Choosing the right air purifying plants for your home can detoxify the air in your living spaces, meaning your houseplants not only look lovely but work a little harder to clean the air you breathe in.

NASA’s Clean Air Study found that there are a number of air purifying plants that can detoxify your home from the airborne toxins, dusts and germs that can be found in a variety of household products, materials and furniture.

To give your home a healthy breath of fresh air, here’s our list of the best air purifying plants and where to keep them…

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Contents

1. Barberton Daisy

As well as injecting a cheerful burst of red, yellow, orange or pink into your home, the Barberton daisy is an effective cleanser of the toxins formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene, found in a range of household materials from paints to synthetic fibres.

Care advice: Place the plant in a room with plenty of natural light and keep the soil moist but well-drained.

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2. English Ivy

This easy-growing perennial vine is particularly effective at reducing airborne faecal particles which makes it the perfect air purifier for your bathroom or en suite. In addition, studies have shown that the ivy can also help combat mould levels in the home.

Care advice: Provide your English ivy with generous watering and four hours of direct sunlight a day, and it will return the love to you with clean, detoxified air.

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3. Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

With this plant in your bedroom, you’re in for a great night’s sleep. Also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, this yellow-tipped succulent releases oxygen at night, helping you to breathe better while sleeping. It is one of the best plants for filtering the air of formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.

Care advice: Be mindful not to overwater, as the roots are prone to rot in moist soil.

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4. Chrysanthemum

Brighten up your kitchen or living room with a chrysanthemum. These pretty blooms help to filter out a host of toxins including ammonia and benzene, which is often found in plastics, detergents, and glue.

Care advice: This plant loves sunlight, so place it in a spot near a sunbathed window.

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5. Spider Plant

For those of you who are houseplant newbies, the resilient spider plant is the perfect choice. It will quietly battle toxins including carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the printing and rubber industries. If you have pets, this is one of the few houseplants that is non-toxic to animals.

Care advice: You can also repot the tiny ‘spiderettes’ and grow a whole family of plants that will pretty much take care of themselves… and you.

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6. Aloe Vera

A healing aloe plant is a lovely addition to your kitchen windowsill, as it loves a sunny spot. While being on hand to soothe any kitchen burns, this succulent will be purifying the air of formaldehyde and benzene, found in varnishes, floor finishes, and detergents.

Care advice: This plant will thrive in a sunny location.

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7. Broad Lady Palm

This is one of the few plants that can help reduce levels of ammonia that can be found in a range of cleaning products. They are expensive to buy fully-grown so you might want to shop around for a smaller one or start from seed.

Care advice: Humidity-loving, this plant will be very happy in your bathroom.

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8. Red-edged Dracaena or Dragon Tree

Trichloroethylene and xylene are amongst the pollutants fought by this spiky, slow-growing plant. The leaves have a bright red trim which add a flash of colour to your home.

Care advice: This plant has the potential to grow to 8ft, so keep it in a room with high ceilings and reasonable sunlight.

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9. Weeping Fig

Popular houseplants since the Victorian times, weeping figs can help to tackle levels of formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Care advice: They are fairly fussy plants that don’t like change. Keep your weeping fig in bright, indirect light away from drafts, and it will be a trusty purifier for many years to come.

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10. Chinese Evergreen

This tropical plant is proven to be an effective cleanser of formaldehyde and benzene, found in detergents and cosmetics.

Care advice: The Chinese evergreen enjoys low-lit and humid conditions, so will thrive in your bathroom. If you choose to keep the plant somewhere else, remember to mist the leaves occasionally to prevent browning.

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His 1989 report announced a cheerful answer. Plants were “a promising, economical solution to indoor air pollution,” it declared. “If man is to move into closed environments, on Earth or in space, he must take along nature’s life support system.” The report—jointly funded by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, a trade group—was picked up by the media. The idea gained even more currency in 1996, when Wolverton published How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office. (Wolverton did not respond to a request for comment.)

That study provides the scientific basis for almost all the plant-and-air-pollution content you see online. “I’ve seen it on so many pop internet sites—‘researchers from NASA’ is the common phrase you see,” Waring, the Drexel professor, said. He told me that there’s nothing especially wrong with Wolverton’s 1989 study. Its results “fall right in line with other stuff that’s been measured in the literature.”

But taking its results at face value significantly overstates the power of plants, he said. Wolverton measured whether houseplants could remove VOCs from an airtight laboratory environment. But a home is not a hermetic chamber. It has open windows and doors, drafts and leaks, and much more clutter.

Recently, Waring and his colleagues reanalyzed all 195 studies that have examined whether houseplants can filter the air. They found that some types of plants can remove higher amounts of VOCs than others. But once you factor in the effects of working in a large room, none of the plants are able to do much.

Waring told me to imagine a small office, 10 feet by 10 feet by eight feet. “You would have to put 1,000 plants in that office to have the same air-cleaning capacity of just changing over the air once per hour, which is the typical air-exchange rate in an office ventilation system,” he said. That’s 10 plants per square foot of floor space. Even if you chose the most effective type of VOC-filtering plant, you would still need one plant per square foot, Waring said.

Or as Waring (who owns 10 to 20 houseplants) recently put it in a presentation for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine:

Michael Waring

But maybe scientists have been researching the wrong pollutant. Several years ago, a team of researchers examined whether houseplants could remove ground-level ozone. Ozone’s effects are often described as “sunburn inside your lungs,” and can cause painful breathing, asthma attacks, and even the chronic lung disease COPD.

More than 107 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy amounts of ozone, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, houseplants can’t do much about that, either. The researchers found that even the most effective plants barely reduced the level of ozone in indoor spaces. “If ozone levels were 30 parts per billion in your home, then you might reduce them to like 29.7 parts per billion,” said Gall, the Portland State professor and a co-author of the study. (He owns no houseplants. “When I did a postdoc in Singapore, we had two big houseplants we were excited about and loved, but then we had ant problems for the next two years,” he said.)

Air-Purifying Houseplants

Without proper ventilation, it doesn’t take long for indoor pollutants to build up to unhealthy levels. Here are some of the best air-purifying houseplants that can clean the air in your home!

Indoor pollutants come in two major varieties—particulates such as dust, mold spores, and pollen, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases that are released from paints, fabrics, wallpaper, carpeting, plastics, and solvents commonly found in most homes. Even household chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, detergents, furniture polish, carpet cleaners, and moth balls give off harmful gases. Mechanical or electrostatic filters can be effective in trapping particulates, but unless we remove the source, airborne chemicals are difficult to eliminate entirely.

Clean the air with houseplants

We all know that basic bit of botany: plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis. Outdoors, tree planting makes use of that concept to atone for the effects of air pollution, but what about our indoor air quality?

Years ago, NASA studied ways to provide fresh air in enclosed spaces and tested 19 different species of plants to see if they would be effective at cleaning the air. They found that in just 24 hours, up to 87% of the formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene was removed from the air by the leaves and roots of the plants, while oxygen was returned to the room.

The best news is that the most effective toxic avengers are common, low-light houseplants!

Best air-purifying Houseplants

Some of the best plants for indoor air cleaning are:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix) is a popular, hardy plant that is easy to grow. It removes most pollutants. It is not fussy about light and can survive sun to shade. Ivy doesn’t like high temperatures and prefers to stay cool. Keep moist and spray the leaves weekly to discourage spider mites.


English ivy

  • The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) is a beautiful plant with a lovely white flower which thrives nicely in average indoor temperatures. Peace lilies are known to clean the air of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde. Keep moist in a semi-shady location.


Peace lily flower

  • Varigated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trivasciata), also called “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue,” is very easy to grow. Water heavily then let it dry out before watering again. It can survive any location from sun to shade.


Snake plant (this 35-year-old Mother-in-Law’s Tongue actually did come from a mother-in-law).

  • Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are very easy to grow. Keep moist in a semi-sunny to shady spot and it will thrive.


Spider plants

  • Bromeliads win a gold star for cleaning up most pollutants. They release oxygen and remove air pollutants at night while you sleep! These pretty plants with their bright flowers and green foliage do best with bright, indirect sunlight or fluorescent office lighting. This drought-tolerant plant doesn’t need much maintenance and will get root rot if you over-water or don’t provide good drainage.


Bromeliad

  • Dracaena like to be kept moist in a semi-sunny to shady location. Warneck, Janet Craig, red-edged, and cornstalk dracaenas have been rated the highest in removing air pollutants.
  • Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) likes bright indirect light, high humidity, and warm temperatures. Water when top of soil feels dry and mist the top regularly.
  • Rubber plants tolerate dim light and cool temperatures and remove air toxins from any indoor environment.
  • Golden pothos or “Devil’s ivy” likes a warm location in bright, indirect light. Let it dry out between waterings.
  • Areca palms Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, are beautiful, easy plants that remove all indoor air toxins.
  • Philodendrons are practically bullet-proof plants. They can take full sun to shade if watered regularly. Heart-leaf, Philodendron selloum, and elephant ear philodendrons are the best air cleaners.
  • If you would rather have flowering plants, two that fared well in the testing were Chrysanthemums and Gerbera daisies. They are effective at removing VOCs and produced blossoms too!
  • Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema) like warm temperatures and medium to low light conditions. Allow it to dry a bit between waterings. Keep out of drafts, which can cause the leaves to brown.
  • Reed or Bamboo Palms thrive in low light as long as it is kept evenly moist.
  • Other great air-purifying houseplants include Boston ferns, aloe vera, and bird of paradise.

No need to turn your home into a jungle, though: in a house with 8 to 9 foot high ceilings, only one or two plants per 100 square feet of floor space are recommended for maximum benefit. The roots and micro-organisims in the soil play as important a role as the leaves, so plants should be in 6 to 8 inch wide pots with the soil surface exposed to the air. Soaking up toxins seems to have no adverse effect on the plants studied. Research shows that they safely metabolize the compounds by breaking them down to harmless carbon, water, and salts.

We clean our homes of dirt so why not clean the air, especially if it is as easy as adding a few more houseplants.

See our Houseplants Care Guide on how to keep your houseplants happy and healthy—so that that they can keep your air healthier, in turn!

Houseplants have been going in and out of vogue ever since the early Greeks and Romans starting bringing their plants in from the outdoors. The Victorians loved their potted palms and the 70s wouldn’t have been the same without ferns and spider plants … everywhere. Current style dictates a lighter hand with the green things – sculptural stems and succulents rule the roost – but the truth is this: Houseplants should transcend trends. The benefits they confer should make us consider them a necessity rather than an object of décor, because honestly, good health should never be out of style. If you need convincing, here are some of the ways that bringing plants inside helps us out.

1. They give an assist in breathing

Inhaling brings oxygen into the body, exhaling releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants do the opposite, of sorts: They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making plants and people great partners when it comes to gasses. Plants help to increase oxygen levels, and our bodies appreciate that.

But here’s something to know: When photosynthesis stops at night, most plants switch things up and absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, a few special plants – like orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads – flip that script and take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Meaning, use these plants in bedrooms to keep the oxygen flowing at night.

2. They help deter illness

In the great outdoors, plant roots tap the groundwater table for water which then evaporates through its leaves in a process known as transpiration. Studies show that this accounts for about 10 percent of the moisture in the atmosphere! The same thing happens at home (minus the groundwater table part), which increases the humidity indoors. While this may sound unappealing during hot moist months, it’s a gift during drier months or if you live in an arid clime. According to Bayer Advanced, studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs. And other research reveals that higher absolute humidity is conducive for decreased survival and transmission of the flu virus.
/Public Domain

3. They clean the air

NASA has spent a lot of time researching air quality in sealed environments, which makes sense.Extensive researchby the space agency discovered a then-new concept in indoor air quality improvement in which plants play a pivtoal role: “Both plant leaves and roots are utilized in removing trace levels of toxic vapors from inside tightly sealed buildings. Low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone.” When talking about the relationship between plants and space travelers, NASA notes that plants, “provide nourishment for the body when eaten as food, and they improve the quality of indoor air. Plants take the carbon dioxide from air to produce oxygen that humans can breathe.”

The top 10 plants for removing indoor pollutants, according to the agency are: Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), golden pothos (Scindapsus aures), English ivy (Hedera helix), chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium), gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii), mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), bamboo palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii), azalea (Rhododendron simsii), red-edge dracaena (Dracaena marginata) and spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). For more on these specific plants, see: Houseplants that clean the air.

The NASA researchers recommend one potted plant per 100 square feet of indoor space.

4. They boost healing

Bringing flowers or a plant while visiting a hospital patient may be verging on cliché, but so effective are plants in helping surgery patients recover that one study recommends them as a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.” Plants as medicine! The study, conducted at Kansas State University, found that viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement in physiologic responses as evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms.

Another technique to decrease recovery time, as noted by Texas A&M University, is horticulture therapy in which patients are tasked with taking care of plants. The patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures.

5. They help you work better

What? How? A number of studies with both students and workers reveals that studying or working in the presence of plants can have a pretty dramatic effect. As with simply being in nature, being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity. Being “under the influence of plants” can increase memory retention up to 20 percent, according to a University of Michigan study.

Meanwhile, two Norwegian studies found that worker productivity is greatly enhanced by the presence of plants in the office. “Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration,” notes Texas A&M. “Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.”

To create your perfect green haven, it’s worthwhile spending a little bit of time researching the plants are best suited for each room and what kind of environment. Here are a few pointers:

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  • Choose the right plants for the an optimal night’s sleep. Although plants release oxygen during the day, it is worth remembering that, at night, when photosynthesis stops, most plants switch things up and release carbon dioxide. However plants such as orchids, succulents, snake plants and bromeliads do the opposite and emit oxygen, making them perfect plants for the bedroom (and getting better sleep).
  • Beware of too much sun. Most indoor plants don’t like direct midday sun, so please be wary of this when placing plants in your home. There are very obvious warning signs to look out for, such as leaf burn, spotting or sudden leaf-fall. Most plants can be easily rescued, so don’t panic! Often it is a case of not watering them too much, or letting the soil dry out a bit if it is feeling too soggy. Check if your plant is sitting by a cold draft as this can case the leaves to curl and eventually drop off. Organic fertilizers are a great way to revive your plants.
  • Plants are inexpensive way to jazz up even the most boring rooms. Plants are an easy and gorgeous way to style up your living space. Adorn your windowsills with succulents, drape vibrant macramé hangers from curtain rails or try something big and bold like the gorgeous fiddle leaf fig. You can also have fun with the pots, and display your plants in beautiful ceramic and copper containers. Owning plants doesn’t have to be expensive: just take a cutting from a friend’s plant or from your local plant shop, and propagate your plant from scratch.
  • Some plants like it hot. Knowing what plants are best for what room is crucial when it comes to plant styling: the bathroom is perfect for air plants and kokedama (Japanese hanging moss ball), as the excess moisture from your daily shower helps those particular plants flourish. If you’re lucky enough to have a sunroom or a super hot room, then fill it with ferns, palms, succulents and cacti as they will love the heat.

Just one plant can instantly transform your living space. Leonie Freeman / Hardie Grant Books

A Beginner’s Guide to Decorating With Plants

If you are new to gardening, here is a selection of plants that will suit you perfectly. All will provide you with lots of greenery, are easy to look after and reasonably priced.

  • Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant): It is fairly inexpensive to buy a 12 inch Monstera and it grows quickly, so you could get some easy height and beautiful leaves in under 3 months.
  • Epipremnum aureum (golden pothos or devil’s ivy): This is a great group of plants to get started with as they are relatively low maintenance. The trailing varieties sprout new leaves regularly and are great in a hanging planter such as a macramé hanger. However, they are toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Hedera (ivy): Ivy is almost indestructible and has a good telltale sign when it needs watering as the leaves will look limp and soft.
  • Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant): These are great low maintenance plants, which need watering from the bottom perhaps once a week and a misting every now and then. They sprout babies regularly, off the end of their leaves, that are easy to propagate; you will be inundated with baby plants, which you can then share with friends and family.

Succulents are perfect for beginners or people with brown thumbs (we’re not judging!). Leonie Freeman / Hardie Grant Books

Don’t Have a Green Thumb? Start With These Plants

  1. Start with an easy plant such as a cactus or succulent. Many people think succulents and cacti are the same thing, as most cacti are classed as succulents. However, although the majority of cacti are also succulents, there are many other succulent plants that are not cacti. The main difference is that cacti always have bumps called areoles from which hair or spikes grow, whereas other kinds of succulents do not.
  2. Cacti can surprise you. One of the wonderful things about cacti is that they will tolerate your terrible behavior for years and years, and then they will surprise you with flowers when they get growing again. It is a myth that cacti only flower once in a blue moon: nearly half of all healthy cacti will produce flowers by their third year if cared for correctly. Cacti flower on new growth, which is promoted by caring for them throughout the summer and neglecting them in the winter. Also, flowering is often stimulated when the plant is pot-bound (where the roots completely fill the pot). For people new to keeping house plants, this is a great plant group to get started on, as they only require a light misting of water every so often.
  3. Succulents are perfect first plants. They’re low maintenance, easy to propagate and suited to most homes. They are best placed on the windowsill where they can get the most sunlight. Identifying a succulent is pretty straightforward, as they have thick, fleshy leaves or stems. Many types are a rosette shape and have tightly packed leaves, which help to conserve water in their natural habitat. You could simply start with an Echeveria and Sempervivum (houseleek) collection as they can provide an interesting group without any other plants and there are lots of varieties to collect.
  4. Never overwater. Most people kill their houseplants by pouring water down the center of the plant, giving the plant much more water than it needs, and then the water has nowhere to go so it then sits in the plant. Excess stagnant water then causes root rot, which causes the plant to die. Either water from the bottom using a saucer if the plant pot has drainage or mist regularly with an atomizer, which helps to increase the humidity around your plant and keeps your plant happy!

Why You Need Plants in Your Life

Indoor plants don’t just look good, they make us feel good mentally and physically, too.
Studies have shown indoor plants:
  • Boost mood, productivity, concentration and creativity
  • Reduce stress, fatigue, sore throats and colds
  • Clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity and producing oxygen
  • Add life to a sterile office, give privacy and reduce noise levels
  • Are therapeutic and cheaper than a therapist

It’s true when we say plants make people happy.

Plants Against Pollution

Pollution levels on the planet earth are on the rise. If you live in a busy, dense city, you encounter pollution everyday. It wreaks havoc on our skin, our hair and most of all, the air we breathe. Pollution is not just outside. It’s in the places we call ‘work’ and ‘home’.

Sick Building Syndrome is a term used to describe symptoms experienced by otherwise healthy people working in large commercial buildings — think sudden allergies; irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headache, dizziness, and fatigue; respiratory and sinus congestion; and nervous system disorders. In 1989, Dr. Bill Wolverton, a leading scientist in NASA’s Clean Air Study revealed, “when the building occupants are away for a given time, the symptoms usually diminish, only to recur upon re-entry into the building.”

The cause? Indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution is generally a consequence of toxic emissions from synthetic building materials, airborne mold, viruses, and pollutants, along with energy efficient construction, like making spaces as airtight as possible, which reduces the air circulation. These contributors release toxin emissions such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.

Gross, right?

It’s not just big commercial buildings either. These compounds can be found in almost every home. Not great news when the Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.

Most wall paints, rubbers, vinyl, laminates, computer parts and plastics all break down over time and release compounds into the air we breathe. The good news is, we can improve our indoor air quality with plants. Plants absorb harmful toxins, breaking them down into gentle byproducts, and storing them in their soil to use later for food.

Back to Nature

When you feel a little low, it’s amazing how a walk in the park can do wonders. That’s because when we get in touch with nature, we reduce mental fatigue and stress, while increasing relaxation and self-esteem. Even brief exposure to nature has been shown to make us more altruistic and cooperative. This study shows touching real foliage elicits an unconscious calming effect. Other studies like the lean vs green study show where indoor plants are present, work performance increases, staff well-being improves and employees take less sick days.

We are only beginning to understand the impact indoor air quality has on our mental health and work performance, but so far, the introduction of indoor plants to improve indoor air and reduce pollution points to positive outcomes.

Plants for Purification

Here are some of our favorite air-purifying plants,

Snake Plant

This no-fuss tropical plant has thin, upright leaves with irregular banding that resembles the skin of a reptile. Its adaptations for surviving drought make it a suitable plant choice for anyone, anywhere. Snake Plants have been shown to filter benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.

Pothos

Nicknamed the “cubicle plant” at our office, the Pothos is our go-to for brown-thumbed customers with less than ideal conditions. Like the similar-looking Philodendron, the Pothos’s trailing vines can grow to over 10 feet long. The Pothos has been shown to filter benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

Rubber Plant

A popular houseplant, this variety of ficus has thick upright stems with glossy, oversized leaves that can store water in case of drought. They prefer bright to moderate indirect light. Rubber Plants have been shown to filter formaldehyde.

ZZ plant

A ZZ Plant is a spectacular choice for any low-light environment. They are extremely dry-tolerant and low maintenance. In addition, the plant meaning of ZZ is prosperity and friendship, making it a gift for the plant lover in your life.

Bird’s Nest Fern

The Bird’s Nest Fern is characterized by ripple-edged fronds that grow out of a nest-like crown. It makes for a lovely hanging plant indoor. They thrive in indirect light and a humid environment. Ferns have been shown to filter formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

Philodendron

In the right indoor conditions, the Philodendron’s heart-shaped leaves and trailing vines can trail to over 10 feet long, making it the perfect plant for a high shelf. Did we mention it has a reputation of being one of the easiest houseplants to grow? Philodendrons have been shown to filter formaldehyde.

With air-purifying in mind, we hope you’ll make any one of these plants an addition to your home or office.

Authors Note

When NASA needed a cheap, easy way to filter the air on space stations — they chose the most common houseplants at the time to test. Reporters then wrote about the NASA study, but misinterpreted it as ‘these are the only plants that filter the air’ instead of ‘all plants filter the air, but these are the only plants NASA had the time and budget to test’. We encourage you to bring all different varieties of plants into your living spaces to improve air quality.

For more information, check out NASA’s Clean Air Study and Dr. B.C. “Bill” Wolverton’s “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office”.

Keep growing your plant knowledge.

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Indoor and Built Environment: “The Effect of Indoor Foliage Plants on Health and Discomfort Symptoms among Office Workers.”

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: “Aloe vera.”

University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science: “The Many Uses and Types of Basil.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Lavender.”

5 surprising health benefits of having plants in your home

Kate Eales

Senior Director, National Head of Lettings

020 3468 0997 Send a message to
Kate

Plants can breathe life and colour into a property and make it feel more like a home. Certain varieties improve air quality and release a subtle, natural scent that beats any artificial air freshener. All of which can make your potential buyers or renters feel more comfortable and at home in your property.

Here are five ways in which houseplants can improve your health, along with a selection of plants for every room of your home.

Purify the air

Pollution levels are typically higher indoors than outdoors due to the mix of outdoor pollutants with indoor contaminants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted from furnishings, paints and even detergents. Opening windows and ensuring natural ventilation can help improve indoor air quality, but this isn’t always possible or appealing, particularly in winter.

A 1989 NASA study determined that household plants could help remove chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air and reduce “sick building syndrome”, and since then the evidence for the use of houseplants as air purifiers has increased. Some plants are particularly good at removing specific contaminants, for example, English ivy has been shown to reduce airborne mould by up to 78 per cent.

Increase concentration and productivity

Research has shown that people performed better at attention-based tasks when surrounded by plants. One study found that incorporating plants into a workspace could help improve productivity by up to 15 per cent. The theory is that when our attention shifts to the plants on our desk, it provides a micro-break from our computer screens that can help boost our concentration.

Relieve stress and anxiety

Being in nature has been proven to reduce stress levels and rejuvenate your body and mind. It may not be the same as walking through a forest but bringing plants into your home can help you relax at the end of a long day. The power of plants to clean the air also helps improve your overall health, enabling you to better deal with stress.

If you struggle with anxiety, lavender’s scent has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure and improve sleep. It’s commonly found in essential oils and room sprays, but a pot plant is just as good.

Boost your mood in winter

The dark cold winter months can be a taxing time, particularly if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Flowers and greenery can help perk you up and keep you positive. Winter jasmine is an indoor plant with a delectable scent and white flowers that come out during the winter months. The colourful orange flowers of the Goldfish Plant will brighten up gloomy winter days and remind you that spring is just around the corner.

Help you sleep

The amount and quality of sleep we get has a huge impact on our health. There are two ways in which plants can help you get a good night’s sleep: by purifying the air in your bedroom and by giving off a scent that helps you relax.

Plants such as snake plants, orchids and aloe vera give out oxygen at night to help you breathe better as well as absorbing toxins from the air. For a sweet smell to help you sleep, choose jasmine or lavender.

Pick the right plant for every room

Living rooms: peace lilies and philodendrons. The peace lily is a low-maintenance plant with an attractive white flower that absorbs indoor air pollutants. They can grow up to three feet tall with big, bold leaves. Philodendrons are another air purifier and with both vining and upright varieties, there’s lots of scope for incorporating them into your décor.

Bedrooms: orchids and snake plants. Most plants emit oxygen during the day when they’re photosynthesising, but when the sun goes down, they start to release carbon dioxide. Orchids and snake plants do the reverse and give out oxygen at night, which makes them perfect night-time companions.

Bathrooms: air plants and ferns. Bathrooms need plants that love moisture and heat and can cope with low light conditions. Air plants are virtually impossible to kill, don’t need soil and can get most of the water they need from the air in a moist environment. Boston ferns are a classic bathroom plant and thrive in the filtered light and moist air.

Hallways: dwarf kaffir lime trees. Say goodbye to chemical air fresheners and be greeted by a wonderful fresh smell every time you walk into your home. You can also use the leaves of the kaffir lime tree as an ingredient in Asian dishes.

Kitchens: aloe vera. Aloe vera has the dual benefits of being a healing plant and one that is almost impossible to kill. Rub the gel-filled interior of the leaves on scrapes and burns for an instant cooling effect.

Offices: Gerbera daisies and spider plants. Gerbera daisies will add a splash of colour to your office as well as helping to remove toxins from the air, particularly those associated with ink. If you’re not very green-fingered then spider plants are hard to kill and propagate readily – if you’re so inclined, you could end up surrounded by them.

Why have Plants?

People have always intuitively sensed that contact with plants and nature is a calming restorative tonic for body and soul.

Over the past 25 plus years, academics and scientists have researched houseplants to establish exactly why and how they are good for us, our home, our schools, our hospitals, our businesses and our environment as a whole and in doing so, they have established that plants:

  • Improve air quality and humidity levels;
  • Reduce stress;
  • Make people calmer and happier;
  • Reduce workplace negativity;
  • Reduce symptoms of discomfort and minor ailments;
  • Reduce absenteeism;
  • Speed up recovery from illness;
  • Improve concentration, productivity and creativity;
  • Save energy;
  • Absorb noise;
  • Increase shopper dwell time by half an hour when using in shopping malls.

As you can see, plants are valuable to us in so many ways. We want everyone to see how amazing plants are, so we we have launched a new campaign called ‘The Value of Plants’. Using findings from a range of studies, we have produced a series of infographics to show how plants help us in different settings, including educational, healthcare, home and workplace environments. In all these places, the greatest value plants have for us is the improvement of our well-being and mental health.

Breathe fresh air

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