On a whim, I decided I wanted to learn more about air purifying houseplants. It seemed like a great idea, as plants are pleasant to look at, and if you can extend the life of your home’s air filters, it is a win-win. So onto the internet I went. Now, I have to be honest, it got a little scary. Not so much on the plant side, but in learning about all of the pollutants that they purify. Hear me out. Strangely enough, NASA has a list of the most beneficial houseplants for air purification. Yes, that NASA.
In the late 1980s, NASA partnered with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America to study houseplants as a way of purifying the air in space facilities. The great news is that it worked, and it also works in our homes, which are more polluted than outdoor air. So today I have the top 11 (because 10 are not enough!) houseplants that help purify the air in your home, stemming from NASA’s list. Beware, you may start to gaze at objects in your home warily, as they are most likely filled with one of these “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)”: Formaldehyde, Benzene, and/or Trichloroethylene.
This sun-loving succulent is good for more than just helping with that painful sunburn or cut. Known as the “plant of immortality” more than 6,000 years ago in Egypt, Aloe helps clear the air of formaldehyde and benzene, commonly found in so many things ( you will see as we continue) such as paints and chemical based cleaners. Aloe is a great plant to put by the window in your kitchen as it will enjoy the sun filtering through.
This is one of my favorite plants. Why? They are resilient, code for extremely hard to kill. Which, when you don’t have a “green thumb” is fantastic. Give me more spider plants please! On a sentimental note, I do remember we had some of these growing up, and they were fun to hide little figures in. They are easy to grow or re-plant. A spider plant is also considered a safe plant if you have pets in your house. On a VOC level, spider plants battle benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber, and printing industries. They love indirect sunlight, so there are many rooms that spider plants may reside in.
These bright flowers require 6 hours of sunlight a day in order to be at their best. While they will look gorgeous in any room, you may want to consider putting them in your laundry room or your bedroom, as they help filter out trichloroethylene, which you may find if you get clothes dry cleaned.
Why do they call this “Mother-in-Law’s tongue”?? I have no idea, but I plan on researching this later. Snake plants are perfect for your bathroom or bedroom! Yes, the bathroom. The low light and steamy, humid conditions will only help as it filters out pollutants such as that ever pesky formaldehyde, present in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues, and personal care products. Luckily snake plants are one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde. Snake plants also help absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night, so this may be a great boost for your room.
The downside of the Golden Pothos is that it is poisonous and should be kept away from small children and pets. So why would I include this plant? Well, this “Devil’s Ivy” is another powerful formaldehyde fighter, which is found in car exhaust. So you may consider hanging a pot of Golden Pothos in your garage to work on those pollutants. It will stay green, even when kept in the dark!
These gorgeous flowers are found in almost every color except for true blue. They are a perfect display for the living room or home office! Chrysanthemums love bright light, so you may find a spot close to a window so your mums can soak up all that direct sunlight. Chrysanthemums filter out benzene, which is found in items like glue, paint, plastics, and detergent. Make sure if you are purchasing chrysanthemums to put indoors that you purchase the floral instead of the garden variety.
Red Edged Dracaena
Fun fact, the red-edged dracaena can grow up to 15 feet tall, although slowly. So this plant will be great for any room with high ceilings as it works to remove xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes, and gasoline. Um, one for every room please?
If you are thinking you have enough plants and are looking to branch out into trees (no pun intended) the Ficus benjamina, or Weeping Fig, would be a perfect addition to any living space. The Weeping Fig helps filter out pollutants (or VOCs) found in carpeting and furniture. Yes, these VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene (I will never forget how to spell these after this).
These aren’t just outdoor plants?? The Azalea, or Rhododendron simsii), is a shrub that is commonly found in many of our front and backyards in Oregon. It has bright colored flowers, a staple in any children’s bouquet to mom. Doing best in 60-65 degree weather, the Azalea is a perfect fit to a basement, as it can help filter away the formaldehyde found in plywood and insulation. Pretty with a purpose.
English Ivy is a popular potted plant that requires about 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, and grows best in moist soil. In addition to combating formaldehyde, English Ivy has also been known to reduce airborne fecal matter particles. Gross, but apparently true.
This is my other favorite, not just because it is well known for having easy upkeep (weekly watering and shade), but because I love lilies! The Peace Lily topped NASA’s air purifying houseplants list for removing all three of the most common VOCs: formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. In addition, it combats toluene and xylene. So if you are looking for that all in one plant, it sounds like this one may be a good candidate.
After learning about all of these helpful houseplants, I have walked away with a few ruminations/observations. I now wonder what in my house is not trying to cause an earlier demise for me, and I think I need at minimum a Peace Lily and Snake Plant. Which plants surprised you on the list? Are there any that you are looking to pick up after learning a little about these 11?