Once upon a time, the world fell in love with houseplants. When the pandemic hit, everyone was stuck at home and worried about air quality at the same time. Houseplants started trending, and they haven’t stopped. If you search the Internet for “air-purifying plants,” you’ll find articles listing the same 10-20 houseplants with the same reference source: the NASA Clean Air Study. Snake plants are at the top of most lists, but according to NASA, peace lilies and parlor palms out perform them as air purifiers.
Common Chemicals Currently Sharing Your Air
The NASA study measured 30 plants for their ability to remove six chemicals from the air: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. Who lives with those? We all do. It’s frightening to read the list of common household products that contaminate our indoor air. Most carpets contain and release all six chemicals tested, along with several others. Wall paint and furniture polish are sources of benzene. Laminate flooring, wrinkle-free fabrics, and permanent markers contain formaldehyde. Read more about these chemicals, also known as VOCs or violate organic compounds, at greenfacts or the environmental protection agency. Or, just move on to the good news: you need more houseplants, many more! It’s not excessive. It’s for your health.
Breathe Easier with Air-Purifying Indoor Plants
The good folks at NASA know that we are not all rocket scientists. Perhaps that’s why the 30 plants included in their study are all fairly easy to grow. To further simplify, I’ve listed the top-performing air-purifying plants that you can oh-so-easily buy at the Grow Earthy booth on these dates.
All-Star Air Purifiers
Parlor palms are among three palm plants tested in the NASA study, but the only one shown to remove all six chemicals tested from indoor air. These tropical beauties are in the same family as the palm trees that grow coconuts, but they have been cultivated to live indoors. They can reach two to five feet in height, depending on the size of their container. Parlor palms prefer bright indirect light and never full sun.
Perfectly named, these easy-going plants just want to get along. Peace lilies will thrive in almost all lighting conditions except full sun. They are air-purifying powerhouses, proven to remove all six of the chemicals tested in the NASA study: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. Plus, peace lilies make these super cool white things that are not actually blooms, but leaf bracts. So pretty and purifying.
Easy-Growing Air Purifiers
Snake Plant or Sansevieria
Snake plants are also called “mother-in-law’s tongue” due to their sharp, sword-like leaves, or because they’re hard to kill. Laurentii is the variety of snake plant studied by NASA, shown to remove five of the chemicals tested, but not ammonia. It has leaves with yellow edges and variegated bands of green. There are over 70 different kinds of snake plants, and they’re all succulents, so do not overwater. Their thick leaves store water, and their roots do not like soggy soil.
Devil’s Ivy or Pothos
Pothos, specifically golden pothos, is called devil’s ivy because it is nearly impossible to kill. Its resilient leaves remain green even in very low light. It is also poisonous and will cause nausea if ingested by humans or pets. The golden pothos variety tested in the NASA study was shown to remove benzene, xylene, toluene and formaldehyde from indoor air.
Groovy Do-Good Favorites
Often exiled to the outdoors, aloe vera plants are an excellent addition to your indoor environment. They require much brighter light than snake plants or pothos, and remove only benzene and formaldehyde from the air. But if you have ever burned your hand while cooking, or sunburned your shoulders or cheeks, it is wonderful to have fresh aloe on hand.
This tropical evergreen grows in shades of green, silver, and red. They are known for their resilience, preferring medium indirect light but adapting well to all lighting conditions except full sun. They want to dry out between watering because the roots do not like soggy soil. Chinese evergreen are shown to remove benzene and formaldehyde from indoor air.
A macramé hanging plant holder is not necessary, but encouraged. These 1970s favorites love to make baby plants, sending off little “spiderettes” that will hang down from the mother plant. Spider plants will get burned in full sun, but prefer bright indirect light over low-light or shade to keep their bright green stripes. Spider plants are proven to remove xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde from indoor air.
Good VibeS Go-Tos
Lovely and faithful, forever sending out tender tendrils that climb up or trail down. What’s not to love about this vigorous vine? Maybe its low ranking in the NASA study? Or maybe not! Although this adaptable ivy was shown to remove only one of the chemicals tested, formaldehyde, that is a big one! And surrounding yourself with heart-shaped, jade-colored leaves makes your heart less jaded. It’s a form of purification for sure.
Rubber Tree Plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t, move a rubber tree plant. But if your high hopes include indoor clean air, a potted rubber tree plant is easy to move around. Yeah, this large and luscious tropical plant only removes formaldehyde, but that’s good, right?. Remember, “tree” is in the name of this plant. Indoor rubber tree plants can reach four to 10 feet in height, depending on the size of their container. In the wild, these rain-forest natives will grow to over 100 feet tall.
What About My monstera?
The NASA Clean Air Study did not analyze many of my favorites, including monstera adansonii and monstera deliciosa, but it’s safe to assume that any living plant inside your home will improve the quality of the air you breathe. If it’s green and growing, it’s alive and releasing oxygen! So make space for more houseplants. See you soon: Grow Earthy event dates.