Plants are valued in part for their ability to add aesthetic value to a landscape or to an indoor location. Many plants also have medicinal properties or are simply good to eat. Green plants add oxygen to the air, but some go a step further and actually filter toxins from the air, purifying it during the process of photosynthesis. NASA has found that several popular plants actually fight pollution, according to the University of Minnesota.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is known to remove the toxin benzene from the air, which is a chemical found in everyday items such as rubber, some detergents, polyester and other synthetic fibers. It is also found in paint, ink, oils and gasoline. For these reasons, English ivy is an ideal plant to grow outside a gas station or other business that sells or manufactures anything containing benzene. As an added bonus, English ivy is a very hardy plant. It can grow well even in poor soil, according to the University of Florida, although it does not like overly wet conditions. The plant grows equally well in full sun, full shade or partial shade and will climb up masonry, trees or any other support structure that has texture. English ivy can also be grown in containers and used as an attractive indoor foliage plant.
The corn plant (Dracaena fragrans "Massangeana"), and Dracaena plants in general, is known to purify the air. Dracaenas are popularly grown as houseplants because they can tolerate low-light conditions. The corn plant, however, has been shown to be especially effective at removing formaldehyde from the air. Formaldehyde is found in pressed wood, waxed cardboard, cigarette smoke and grocery bags, among other things. This slow-growing plant, which requires little maintenance, according to the University of Florida, is an excellent choice for indoor locations. Dracaenas, which have long, thin, gracefully drooping leaves, can grow in all types of soils, will tolerate drought conditions and require shade in order to thrive.
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is so named for the plantlets that appear dangling at the ends of the long, thin, arching leaves--somewhat like a spider hanging from a thread. This plant, which is commonly grown as a houseplant, is also excellent at purifying the air. In particular, like the Dracaena, it is especially good at absorbing formaldehyde. Spider plants are graceful in hanging baskets and are also sometimes grown as ground covers in tropical and subtropical climates. These plants prefer shady conditions and will tolerate drought and all types of soil, except salty soils.