Indoor plants are often used to dress up a room or office, but they can also make you healthier. "Sick Building Syndrome" is an illness caused by the buildup of toxins in the air, including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and benzene, among others. This buildup of toxins can cause headaches, fatigue and even nervous system disorders, according to information published by The Weather Channel. Luckily, there are many plants that naturally remove toxins from the air, whether indoors or outside, creating a cleaner and more beautiful environment.
Boston ferns are large, full ferns that feature bright green, tapered fronds. They grow up to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide, and thrive in bright (but not direct) sunlight. Direct sunlight can scorch this plant. For this reason, they are often placed on a porch or near a south-facing window. Boston ferns prefer soil that is barely wet at all times, and air that has a high level of humidity. They should be misted with room-temperature water each morning, and closely observed for insect pests such as whiteflies and spider mites. The Boston fern is adept at removing benzene-based toxins such as those found in rubber, plastic and synthetic materials.
Ficus trees are excellent plants for removing indoor toxins because they thrive in the low-light conditions commonly found in many homes and offices. The Ficus alii has long, slender leaves and is resistant to insect pests. Ficus benjamina has rounded leaves and a slightly weeping habit. Both prefer air on the humid side, which can be provided by misting or by placing the plants on humidity trays (trays filled with water and pebbles). Water the soil when the top few inches become dry. Keep all ficus plants away from warm or cold drafts, such as heating vents, as this can cause the plant to drop its leaves. Ficus plants also like to stay put, so resist the urge to move yours around. Ficus plants are especially good at removing formaldehyde-based toxins, which are found in some furniture, plywood and chemical cleaners.
Philodendrons are highly desirable houseplants, both for their broad, attractive leaves and extreme durability. These plants will tolerate low-light conditions, but not direct sunlight, which will scorch their leaves. Some are climbing, while others are more of a compact shrub. Several types of philodendrons have variegated leaves, or leaves with cut-out patterns in them. The leaves are so large that they need to be cleaned periodically with a damp rag. Soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings, and all philodendrons benefit from misting once a week or so. Philodendrons are also good at removing formaldehyde-based toxins.
Dracaenas are native to tropical parts of Africa and are usually grown as houseplants due to their high humidity and heat needs. These plants, which feature long, graceful broad leaves, are highly adept at removing trichloroethylene toxins from the air, which are found in paints, adhesives and markers. These understory plants prefer low-light conditions and soil that is watered when it is dry down to 1/3 of the depth.