Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

We tend to think of air pollution as something that happens outside, but indoor air pollutants are known to cause and exacerbate allergies, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. Indoor pollution is caused by the release of contaminants such as formaldehyde from common household materials and products including pressed woods, some types of foam insulation, paper products, and some paints and varnishes. In the 1980s, NASA researchers discovered that common houseplants can remove these contaminants from the air by metabolizing toxic chemicals and releasing byproducts that are harmless to humans. Improving air quality in your home could be as simple as bringing some greenery into your living space. Here are some common houseplants to help you breathe easier:

Photo courtesy of wimp.com

Peace lily
(Spathiphyllum)

The peace lily can clear the air of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Benzene and trichloroethylene are both found in adhesives and household cleaners, and were identified by NASA researchers as harmful toxicants. The hard-working peace lily is incredibly low-maintenance; just make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight and check it once a week to see if it needs watering.

Aloe
(Aloe vera)

This sun-loving plant can filter the air of formaldehyde and benzene, and the gel inside the plant can be used to help heal cuts and burns. Plant aloe in a wide container with good drainage, and make sure it gets lots of sunlight. You’ll need to be careful not to overwater this succulent, but you can use its offsets, or plantlets, to grow entirely new plants.

Spider plant
(Chlorophytum comosum)

spider-plantOne of the most popular hanging house plants, the spider plant is nearly impossible to kill. While they prefer bright light, spider plants can grow in semi-shady conditions as well. You’ll need to water your spider plant liberally in the summer, but you can cut back in the winter. Spider plants filter out benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene (a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries). As an added bonus, spider plants are safe for households with pets.

Gerbera daisy
(Gerbera jamesonii)

This colorful flowering plant can remove trichloroethylene and benzene from the air. While gerbera daisies make great gifts, consider using them to brighten up your own home. They’ll need lots of sunlight and plenty of water, and you’ll want to pinch off blooms as soon as they wilt to encourage new growth.

English ivy
(Hedera helix)

This plant reduces airborne fecal-matter particles and formaldehyde. Even though ivy is a common houseplant, it can be somewhat difficult to care for. English ivy plants prefer moist, humid conditions, so mist yours often. Make sure it gets bright light, but not direct sunlight. If possible, keep it in a room that is not artificially heated. Once you learn how to make your English ivy plant happy, it can be trained up supports or drape beautifully from hanging baskets.

Snake plant
(Sansevieria trifasciata)

Effective at filtering out formaldehyde and benzene, the snake plant is one of the easiest indoor plants to care for. It will thrive in low light and humid conditions, so consider putting one of these in your bathroom. These plants are prone to rot, so just make sure not to water it too much and to let it dry out some between waterings.

Chrysanthemum
(Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Also known as the Pot Mum, the chrysanthemum can reduce benzene and ammonia levels in the air. Put your mums in a window with lots of direct sunlight, and plant them outside once they’re done blooming to encourage regrowth.

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