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Plants and Indoor Air Quality 




Did you know
that spending numerous hours in an indoor working environment can greatly impact your quality of life?


Did you know even in huge, busy cities, outdoor air is usually cleaner and preferable to indoor air because the air outside is constantly being filtered by plants and trees?


Did you know
that certain houseplants are better than others in purifying the air (not only producing oxygen from CO2, but also absorbing benzene, formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene)?


Projects like installing new carpet and painting walls can release chemicals that pollute indoor air. These are called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), they’re chemicals used to manufacture and maintain building materials, interior furnishing, cleaning products and personal care products. The majority of VOCs found in the indoor environments originate from building materials, indoor furnishings, assorted electronics and computers, cleaning supplies, consumer products and processes, such as printing, cooking, hobbies, cleaning, interior renovations and pesticide applications.

Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) and other researchers have found that VOCs are common in indoor environments and that their levels may be two to a thousand times higher than outdoors. There may be anywhere from 50 to hundreds of individual VOCs in the indoor air at any one time. Some may produce objectionable odors at very low levels, but many have no noticeable smell. Many VOCs are irritants and can cause headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and dizziness. Long-term exposure to certain VOCs may lead to chronic diseases or cancer. At high concentrations, some VOCs are toxic.



Solution: Luckily, some houseplants moonlight as efficient purifiers. For the best results, put as many plants as you can care for in the rooms you use most. That means you'll want at least two plants (in 10- to 12-inch pots) per 100 square feet of space (average office size); if you're in the middle of major renovations, aim for more plants. By bringing these plants into your office or home, you can improve the quality of the air around you and of others:

An official research study was conducted by NASA to determine the most efficient air purifying plants. The plants were based on how well they remove chemical vapors, resist insects, and how easy they are to maintain for your home or green office space.





This easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more. Aloe is a smart choice for a sunny kitchen window. Beyond its air-clearing abilities, the gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and burns. . Succulents prefer well-drained soil so their roots are not always wet. Using a ceramic pot is beneficial and letting the soil dry slightly between watering.



Areca Palm


The top air purifying plant as ranked by NASA’s study is the Areca palm tree. Dubbed “the most efficient air humidifier” by MetaEfficient, the Areca can be counted on to keep your home or office moist during dry times and continuously remove chemical toxins from the air. During winter time, it can literally replace the use of electric humidifiers altogether!


Bamboo Palm


Featured prominently in’s “Plants That Purify” series, the Bamboo palm thrives when kept moist (but not wet) in indirect sunlight. Provided these conditions are kept stable, the Bamboo palm can be counted on to purify the indoor air of anywhere you happen to be.


Boston Fern


 Ninth on NASA’s ranking of top air purifying plants is the ever-popular Boston Fern. Cool and relaxing, the Boston Fern has been called the “most efficient filtering plant” by for its time-tested ability to expel mold and toxins from indoor air. Plus, it’s sure to make any home or office more forest-like!


Dendrobium orchid


Orchids have a bad reputation as being finicky and difficult to grow, but really, the opposite is true. Most people end up killing their orchids with kindness (too much water and sunlight). Orchids rid the air of xylene, a pollutant found in many glues and paints so they make wonderful housewarming gifts for anyone who recently moved into or renovated a new space. Unlike some other plants, orchids also respire and give off oxygen at night - so they're great for the bedroom.






The red edges of this easy dracaena bring a pop of color, and the shrub can grow to reach your ceiling. This plant is best for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline.



English Ivy

 If the air where you live has gotten stale and dry, English ivy might be just the ticket! WebMD describes the effervescent plant as “a fix for allergies“, noting that 60% of airborne mold in the room vanished just 6 hours after English ivy was brought in. Ditto for 58% if airborne feces! Those with asthma, allergies, or the desire to breathe cleaner, fresher air would do well to give English ivy a shot!


Florist’s Mum


Florist’s mum provides a brilliant display of colors. With a cool location, adequate lighting and frequent watering, this plant should bloom for six to eight weeks. Once blooming has peaked, the plants are rotated out. Florist’s mum is one of the best flowering or seasonal plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from the atmosphere.


Gerbera Daisy


The gerbera daisy has handsome sparkling flowers, which in its natural state are yellow, red or orange. This plant was included in the early NASA studies and proved to be extremely effective in removing chemical vapors from the air. Its colorful array of flowers, combined with its high transpiration rate and ability to remove toxic gases, make it a highly valued seasonal indoor plant.

Golden Pothos

This fast-growing vine has a reputation for flexibility. You can pot it with something to support it, plant it in a hanging basket, or train it to climb a trellis. Dark green leaves with golden streaks and marbling make it an eye-catching addition to a home or office.

How it Helps: Like many other vines, it tackles formaldehyde, but golden pothos also targets carbon monoxide and benzene. Consider placing one in your entryway, where car exhaust fumes heavy in formaldehyde are most likely to sneak indoors from the garage.


Lady Palm


Neck and neck with the Areca palm tree for NASA’s top-ranked air purifying plant is the Lady palm (or Rhapis excelsa.) A versatile plant, the lady can be kept in dry or humid climates (anywhere from 20-100 degrees Fahrenheit) and is fiercely resistant to most types of plant insects.

Peace Lily


All that’s needed to keep and maintain this beautiful indoor air toxin killer is plenty of water and a modest amount of sunlight. Preserve these conditions at all time and you’ve got yourself an all-natural air purifier that will remain hard at work 24/7!

It’s able to remove all three of the most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.





This climbing vine plant isn’t a good option if you have kids or pets — it's toxic when eaten, but it's a workhorse for removing all kinds of VOCs. Philodendrons are particularly good at battling formaldehyde from sources like particleboard. (bookshelves and furniture with a laminate are usually made of particleboard.)


Rubber Plant


 Fourth on NASA’s scoring is the rubber plant. According to AvianWeb, rubber plants excel at removing chemical toxins (especially formaldehyde) from indoor air, requiring less light than many other plants and outperforming all other ficuses.

 A word of caution, though: rubber plant leaves can be toxic, so be mindful of that if you have pets roaming around!


Snake Plant


Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.

How it Helps: In addition to helping lower carbon dioxide, the snake plant rids air of formaldehyde and benzene.



Spider Plant


Even if you tend to neglect houseplants, you’ll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.

How it Helps: Put a spider plant on a pedestal or in a hanging basket close to a sunlit window and you'll benefit from fewer airborne formaldehyde and benzene molecules.


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