In the late 1980s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. Other studies have since been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science further proving the science. Here's our handy of list of the best air-filtering plants. (Plus, at the bottom of this story, you'll find links about plants that are good for the air and also safe for your pets.)
Aloe (Aloe vera)
This easy-to-grow, sun-loving succulent helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical-based cleaners, paints and more. Aloe is a smart choice for a sunny kitchen window. Beyond its air-clearing abilities, the gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and burns.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Even if you tend to neglect houseplants, you'll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. With lots of rich foliage and tiny white flowers, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.
Gerber daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It's also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. Add one to your laundry room or bedroom — presuming you can give it lots of light.
Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')
This plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it'll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.
Golden pothos (Scindapsus aures)
Another powerful plant for tackling formaldehyde, this fast-growing vine will create a cascade of green from a hanging basket. Consider it for your garage since car exhaust is filled with formaldehyde. (Bonus: Golden pothos, also know as devil's ivy, stays green even when kept in the dark.)
Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
The colorful flowers of a mum can do a lot more than brighten a home office or living room; the blooms also help filter out benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. This plant loves bright light, and to encourage buds to open, you'll need to find a spot near an open window with direct sunlight.
Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
The red edges of this easy dracaena bring a pop of color, and the shrub can grow to reach your ceiling. This plant is best for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which can be introduced to indoor air through lacquers, varnishes and gasoline.
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
A weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) in your living room can help filter out pollutants that typically accompany carpeting and furniture such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Caring for a ficus can be tricky, but once you get the watering and light conditions right, they will last a long time.
Azalea (Rhododendron simsii)
Bring this beautiful flowering shrub into your home to combat formaldehyde from sources such as plywood or foam insulation. Because azalea does best in cool areas around 60 to 65 degrees, it's a good option for improving indoor air in your basement if you can find a bright spot.
English ivy (Hedera helix)
A study found that the plant reduces airborne fecal-matter particles. It has also been shown to filter out formaldehyde found in some household cleaning products.
Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii')
Combat pollutants associated with varnishes and oils with this dracaena. The Warneckii grows inside easily, even without direct sunlight. With striped leaves forming clusters atop a thin stem, this houseplant can be striking, especially if it reaches its potential height of 12 feet.
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema crispum 'Deborah')
This easy-to-care-for plant can help filter out a variety of air pollutants and begins to remove more toxins as time and exposure continues. Even with low light, it will produce blooms and red berries.
Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
Also known as the reed palm, this small palm thrives in shady indoor spaces and often produces flowers and small berries. It tops the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. It's also a good choice for placing around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde.
Heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)
This climbing vine plant isn't a good option if you have kids or pets — it's toxic when eaten, but it's a workhorse for removing all kinds of VOCs. Philodendrons are particularly good at battling formaldehyde from sources like particleboard.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
Shade and weekly watering are all the peace lily needs to survive and produce blooms. It topped NASA's list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.
Also on MNN:
- Plants poisonous to dogs
- Houseplants that are safe for pets
- What to do if your pet ingests a poisonous plant
Click for photo credits
Aloe vera: Wikimedia Commons
Spider plant: Meve13/stock.xchng
Gerber daisy: BevKnits/Flickr
Spider plant: madabandon/Flickr
Golden pothos: elvisripley/Flickr
Weeping fig: dugasj/Flickr
Azalea: cogito ergo imago/Flickr
English ivy: gorgeoux/Flickr
Warneck dracaena: a_sorense/Flickr
Chinese evergreen: ryoki/Flickr
Bamboo palm: edible plum/Flickr
Heart leaf philodendron: iStockphoto
Peace lily / white cobra: Tahmid Munaz TM/Flickr