Indoor Plants That Filter the Air

Things commonly found inside homes can emit chemical fumes into the air. However, NASA scientists discovered that some plants could filter out chemical pollutants found in the air. University of Minnesota Extension horticulturalists say that many of those plants can be successfully grown indoors. That includes English ivy, the Peace Lily and Warneck dracaena, which can all remove benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. NASA recommends one houseplant per 100 feet of living space.

English Ivy

English ivy, scientific name Hedera helix, grows best in bright to medium light and likes average to cool temperatures, according to North Carolina State University horticulturalists. From spring through fall, give it an all-purpose liquid fertilizer every two weeks when you water it. But let the soil dry out a little before watering. The plant is "vine-like, usually with lobed leaves, and without flowers" and works equally well in a hanging basket or a pot, but English ivy prefers filtered light, so don't place it directly in south- or west-facing windows, according to University of Florida horticulturalists. The benzene that English ivy, and the other two houseplants discussed here, filter out of indoor air comes from such common household items as detergents, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, inks, paints, plastics, rubber, dyes and tobacco smoke.

Peace Lily

The Peace Lily, scientific name Spathiphyllum, or 'Mauna Loa,' grows best in bright to medium light, with average temperatures and a moist environment, according to North Carolina State University horticulturalists. Don't let the soil dry out and feed it an all-purpose fertilizer every month during the spring and summer. The Peace Lily has dark green leaves and lily-white flowers or spathes. It can grow up to 3 feet tall with 7-inch spathes, according to University of Florida horticulturalists. A variety of items commonly found in homes emits the trichloroethylene that the peace lily, Warneck dracaena and English ivy plants filter from indoor air. Those sources include such things as dry-cleaned clothing, printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives.

Warneck Dracaena

Warneck dracaena, scientific name Dracaena deremensis, or 'Warneckii,' prefers bright to medium light, average temperatures and high air humidity, according to North Carolina State University. Although this plant likes high humidity, don't let it stand in water. Feed it an all-purpose liquid fertilizer every month during the spring and summer. Dracaena plants have long narrow leaves, which have longitudinal stripes of various shades of green, cream, white or yellow and the leaves are clustered on an unbranched stem, according to University of Florida horticulturalists. The formaldehyde that the Warneck dracaena, English ivy and peace lily plants help filter from indoor air comes from surprisingly common things. Items that emit formaldehyde fumes into indoor air include waxed paper, grocery bags, natural gas, cigarette smoke, adhesive binders in floor coverings, foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood products and fire retardants.

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About this Author

Jeanne Young began writing professionally in 2000. She was the government reporter for a daily newspaper in central Florida. Young has also covered general assignment and the business, health, science, environment and education beats for newspapers and a wire service, and written about money and politics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Florida.

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