Air Purifying Plants

It makes sense that plants would provide some air cleaning capability. They are taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. While they will never be Hepa level air purifiers, plants will always be a fresh addition to any room. There are some plants which are more effective with pulling toxins from the air and others that are mostly going to sit and be pretty.
A good rule of thumb when considering adding plants to freshen the air in your home is to look at plants with more leaves and a faster growth habit. The leafy foliage plants such as spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), ferns, and sansevieria are on the more effective end of the air purifying spectrum. Cacti and succulents will fall on the less effective end. Most plants will be somewhere in the middle. It is important to point out that for effective air purification, a gardener would need to fill each room with houseplants. The reality for most gardeners is that even a little air purification is better than nothing (although, who would not want to live in their own personal jungle)?

Sansevieria, or snake plants are generally considered to be the best air cleaning plant for indoors. They have a higher ability to filter out formaldehyde, which can be present in most homes. The bonus with growing sansevieria over other plants is that they need so little care and are generally willing to live in any room that has a window. Sansevieria also have the benefit of being completely on trend right now. If you haven’t already taken the plunge into collecting this genus, you have several reasons to start now.

Plants such as ferns and peace lilies are almost always in active growth. This constant growth requires a great deal of energy, so these guys are photosynthesizing like crazy all day long just to keep themselves growing. If you are a fussy plant parent who can’t resist the need to water, ferns are definitely the way to go. These super leafy plants provide the added benefit of releasing moisture into the air and creating their own humidity when grown in groups. Peace lilies have the added bonus of providing long lived white blooms on a consistent basis, without the need for direct sunlight. Some even have fragrant blooms!
English ivy is often recommended for air purifying because they can be very effective at removing several common chemicals from the air. Ivy is a beautiful plant and adds some elegance to your indoor garden. This is a plant more suited to gardeners who have access to a cool room and a sharp eye for catching pest problems before they become an infestation. Ivy can be very prone to spider mites indoors, so regular mistings with a mild dish soap mixed with water at a rate of one teaspoon per gallon will help. Severe infestations will usually require chemical treatment, which goes against our air cleaning mission.
The science behind air purifying plants is limited. The NASA study on the ability of plants to clean air occurred in 1989 and little additional research has been done since. It is important to note that the NASA study was performed using plants in sealed acrylic boxes and this is not necessarily representative of the average home. There has also been follow up work done, which showed that the microorganisms in the soil of your houseplants may actually be filtering more air than the plant itself. Some studies even suggest that a home would require up to 1,000 plants in order to tip the balance toward clean air. Many people see that as too much, but plant parents often see that number as a challenge.

There is no doubt that houseplants add a fresh clean atmosphere in the home. If they are also cleaning the air a little, that is a great bonus. A room full of plants tends to make breathing easy with extra humidity, fragrant blooms, and a feeling of being in nature. It might even be easier to breathe in a room full of plants simply because gardening brings peace to our hectic lives. So go out there and get working on that 1,000 plant collection! The air will be fresh and you will have your own personal jungle spa for relaxation.