Bringing potted plants into a living space to liven it up is a trick that's been used by interior designers for years, but did you know that our leafy friends are also powerful filters that purify the air around us? In fact, several studies have been conducted showing that certain plants can rid a room of up to 89 percent of harmful VOCs like formaldehyde and xylene. If you think about the prices of some of those fancy air filtration systems out there, it's a bit surprising that more of us don't just purchase some plants instead. If you or anyone in your family has allergies, smokes or just wants to breathe fresher, cleaner air in their homes, read on for 7 indoor plants that purify the air around you as well as which specific pollutant each one targets and removes.
Orchids have a bad reputation as being finicky and difficult to grow, but really, the opposite is true. On our last trip to Costa Farms, we learned that orchids actually love to be neglected and most people end up killing their orchids with kindness (too much water and sunlight). Aside from being easy to take care of, orchids rid the air of xylene—a pollutant found in many glues and paints—so they make wonderful housewarming gifts for anyone who recently moved into or renovated a new space. Unlike some other plants, orchids also respire and give off oxygen at night, so they’re great for the bedroom.
The palm family of plants, also known as Arecaceae or Palmae, is extremely popular and it’s easy to see why. These hardy houseplants are easy to grow and perfect for lifting people’s spirits and distracting from otherwise drab surroundings, and they’re also known to be natural air purifiers. Palms specifically target and remove formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide (which is especially helpful if someone in your household smokes cigarettes).
The peace lily, a.k.a. spathiphyllum, is an ideal plant to have in your home if you love flowers but don’t want to buy bouquets that die after a few days. Spathiphyllum thrives in the shade in temperatures below 55 degrees F, and removes harmful toxins like acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
Ferns have a reputation for being a bit mundane but most people don’t realize that they’re actually fascinating plants that have survived since Prehistoric times! They’re favored for their soft, feathery leaves, and it’s those same large fronds that help rid the air of pollutants like toulene and xylene, which are found in many paints, nail polishes, and glues.
Schefflera are easily recognizable because they have glossy, sturdy-looking oval leaves that almost look unreal because of their waxy shine. They’re really hardy and long-lasting so they make great investment plants as long as you keep the leaves dust-free and wipe them down once in a while. In addition to looking great, they’re also known to soak up nasty toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene so, like palms, they’re good for households where there’s a smoker.
Anthuriums make lovely gifts because of their exotic-looking blooms, but they ain’t just a pretty face! Their large, dark leaves suck up ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, so they’re a thoughtful present for a workplace (especially around copiers, printers, or adhesives).
As versatile as its name is poetic, Dracaena reflexa or “Song of India” is easy to identify because of its telltale green, lime, and yellow leaves. These plants are easy to grow in both high and low light and absorb undesirables like formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.
Pothos is characterized by its golden, heart-shaped leaves and is extremely popular in North America. It’s a hardy plant that can survive in lower light and colder temps and is great for offices and homes since it rids the air of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
The Massangeana plant may be hard to pronounce but it’s easy to love. Native to Africa, it has a wild look that makes it ideal for decorating your home, and it also sucks formaldehyde from the air.
Philodendrons are easy-care houseplants that need very little attention. Their unique coloring makes them an attractive addition to your home and they’re known to ride the air of xylene.
Eager to learn even more about how to clean the air inside your home with plants? How to Grow Fresh Air is a wonderful resource with many more types of air-purifying foliage and comes highly recommended by Inhabitat’s editor-in-chief, Jill Fehrenbacher. You can also visit Costa Farms’ helpful O2forYou website for more information.