The Best Air Purifying Plants: Houseplants That Clean the Air
Most of us don't realize our indoor air quality is atrocious. It can be polluted by a number of different toxins, the most common if which are formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
- Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is commonly used in paints, printer inks, lacquers, adhesives and varnishes. Most TCE is used in the dry cleaning industry and for degreasing metal. The National Cancer Institute has declared TCE an extremely toxic liver carcinogen.
- Benzene is a solvent that is commonly used in gasoline, inks, rubber, paints, plastics and oils. It has also been used in the production of detergents, dyes, and explosives. However, its most troublesome use is in the production of pharmaceuticals.
- Formaldehyde is found everywhere. Its use in urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, of UFFI, and particle and pressed wood products has been well publicized. Unfortunately, it is also used in consumer paper products such as paper towels, facial tissue, grocery bags, and waxed papers as well as the majority of household cleaning products.
Other toxins include ammonia, xylene and toluene.
Plants not only filter toxins, they also regulate the humidity in the home. NASA recommends that for an 1800 sq-ft house, there should be 15 – 18 large plants in the home. This should provide optimal coverage.
How many houseplants do you have?
The Peace Lily
Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum, or Peace Lily, is one of the more ornate houseplants that double as an air purifier.
It is able to filter benzene, formaldehyde and TCE, as well as ammonia, xylene and toluene.
It has a single petal, known as a spathe, which surrounds a spadix, or fleshy stem, and the leaves are large and broad.
It is an herbaceous perennial plant that requires little light (it does best in the shade) and only needs to be watered when the soil is dry.
The Peace Lily is toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. Humans are only mildly affected by its toxic effects.
The Spider Plant
Also called Chlorophytum comosum, the spider plant is actually an herb. It’s also a flowering perennial native to South Africa. There are three different varieties. One plant has all green leaves and there are two variegated versions:
- Middle to dark green leaves with a white stripe down the middle
- White margins surrounding middle to dark green leaves
The two variegated versions of the spider plant are most commonly sold as houseplants.
The spider plant is a hardy one; it can withstand temperatures as low as 35 F. It prefers temperatures between 65 F and 90 F. It’s the perfect plant for someone who has a tendency to kill plants because of neglect.
It works well for filtering benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene. It’s mildly toxic to dogs, and non-toxic to cats.
Dracaena marginata, also called the red-edged dracaena, is a quite popular as an ornamental houseplant. As its name suggests, it has a red edge on its leaves, and is a rather tolerant plant.
It does not need a lot of sunlight, and will survive despite being watered sporadically. Soil should be well-drained, however, because the plants roots are susceptible to root rot. Although not as tolerant of extreme temperatures as the spider plant, it will does well in the temperature range of 64 F to 77 F.
It’s unfortunate that this beautiful plant is toxic to both cats and dogs because it filters out several toxins including formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.
Plants and Toxicity
Toxic to both cats and dogs
Formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene, benzene, xylene
Not toxic to cats, may be mildly toxic to dogs
Formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
Toxic to both cats and dogs
Benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
Toxic to both cats and dogs
Benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene
Poisonous to cats, dogs, horses and humans
Formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene
The Snake Plant
Sansevieria trifasciata, also called the snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, is an evergreen perennial plant that is native to West Africa.
It is typically used as an ornamental plant because of its showy flowers.
The snake plant does well even in areas with very little light, and tolerates drought well.
However, it is not tolerant of being over watered. Its roots are susceptible to root rot, so soil should be well drained.
Unfortunately, this plant is also toxic to both cats and dogs, but it does filter out trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, benzene and formaldehyde.
Flowers of the Snake Plant
Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are most commonly used as ornamental plants because of their showy, brightly colored flowers. There are actually about 30 different species of mums and 140 varieties.
Not as hardy as other air purifying plants, the chrysanthemum needs direct sunlight in order for its flowers to open. It requires well-drained soil and regular watering.
This is definitely not a plant for pet owners, despite its beauty. It is poisonous to cats, dogs, and even horses, as well as humans if ingested. However, like the Peace Lily, it filters out the most common toxins including formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene, trichloroethylene, and ammonia.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2013 Melissa Flagg COA OSC