The Sansevieria plant is practically a relative of mine. My mother has always kept the plant in the house; and, to be honest, I always thought it to be the ugliest houseplant around. Its leaves are tall and rigid, dark green with snakeskin patterns, and spiky. Recently, my young nephew visited from far away, and before entering my home, he saw the giant Sansevieria across the room. Visibly concerned and shaking his head, he refused to step in!
So how the plant got to be considered an "ornamental," I’m not sure—okay, some can be attractive; but health-wise it is among the best indoor plants to cultivate.
Sansevieria is the genus name of several species of plants. The most common species used indoors, however, is Sansevieria trifasciata. You may know it by two other terms—Snake Plant and Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. (The difference is Mother-in-Law’s Tongue features a yellow stripe running the length of the leaf margins.) The plant is a West African tropical that is very easy to grow. It doesn’t require much water and can tolerate a range of light levels.
The Sansevieria is an ideal plant for indoor spaces because it is a superb air purifier. Studies, including those performed by NASA, have consistently shown the plant to remove toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides—which means that industries and workspaces such as automotive plants and shops, aircraft plants, plywood, carpeting, paint-makers and sellers, printing, and offices, where these chemicals abound in the products produced and used, would greatly benefit by keeping several Sansevieria around. NASA, whose study purposed to determine how to clean the air in space stations, recommends at least 15 to 18 medium-to-large size plants for a 1,800-square-foot home.
The plant purifies air by absorbing toxins through the leaves and producing pure oxygen. In fact, the Sansevieria is an ideal bedroom plant. Whereas most other plants release carbon dioxide at night (in the absence of photosynthesis), the Sansevieria continues to produce oxygen.
Allergies and Sick Building Syndrome
What does it mean for a plant to purify the air? Well, a few things:
- The plant itself doesn’t produce allergens.
- The plant absorbs toxins and releases oxygen.
- The plant may release moisture in the air and lessens airborne allergens.
- The plant isn’t a collector of potential allergens, for instance, having smooth leaves as opposed to furry ones.
The Sansevieria meets these conditions perfectly.
Persons with allergies, therefore, should find a friend in such plants because they are a natural and cheap way to stay healthy. Further, public spaces and workplaces, especially, should be aware of the value of air-purifying plants for these reasons. Sick building syndrome (SBS) describes the way the health of certain individuals of a certain residence or building acquires moderate to acute symptoms that are linked to the building while no specific illness can be identified.
Most of the symptoms involved with SBS appear to be related to poor indoor air quality. They include ear, nose, and throat irritation; coughing; itching; dizziness and nausea; lack of concentration; fatigue; even chest tightness and muscle aches. But the symptoms leave not long after individuals have departed the building.
Now there are a few things that plausibly explain this, like ventilation that doesn’t properly distribute air; chemicals from carpets, upholstery, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents; outside pollution being pumped in; bacteria, molds, and viruses. Do you see the alarming link between these explanations and formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and nitrogen oxides? The Sansevieria is a ready remedy for SBS.
Improving Air Quality With Plants
- How To Grow Your Own Fresh Air: Kamal Meattle
A must-see discussion on using plants to clean indoor air.
- How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality with Plants: Lowe's
A very detailed and helpful Lowe's clip on improving indoor air quality.
- Three Plants for Clean Air: MSU
Dr. James DelPrince gives a thorough study on plants that help purify indoor air.
Other Air Purifying Plants
There are several plants that clean the air. A few of these include:
- aloe vera,
- English ivy,
- fig tree,
- chrysanthemum (one of the best),
- spider plant,
- Chinese evergreen,
- Areca palm,
- money plant,
- Boston fern,
- golden pothos,
- peace lily,
- Kimberly Queen fern,
- red-edged dracaena,
- Janet Craig dracaena,
- Warneck dracaena,
- weeping fig, and more.
I’m sure you get the picture now. Sansevieria is found at most places that sell plants. They can be purchased very young or big and… ornamental. Whatever the case, just buy one, even a few. Your Sansevieria is the easiest thing you can do to stay healthy.
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.
Michael S (author) from Danville, VA on December 20, 2020:
Michael S (author) from Danville, VA on December 20, 2020:
Hester Brand on July 29, 2019:
You should add the Spekboom to your list. Very interesting. (Potulacaria Afra)
Elmie123 on February 10, 2018:
We've had Sansevieria outside our home this whole time, I didn't know what were its benefits so I let it sit there and water daily. Now that I know more about this beneficial plant, I will put some inside our home. Thank you so much!
Kat-mae on November 19, 2017:
Pushp on November 06, 2016:
Super aticle. So you mean to say, It doesnt give any CO2. Please guide. Thanks
Michael S (author) from Danville, VA on March 02, 2012:
It really is amazing. I'm glad to hear that you're making the change. Thanks for reading!
Dr Pandula from Norway on March 02, 2012:
Thanks for the info. Never realized that plants could be that effective inside homes. The plants are sure going to be inside my house from now on.
Michael S (author) from Danville, VA on March 01, 2012:
You're welcome, Injured Lamb. Glad to hear that your plants will be moving in now. After all, if it's this easy to be preventive of health issues, why not try it? It's natural and cost-effective--what could be better to avoid doctors? Thanks for reading!
Injured lamb on March 01, 2012:
Really thanks for this great sharing ithabise,I never know that Sansevieria is an allergy relief and air purifier plant, I have some in my garden, but they are going to be shifted in my house for sure...