7 Air Purifying Houseplants That Are Easy to Care for (+ the Research)
Air quality is an important factor in our lives as humans breathe around 3000 gallons of air per day! Generally, air includes nitrogen and oxygen, but with that also comes various particles and compounds that are mostly invisible to the naked eye— so we don’t know exactly everything we’re breathing at any given moment. Certain plants have been researched for their ability to filter harmful pollution. So by bringing a bit of the outside in, we may be able to help create a healthier living space.
Surprisingly, air quality in homes, apartments, schools, and office buildings is often worse than outdoors. The EPA documented that indoor air can contain 2 to 5 times more pollution than outside air. Various toxins can be emitted from typical household items such as cleaning agents, rubber, furniture, adhesives, upholstery, smoke, sprays (even aerosol hair spray), paints, and more. These noxious chemicals can pose adverse health concerns leaving you vulnerable to risks such as allergens and disease. Some indoor environment pollutants are even carcinogenic, meaning there’s cancer-causing potential. So, assuring that the air in our living spaces is as clean as possible can help us rest (and breathe) a little easier.
A growing number of studies are being conducted on the effects that houseplants plants have on reducing pollutants and improving the purity of home and workplace air. The results are promising, although a resounding claim that plants sufficiently clean inside air is still inconclusive. Specifically, various studies have measured the degree to which certain plants can filter and reduce VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) such as formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and trichloroethylene in a closed environment. Below, we’ll dive into the various benefits and purification ability of a few of our favorite air cleansing plants from studies such as NASA’s Clean Air Study.
1. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Topping our list is the English Ivy plant which certainly packs the most punch when it comes to eradicating unsafe substances from the air. It has been shown to filter out toxins such as: trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene. Not only a part of NASA’s Clean Air Study, but English Ivy was also one of the most effective plants for removing household airborne contaminants in a study conducted by the University of Georgia.
This viney plant is easy to care for and is great for small spaces like offices and apartments.
2. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
One of the most popular indoor plants, the Peace Lily has shown to neutralize trichloroethylene, ammonia, toluene, and benzene by breaking down the chemicals. In addition, this plant has a high transpiration rate which means it releases more moisture into the air.
The Peace Lily looks good in any room and is simple to maintain, making it a wonderful choice for a beginner.
3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
The Snake Plant helps lower emissions of formaldehyde, nitrogen monoxide, chloroform, benzene, and xylene. Perfect for places like your bedroom, the Snake Plant is unique as it gives off oxygen at night (when most plants stop releasing oxygen) which can help with sleep. It’s another plant that’s hard to kill and easy for those who often neglect their houseplants, as it requires little water.
Known for its sharp, sword-like leaves, the Snake Plant is as tough as steel and can survive almost any indoor living condition.
4. Corn Plant (Dracaena)
The Corn Plant is the most effective of the bunch at filtering formaldehyde (according to NASA’s Clean Air Study).
This upright tall plant handles low light well, making it a great addition to the dark corner, hallway, or nook that needs a touch of color.
5. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
An air purifier as well as a natural humidifier, the Bamboo Palm adds a lush tropical feel to any home. As for its air-cleansing properties, the Bamboo Palm has been shown to reduce present formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.
These plants are moderately easy to care for— they enjoy bright (yet indirect) sunlight and a healthy dose of water about once a week.
6. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
Typically a tabletop, countertop, or desktop plant, the Chinese Evergreen adds a beautiful pop to any room and it’s very tolerant of various settings.
Benzene and formaldehyde are the biggest toxins that this plant helps to neutralize in household air.
7. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
With the ability to decrease the amounts of harmful carbon monoxide and xylene in the air, the Spider Plant works to create a healthier atmosphere. In addition, formaldehyde is remarkably removed from the air by the plant’s soil.
This resilient plant is the perfect choice for beginners and makes a great statement in workspaces.
Astonishing Research on Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
One of the most researched plants for air cleansing properties, the pothos (aka devil’s ivy) is a stable staple. The vining nature of this plant creates a gorgeous trail of greenery— but perhaps more interesting, this plant has recently been the subject of a new experiment. Researchers at the University of Washington have genetically modified golden pothos to demonstrate the altered plant’s ability to filter toxins. Specifically by inserting rabbit genes into the plant cells, the plant is able to significantly break down and remove household carcinogens (e.g., chloroform and benzene). And more research is being conducted to determine the capability to eliminate more compounds and gases from the air.
In addition to possibly reducing indoor chemical pollutants, plants also have the ability to decrease particulate matter. A study at Washington State University demonstrated that potted plants placed in a small room lowered the amount of dust by 20% within a week.
It’s important to keep in mind that most of these studies were conducted in small enclosed spaces, so it’s difficult to ascertain how many plants are necessary to significantly filter toxins in a home. Further, some naysayers (who are also experts in the field) believe that it would take thousands of plants in a single small room to achieve effective air purifying results, while others claim that it just wouldn’t work at all.
We over at Outside In want to present all sides of the information out there to further education on this subject. And we have taken a stance in the great green debate ourselves. Our thoughts? Well, while the science flip flops back and forth, the bottom line is that (healthy, chemical-free) plants cannot hurt your household air quality— so why not err on the side of optimism, and spruce up your space with possibly purifying plants!