Houseplants are known as Nature's Air Purifiers as they help to combat air pollution that has become a grave environmental health risk. Indoor pollution is the result of specific airborne contaminants in buildings which cause the "sick building syndrome."
The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), stated that indoor levels of pollutants can be about 100 times higher than outdoor pollutant levels and is among the top five environmental risks to the public health.
Houseplants can be defined as plants that are grown indoors at homes or offices. These plants are generally used for ornamental purposes, but are known to purify the air, and have several health benefits too. Succulents, Cacti, Tropical or Semi-tropical epiphytes classify under the houseplants category. If you wish to grow these green beauties successfully, you need to consider factors like moisture, soil mixture, light, temperature, humidity, fertilizers, pest control and type of container.
NASA and ALCA conducted a 2-year study that showed how houseplants purified the air. They listed about 50 plants that could be planted indoors for keeping the environment pollution free.
NASA revealed that listed plants were most effective in removing benzene, xylene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and ammonia from the air – that caused headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye irritation.
Out of the 50 houseplants ranked by NASA, we have listed ten best and the most common ones here:
Aloe Vera - Aloe barbadensis, Ghi Kanvar
Classified as a succulent, Aloe Vera cleans the air perfectly and is an ideal plant that can refresh any small apartment. The super plant eliminates formaldehyde effectively from indoor air and is loved for its healing properties too. Did you know that Aloe Vera can treat burns and colds?
Where to keep? Keep it in a lovely Concrete Slanty planter by Eliteearth on the kitchen window sill as it is known to absorb formaldehyde produced from natural gas.
Rubber Plant - Ficus robusta
This houseplant is known to make the indoor air formaldehyde or toxins free.
Where to keep? Place it in containers with drainage holes in areas that receive bright indirect light or full sunlight. Rubber Plant varieties with plain green leaves tolerate low light conditions better than the ones with variegated foliage. The latter needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day to maintain colour contrast. Rubber Plant is ‘bonsai-able’ too.
Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum
This beautiful houseplant is known to filter pollutants like benzene, toluene, xylene, ammonia, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene present indoors.
Where to keep? Place Peace Lily plant in lovely handmade concrete container in bathrooms or near carpeting, rubber, dry-cleaned items, synthetic fibres, varnishes, lacquers, plastics, ink paints, oils and detergents.
Spider Plant – Chlorophytum Comosum, Ribbon Plant, Spider Ivy
This simple and undemanding plant is a common indoor plant known for absorbing chemicals spray used while cleaning the apartment. It requires minimal water, care and is very adaptable for a hanging basket.
Where to keep? Grow it in a hanging basket and suspend it near carpeting, bathroom or window facing traffic/road.
Money Plant – Epipremnum Aureum, Golden Pothos, Devil’s ivy
This ornamental plant is an excellent natural anti-pollutant that wards off benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
Where to keep? Keep it in a bedroom, as it is closed for a long duration during the day or place it near the furniture.
Chrysanthemums – Chrysanthemum morifolium, Garden Mum, Guldaudi
NASA has claimed Chrysanthemums to be real air-purifying plants. The plant is popular and inexpensive. It removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from home’s air. Moreover, it can be planted outdoors too.
Where to keep? Place Chrysanthemum in lovely handmade concrete container in bathrooms or near carpeting, rubber, dry-cleaned items, synthetic fibres, varnishes, lacquers, plastics, ink paints, oils and detergents.
Snake Plant – Sansevieria laurentii, mother-in-law’s tongue
If you are looking for a plant that needs almost no care, then get Snake plant. Effective in removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene from indoor air, this plant can be seen commonly in offices and restaurants. It needs water about once a month, prefers dry air and little sunlight.
Where to keep? Pair your snake plant with unique shaped concrete paisley containers and keep it near carpeting, rubber based or dry cleaned items.
Chinese Evergreen – Aglaonema modestum
Chinese Evergreen purifies indoor air by removing
chemicals, such as formaldehyde, benzene or other toxins. In Asian countries, these plants are known to bring good luck and hence are used as decoration.
Where to keep? Place the plant in a container near gasoline sources and carpeting.
Gerbera Daisy – Gerbera jameson, Daisy, Gulbahar
NASA study claims that Gerbera Daisy is fantastic in removing benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen overnight.
Where to keep? Place the Gerbera Daisy plant in a sunny spot when indoors or on the porch. During summers, place the plant outdoors during the summer so that it can get ample sunshine.
Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia hybrids, Leopard Lily
The best part about Dumb Cane is its large leaf surface area that quickly removes air contaminants from indoor space. Its sap is poisonous and hence recommended that you avoid coming into contact with it.
Where to keep? Keep it near the furniture in heavy containers like the concrete ones and away from the reach of kids and pets.
Apart from these ten plants recommended by NASA, all Dracaena and Bamboo palm can be grown easily and help in removing volatile airborne pollutants and chemical vapours.
How to position houseplants?
- Experts recommend that an 8-foot ceiling house should have 2-3 plants in 6x8-inch pots spaced at 100 square feet.
- Place a plant within the “personal breathing zone,” i.e. 6 x 8 cubic feet around the areas where you have maximum hours working or watching TV.
- Larger the number of plants, better the air quality.
- As you position, the plants consider light and ventilation as plants in a dormant state can have reduced effect on indoor air pollution.
- Placing several inches of aquarium gravel over the soil in the plant container can prevent the formation of moulds, that might cause allergy.
Source: Insight: The Consumer Magazine, March-April 2005, How to grow fresh air: fifty Houseplants
that purify your home or offices by Dr. Bill Wolverton www.wolvertonenvironmental.com