I live near an old-age home that spews black dust. I jokingly tell people that those are the “outgoing patients,” but whatever the cause of the dust is, I know it affects my home’s air quality and wish I could breathe a little easier about it all.
I’ve always known that trees clean the air, but I’ve never really considered the benefit of having house plants for the air-purification qualities. I’m thankful that I’m getting wise to this option.
These days, I’m looking into such things as quality-of-life improvements that aren’t just good for me, but good for my soul, in all aspects of life, and soon I’ll fill my place with a few great plants.
Houseplants and science
Now, this isn’t just garden fanatics reporting improved air quality with plants. NASA is in on the plants-for-better-air stunt too. Yeah, the space guys.
It turns out that, back in the ‘80s, NASA did a study on common houseplants to see which ones offered the best air purification effects for the space station. Whodathunk it, right? You can read that study right here.
In fact, we know what plants work with what kinds of air pollution. Got tobacco around the house? Time to get a peace lily. Did you have new carpets installed that are off-gassing? Dun-dun-dah-duh! It’s Spidey(-plant) to the rescue.
So, needless to say, leave it to NASA to get all sciency about it. Apparently pots that are 6-8 inches in diameter are the best ones for the job, and of course there had to be a math equation somewhere in it too: You want one plant per 100-square-feet of space. Let that be a lesson to you for buying a big house, huh? “Oh, honey, no, we’d need 31 plants for that 3,100-square-foot home. Are you gonna water them?”
Popular house plants
Here’s just a partial list of all the plants that have been helpfully compiled on Wikipedia:
- Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
- English ivy (Hedera helix) — a great way to make a big statement while nixing formaldehyde
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) — another great formaldehyde filter that’s great for the not-very-green thumb
- Golden pothos or Devil’s ivy (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
- Bamboo palm or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
- Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata’Laurentii’) — another formaldehyde-killer for those who don’t like to fuss with their plants
- Gerbera daisy or Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) — here, you’re winning with beautiful flowers and by filtering benzene and trichloroethylene
- Pot mum or florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
- Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
- Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragans ‘Massangeana’)
- Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
- Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’)
- Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
It’s wise to get a range of plants that can filter a number of toxins. We’re talking really noxious things like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. The right combination of plants and you can end a whole lot of badness in the air around you. For plants, it’s like air-candy.
The trouble is, not all of these plants are safe in homes with pets or kids in them. If you think your cat’s bound to nosh on your peace lily, then no peace lily for you.
Luckily, lots of other plants remain on the list.
Questions to ask
Even still, there are lots of considerations to look at when you’re considering air-filtering plants for your space. How big can it grow? How much light does it need? How water-needy is it? Does it play well with others?
If you or those you love have lung ailments, or you live in a polluted area, or you’ve just moved into a home that’s off-gassing all the new construction, then plants are a NASA-approved way to improve both your health and beautify your living space.
Take a little nature indoors and maybe it’ll be as good for your soul as it is your lungs.