, lime, pine, lavender, bergamot, cedarwood and peppermint.
Diffusing: Making these aromatic oils airborne can be done in many ways.Apart from being good for warding off bacteria in the air and killing off toxins, they have therapeutic benefits.
Oil burners, terracotta pendants, electric diffusers or even inhaling from the bottle are some of the useful diffusing methods. Incense sticks and potpourri are popular as are fragrance candles.
Natural Air Fresheners
Air Fresheners: Homemade air fresheners are perfect for these oils to quickly sanitize your home from airborne bacteria and chemicals.
Always take into consideration those in the home and any allergies or medical conditions when using essential oils.
Add a few drops to some boiling water or to a saucepan of herbs and spices for an effective and cost effective room freshener.
Are you aware of air purifying plants?
Food for Thought...
Plants can bring a space to life with their range of textures, colorings, shapes and size. Some plants even have benefits for the skin, health and for general remedies in the home.
Having the additional benefit of purifying the air of toxins is one we should all readily avail of. I have always loved having plants dotted around the home, many have lasted years and I could not imagine not having plants.
They are a cost effective and often easy way of being environmentally aware and making our space safer. Sounds good to me!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Suzanne Ridgeway