Air Purifying Plants Most of us already appreciate the natural beauty of plants, which is the main reason why we choose to keep them in our homes. However, some of our prized specimens do more than delight the eye—they may also remove toxins from the air we breathe, creating a healthier environment. Here’s the rundown on some of our favorite air-cleaning plants.
Air Purifying Plants
Dracaena trifasciata, as the snake plant is known scientifically, is a sturdy houseplant that’s very easy to care for. While it thrives with regular exposure to sunlight, it can also grow in dark corners—it just might take a bit more time to reach its full potential.
The snake plant is capable of removing small amounts of CO2, benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air. For best results, plant and re-pot the snake plant in the spring. The soil should be sandy and well-drained.
Be forewarned that this specimen is toxic to cats and dogs. If you have pets, try to keep them in a spot where they won’t be able to reach it.
The ubiquitous spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is one of the easiest plants to care for. All it needs is plenty of indirect sunlight, regular watering, and a good supply of well-drained soil. They prefer moderate temperatures—between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit—and shouldn’t be over-watered, as this can contribute to root rot.
Re-potting should occur when the roots begin to creep out of the pot, making the plant difficult to water. You can propagate spider plants by re-planting the “babies” (known as spiderettes) that are sure to spring up.
In addition to their aesthetic advantages, spider plants have air purification properties. They can draw carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other toxins out of the air. Better yet, they’re non-toxic to cats and dogs, so you don’t have to worry if Fido gets a mouthful of the leaves.
The Ficus elastica flourishes when exposed to plenty of indirect sunlight—for example, next to a window that’s shaded by a thin curtain. Because their presence is a deterrent for mold spores and bacteria, they can improve the air quality inside any room.
Keep your rubber plant in well-drained soil with sufficient aeration. During the summer, they should be watered from time to time, but make sure the leaves don’t turn yellow or brown. If they do, the plant has been over-watered. In colder weather, you may only need to provide water once per month.
The sap of the Ficus elastica is toxic to animals, so keep the plant well away from any pets.
Since the devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) can thrive in various environments, it’s good for the bedroom, living room, or dining room. What’s more, they can grow on a pole, which makes them a great fit for smaller spaces.
Like most of the plants listed here, devil’s ivy has air purification properties. It can help cut down on airborne traces of xylene, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Just be careful if you have pets—the leaves of the plant can cause oral irritation.
Use well-draining soil (preferably mixed with perlite) and place the devil’s ivy in bright yet indirect light. Artificial light is tolerable, but if the plant is kept in low light, it won’t grow as well. Dust the leaves regularly, and prune them from time to time to promote a fuller appearance. Watering should occur only when the soil feels dry to the touch.
This hardy plant does best when kept in a bright spot, but the sunlight should never actually touch the leaves, or they may turn yellow and drop off. On the other hand, if the stems are leggy, with sparse leaves, the philodendron probably needs more light.
Water your philodendron when the top inch of soil becomes dry to the touch. The specimen will do best at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and it removes traces of formaldehyde from the environment, making it the ideal office plant. Take care if there are animals around, though, as the leaves are toxic to cats and dogs.
The ZZ plant has gained popularity with the hipster crowd in recent years. It requires well-drained potting soil, indirect light, and some water and fertilizer from time to time, but its care is quite simple. Even if you forget to water it a few times, the plant should continue to thrive.
Rumors abound that the Zamioculcas specimen is poisonous, and may actually cause cancer. In truth, the plant is capable of removing large amounts of xylene, toluene, and benzene from the surrounding environment. While the cancer-causing accusations are false, the leaves are toxic to pets and may cause skin irritation when handled.
Unlike many of the plants we’ve listed, the bamboo palm, or Dypsis lutescens, flourishes in areas with high humidity. This makes it a great choice for livening up your bathroom. Bear in mind, though, that it also needs a great deal of light in order to reach its maximum potential.
The bamboo palm can grow up to 12 feet tall in the right conditions. It’s also capable of filtering out toxins like ammonia, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde, so it’s in your best interests to keep one around.
This specimen poses no threat to dogs or cats. Keep the soil moist and well-drained, and be sure to check the undersides of the leaves for mites from time to time.
You might see the Monstera deliciosa labeled as the “Swiss cheese plant,” a name that stems from the distinctive holes that may appear in the leaves. This specimen hails from Central America and does well in bright to medium light, though it’s best to keep it out of direct sunlight.
A temperature range of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is preferable for this plant. It will require watering every 1 to 2 weeks, but you should allow the soil to dry completely before adding more water. Lava rocks or perlite will help to keep the soil aerated.
Keep the Monstera Deliciosa plant away from pets and small children. The leaves can cause stomach irritation when consumed. It will, however, help to purify your home by removing xylene, benzene, ammonia, and formaldehyde from the air.
The aloe vera plant is a common sight in kitchens, owing to the fact that its sap can be used as a natural burn remedy. The leaves, meanwhile, can filter out airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide.
The aloe vera specimen only requires watering every 2 to 3 weeks during the spring and summer and even less throughout the dormant months. Be aware that it also requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Despite its healing properties, aloe vera is mildly toxic to dogs and cats and should be kept out of their reach.
Cool temperatures, indirect light, and high humidity: these are the conditions that the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) requires in order to thrive. The soil should be kept moist in order to ensure the proper humidity level. If the leaves turn yellow, the plant isn’t getting enough moisture.
This specimen is safe for cats and dogs. When it receives the proper care, it does an excellent job at drawing formaldehyde out of the surrounding air. Other toxins that are filtered out by the Boston fern include xylene, toluene, and benzene.
If you’ve ever seen one before, you may have mistaken the weeping fig, or Ficus benjamina, for a small tree. The miniature specimens only reach 3 feet in height, but the standard version may grow up to 10 feet. Because it filters out trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene, it makes a welcome addition to the household. Keep it away from your pets, though, as it may cause skin irritation and stomach upset.
To help the weeping fig reach its full potential, keep it in a spot that receives sun and shade in equal measure, with plenty of well-draining soil. The plant should be watered only when the first few inches of soil are completely dry. Also, don’t move the specimen unless absolutely necessary, as it doesn’t adjust well to change.
The delicate oval white blooms are the best reason to invest in the peace lily (Spathiphyllum), but it has other benefits as well. Levels of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene should be drastically lower inside your home when you keep one of these beauties around. Unfortunately, the peace lily is toxic to dogs and cats.
Because these specimens flourish in a warm, humid environment, they’re suitable for bathroom display. They should be watered frequently enough to allow the soil to remain moist. If the leaves are in danger of becoming too dry, try misting them a few times a week.
Rhapis excelsa is capable of growing in low-light conditions, requiring only partial exposure to sunlight. This makes it a popular houseplant, though its growth is typically slow. If you’re hoping to lower your home’s levels of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and ammonia, this could be the specimen for you.
The lady palm prefers loamy, well-drained soil and should be watered frequently in spring and summer. In the dormant months, you should keep an eye on the soil to ensure that it isn’t too dry, but you won’t need to water the plant as often. Since this specimen is non-toxic, you don’t have to worry about keeping the leaves away from your pets.
This climber prefers shady areas, and it serves as an effective natural cover for less appealing areas of the garden. It can also be grown indoors, either on a pole or in a basket with plenty of room for the leaves to tumble over the side.
The English ivy (Hedera helix) needs frequent watering at first, but it can tolerate drier soil once it’s well-established. Be forewarned that the plant is moderately toxic to pets. However, the leaves may also help to cleanse the air of mold spores, which is excellent news for allergy sufferers.
This specimen (known to experts as the Gerbera jamesonii) does well in full sunlight, with plenty of sandy soil to thrive in. They’re prone to crown rot if the crowns are planted too deeply, and the flowers are attractive to caterpillars. If you keep an eye on them, however, the care is relatively easy.
This is one of the specimens that are safe for cats and dogs, so it’s a popular choice for pet owners. Owing in part to its large leaves, the Gerbera daisy is also effective at cleansing the air of trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re hoping to cleanse the surrounding air of harmful toxins, you should keep a minimum of two plants for every 100 square feet of space.
Remember: It’s the leaves that are instrumental in removing the toxins from the environment. That means that the more leaves a plant has, the more effective it will be. This also means that larger plants are preferable to smaller ones.
If you don’t have the room or the budget for that many houseplants, fear not. Studies have shown that having just one plant in an average-sized room can improve the air quality by as much as 25 percent. If you have two plants in the same area, that number jumps to 75 percent.
All plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in the daylight hours. During this time, they’re undergoing photosynthesis, which means they’re converting that carbon dioxide into energy that they can use.
In the evening hours, the process is reversed. The plants are taking in oxygen at night and give off carbon dioxide, which is part of their respiratory process.
As you might have guessed, this means that no plants give off generous amounts of oxygen all 24 hours of the day. However, there are some that release a great deal of it during daylight hours, and a minimum of carbon dioxide once the sun goes down. These include aloe vera, peepal, butterfly palm, and Christmas cactus.
Studies have shown that certain plants are capable of removing up to 87 percent of contaminants from the air. Some of these toxins include benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, to name just a few.
Since these initial studies were performed, further research has indicated that the findings might be incomplete. Although plants can help to clean indoor air, the process is rather slow.
The bottom line? Keeping indoor plants is a healthy practice, but it may take a while for the benefits to make themselves known. Try to keep the plants as healthy as possible to encourage leaf growth.
Plants may help you sleep better by providing you with clean air, but that’s not the only reason to keep them in your bedroom. The lush foliage will make the room feel more alive, and caring for plants is a known stress reliever. Some might even make the room smell good as well.
Of course, keeping plants is only one step toward maintaining a healthy sleep environment. Keep your bedroom well-ventilated, and be sure to turn off all screens before hitting the sack for the night.
Depending on the size of the space, try to stick to five to 10 plants per room. Otherwise, the area might begin to feel too cluttered. You want the home to feel like a home, not a jungle.
As we pointed out, two plants for every 100 square feet of space should be sufficient. This is a good rule of thumb to follow for both health and aesthetic reasons.
Are plants good for mental health?
Absolutely. Gardening helps us feel more connected to nature, which provides a natural endorphin boost. The fact that it requires physical exercise is also conducive to that end. Any type of movement, no matter how small, makes our bodies feel better in the long run.
Some experts claim that gardening may also prolong your attention span. Being able to concentrate on tasks for long periods leads to a better sense of well-being. And, of course, helping a plant grow to its full potential can do wonderful things for your self-esteem.