Can Houseplants Really Clean the Air?
It’s no secret that there are many benefits for keeping houseplants around your home. Just a few potted plants can add life to drab spaces, boost your mood and focus, keep your house cool, and even be used as medicine. However, one of the most commonly touted benefits of houseplants—that they can clean the air and remove toxins—isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds.
In 1989, NASA published a study that found houseplants as a promising solution for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. For years, folks selected specific houseplant species believing they would clean the air inside their homes. But new research has determined that’s not quite the case. While the NASA study did prove that certain types of houseplants can purify the air, it was done in a contained environment that doesn’t accurately reflect a house. For houseplants to clean the indoor air, you’d need more of them than you have the room for. Keep reading to learn about some of the houseplants NASA studied—even if they don’t clean the air like you expected, they’re easy to care for and offer other benefits.
Popular dracaena varieties of dracaena include Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis), Warneck (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii'), Cornstalk (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'), and Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata). Bushy, spiky-leaved dracaenas are very easy to care for, tolerating low humidity, infrequent watering, and low light.
Long popular as houseplants, several varieties of philodendron excel as air fresheners, including Heartleaf (Philodendron scandens 'oxycardium'), Elephant Ear (Philodendron domesticum), and Selloum (Philodendron selloum). Able to thrive even on minimal care, philodendrons have glossy, bright green foliage and can grow quite large.
A versatile houseplant, English Ivy (Hedera helix) grows well in pots or hanging baskets and can be trained to grow on a trellis or railing. While it can be an aggressive grower, regular pruning will keep the plant contained to virtually any size and shape.
The Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is one of the easiest houseplants to grow and share, as the species regularly produces “baby spiders” at the end of long, wiry stems. Since they perform best in moderate sunlight and prefer humid environs, Spider Plants are recommended for bathrooms or kitchens.
Related: The 10 Best Plants for Your Bathroom
A climbing vine, Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) features lush, heart-shaped leaves and requires little care to flourish. Golden Pothos tolerates low light, low humidity, and low temperatures, making it one of the top-selling houseplants in the country.
The Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria laurentii), is another hardy, easy-to-grow houseplant. It features vertical leaves with spiked tips, which have a deep, glossy green and yellow or white stripes. Snake Plants do best in low to moderate light and low to moderate humidity.
The large, vivid blooms and lush green leaves of Gerbera Daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) make them a very popular perennial that, with a little care, can be encouraged to bloom all year. Also known as African Daisies, these plants grow about a foot tall and are a popular choice for cut blossoms.
Related: 8 Plants Never to Grow Indoors
Houseplants Health Benefits
Even if houseplants are cleaning the air as vigorously as you thought, there are still many other health benefits for keeping them around the house.
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