Plants That Are Good for the Air Quality in a House

Throughout decades of research, NASA has identified a list of common houseplants that are extremely effective in improving the air quality in houses, offices and other indoor environments. NASA began its research on houseplants' ability to improve indoor air quality in order to find out which plants could be helpful to use in space stations. Many popular houseplants can remove a variety of the most common indoor air pollutants, including benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Spider Plants

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are particularly adept at removing from the air formaldehyde, which is found in foam insulation, plywood and other pressed-wood products, grocery bags, fire retardant materials, cigarette smoke and natural gas. Native to South and West Africa, spider plants are one of the most popular houseplants, with long runners and vigorous production of "plantlets." Spider plants grow best in hanging baskets, in bright, indirect sunlight, and it likes low to moderate fertilization. You will need to water the spider plant to keep the potting soil moist at all times, reducing watering in winter and misting the plant frequently during summer.

Philodendrons

Philodendrons can also remove formaldehyde from the house air. Comprised of about 500 different species, philodendrons are evergreen climbers, shrubs or small trees that are native to the tropics. Prized for their glossy, large foliage, philodendrons enjoy warm indoor air temperatures, bright but indirect light, constant moisture, and frequent misting. The most common houseplant, philodendrons varieties like the heartleaf (Philodendron scandens), selloum (P. selloum) and elephant ear (P. domesticum) are particularly good air purifiers.

English Ivy

English ivy plants (Hedera helix) can remove indoor air pollutants like benzene, a chemical found in rubber, dyes, plastics, paints, detergents, tobacco smoke and synthetic fibers. Climbing, self-clinging English ivies have beautiful evergreen leaves and grow best when provided with warm temperatures in summer and cooler conditions in winter. You should keep your English ivy plants in bright but not direct sunlight. Water the plant regularly throughout most of the year, except for winter, and mist it daily in summer.

Dracaenas

Dracaenas work well to remove air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Trichloroethylene is found in many adhesives, varnishes and lacquers, printing inks and degreasing chemicals used on metals. Dracaenas include about 40 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees that are mostly native to tropical parts of Africa. These common houseplants resemble palm trees, with crowns of long leaves and woody trunks. Dracaenas thrive in bright or direct sunlight and constant moisture with frequent misting.

Golden Pothos or Devil's Ivy

Also called devil's ivy, golden pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) removes formaldehyde from indoor air. Golden pothos is a climbing evergreen that produces aerial roots and grows well in partial shade or bright light, but not in direct sunlight. Requiring constant moisture except for in winter and daily misting, golden pothos houseplants produce glossy, green and white foliage. The only drawback to golden pothos houseplants is that the plants can be mildly poisonous if ingested and the sap can irritate the skin.

Peace Lilies

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') are excellent at removing a wide range of pollutants from indoor air, including benzene and trichloroethylene. These flowering evergreen perennials are native to tropical forest regions in the Americas, the Philippines and Indonesia. Blooming usually in large, graceful white flowers in spring and sometimes a second time in autumn, the peace lily can tolerate low-light conditions, as long as its provided with regular watering in spring, summer and autumn, as well as daily misting.

Chinese Evergreen

Native to tropical forests in Asia, the Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is a perennial houseplant grown for its large, colorful foliage that's usually a shade of green with large, white markings. A natural air purifier, the Chinese evergreen enjoys average indoor air temperatures and partial shade or bright light, but not direct sunlight. You will need to mist this plant frequently and water it thoroughly, except in winter.

Bamboo Palms

Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea sefritzii) are efficient air cleansers and popular indoor plants due to their small size and tropical origins. Bamboo palms have up to 2-foot-long fronds and enjoy indirect light, constantly moist potting soil and frequent misting.

Weeping Fig

An indoor-air purifier, the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is part of one of the most popular species of indoor plants, the ficus. The weeping fig is a small, bush-like tree with delicate foliage and weeping branches. It enjoys warm indoor air temperatures, bright but not direct light, frequent misting during the hot summer months and regular watering.

Aloe Vera

Found in many homes, the aloe vera plant is a burn soother, as well as an air purifier. This low-maintenance tropical houseplant has pointed, thick leaves and enjoys moist potting soils throughout most of the year. You don't need to mist this plant or water it very often throughout the winter, but you do need to provide it with bright light and some direct sun.

Keywords: air purifying plants, houseplant air cleaning, air cleaner houseplants

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.