Can indoor plants really improve your indoor air quality? The answer is absolutely yes! Not only that, indoor plants offer a host of other benefits, ranging from bringing calming energy into the home, increasing your edibles, and making your house beautiful. For many people, ventilating the home by leaving doors and windows open to encourage cross breezes is not always practical. So the answer to bad indoor air quality (which causes what is often referred to as “sick building syndrome”) for many people is to have houseplants filtering their air for them.
Many experts recommend about 1 houseplant per ~100 square feet of inside space, so for an average 2,000 square foot home, you should aim for about 20 plants. Pot them in clay, not plastic, which can offgas more chemicals than the plant can absorb.
Most of the data about houseplants and the indoor air quality benefits they have is from a landmark study by NASA in the 1980s (PDF). They were looking for ways to keep the indoor air on the space shuttle as healthy as possible, and of course, to produce oxygen and recycle carbon dioxide.
A quick summary of their results:
For the kitchen: spider plants, aloe and gerbera daisy work well. Spider plants absorb benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene. Aloe absorbs formaldehyde and benzene. The gherbera daisy absorbs trichloroethylene and benzene.
Bath: English Ivy, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and snake plants tend to do well. English Ivy absorb airborne fecal matter and snake plants and Mother-in-Law’s Tongue absorb formaldehyde.
In the bedroom: try dracaena, which absorbs xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.
Then, have some fun with a bunch of others! For more information, here is Green Living Ideas’ guide to 10 houseplants that clean indoor air.