Improving Indoor Air Quality Using Plants


How Indoor Plants Benefit Your Health

Summertime often sparks the do-it-yourself bug in the minds of homeowners. Summer, is the time of year many people tackle that outdoor arbor project they have been dreaming of or the weathered wood deck that has been screaming for some TLC. Don’t narrow your focus to outdoor projects. Improve your home décor and your health with indoor plants any time of the year. Indoor plants are an economically and environmentally friendly way to brighten up any space in your home, best of all plants improve the air quality in your house.

In an effort to reduce energy costs, our society has consistently built more airtight and solid structures. People are favoring homes and offices with thick insulation and sealed windows to help reduce the costs associated with heating and cooling their spaces. Unfortunately, these energy-saving methods trap pollutants and chemicals that can make you ill. NASA conducted a study using houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities and the results were astounding.

How Do House Plants Improve Air Quality?

Researchers already know that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as a part of the natural photosynthesis process. However, recent studies have revealed that plants are able to remove significant amounts of harmful gases commonly found in indoor environments like formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

Plants produce negative ions that attract and purify the air. These ions collect and remove dust particles, mold spores and bacteria, improving the air quality and help fight what multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), also known as, sick building syndrome (SBS). This environmental illness phenomenon is associated with buildings built after 1970. It’s not very well understood, but appears to occur mostly in open-plan office type buildings that are heavily occupied, like schools and libraries etc.

Many homes may also be affected by SBS as well. These buildings commonly have low humidity, poor ventilation; temperature changes mixed with air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate indoor air quality. For guidance on SBS, your local health department’s environmental health and safety office is a good reference.

The constant intake and release of air helps to regulate currents throughout your living space. For optimum air purifying results, experts suggest placing two or three plants in each average-sized room. Placing these plants strategically throughout your space helps to balance out the air, and provide your ideal air current.

Furthermore, since plants emit water vapor as a part of their photosynthesis, growing plants inside your home will help maintain humidity levels during cold and dry winter months. NASA says the Areca Palmis is the number one plant for removing airborne toxins. The highest rated plant to eliminate odors is the Purple Waffle Plant. These plants can help improve physical and psychological health.

Cool Houseplants for Better Breathing

Just like everyone has preferences for a chaise lounge or sofa bed, not all plants will capture the look you might want to add in your home. Luckily, nature offers a variety of plants that not only look beautiful, but pack amazing air improvement qualities. From vibrant green vines, to the sweet-smelling pop of a freshly bloomed flower, these plant varieties will please your eyes as much as your health.

Below are several beautiful plants that NASA recommends as best for cleaning the air:

  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – A resilient, flowering perennial.
  • Pot Mum or Florist’s Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) –Called “mums” Colorful flowering indoor/outdoor plants. Native to Asia and Northeastern Europe.
  • Azalea (Rhododendron simsii) – The South’s most popular evergreen
  • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifritzii) — Known as a Reed Palm. Likes shade, produces berries and flowers.
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) — Easy to care for evergreen produces flowers and berries.
  • English ivy (hedera helix) — Good to have around pets that aren’t potty trained, as it removes fecal matter.
  • Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii) — It’s linked to the sunflower, filters trichlorocthylene, which you may bring home with your dry-cleaning.
  • Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’) — Most popular indoor plant. Grows in low light, dry environment.
  • Snake plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria laurentii) — Best plant for filtering out Formaldehyde.
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’) — This plant tops NASA’s list for removing formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
  • Warneckii (Dracaena ‘Warneckii’) — Combats pollutants such as varnishes and oils.
  • Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis) — This plant helps clear formaldehyde and benzene from the air. It also helps to heal cuts and burns.
  • Devils Ivy (Golden Pothos) — This plant can be used in a garage to help clean car exhaust, which contains highest amount of formaldehyde. This plant also will stay green in the dark.
  • Red-edged dracaena or Marginata (Dracaena marginata) — This plant is toxic to dogs and cats, but is low maintenance and easy to grow.

Having trouble choosing which indoor plant is right for you? To help you decide, visit Ambius the world’s largest interior landscaping company, for recommendations based on the type of environmental space you have.

Remember, you are not limited to just purifying the air. There are all kinds of beautiful and healthy plants that can be grown indoors.

Adding plants with their intoxicating scents, aromas and flavors that are environmentally friendly will improve your home décor, air quality, and you can even enjoy the fruits of your labor for a healthier you.

Additional Links


  • Ethnobotany, by Alderleaf Wilderness College. This is a study using plants as medicines and food. A healthy alternative to processed foods and pharmaceuticals.


  • “The Houseplant Encyclopedia,” by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Kruger list the care of over 1000 indoor plant varieties. Hardcover-$37.80, Paperback-$22.95, ISBN-13.978-1-55437-140, ISBN-10.55407-140. Must be purchased.
  • “How to Grow Fresh Air,”by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, a noted NASA Scientist. This book list over 50 best plants for purifying your home. Paperback-$13.99, ISBN-0-14-02.62431. Must be purchased.


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