In today’s eco-conscious world, we are learning that our indoor air quality isn’t always the healthiest. But rather than resorting to air filters, why not take a more natural approach and add a few houseplants to help add more oxygen to your environment while also filtering out toxins? As a bonus, the extra plants can improve your mental health as well.
Houseplants actually release oxygen during the day when there is natural light, through the process of photosynthesis. Although this process halts in the absence of light, having plants in your home can help to improve the air quality throughout the day.
So if you are thinking of adding a little greenery to your home to boost your air quality and oxygen levels, here are some of the best plants you can choose.
1 – Spider Plant
Let’s start off with one of the easiest plants to grow, even for someone with no green thumb experience. Indirect light, well-drained soil and a spot that doesn’t get too hot is all you need to keep a spider plant green and thriving. Though the spider plant does produce small white flowers, it’s more of a foliage plant, with bright green and yellow striped leaves.
Its long slim leaves look lovely in a hanging basket, and it will grow long tendrils with “baby” plant buds at the end. You can leave them alone, or snip them off to propagate new plants. Just press the root end of the plantlet into moist soil, and you’ll have a new spider plant in no time. If your spider plant grows too large, you can easily split them in two as well.
In terms of air quality, a spider plant will help add more oxygen and it’s also known to filter out carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene.
2 – Snake Plant
The snake plant is another striped foliage plant that can be a striking houseplant with bold upright leaves. It’s sometimes known as mother-in-law’s tongue, and there are a number of different species on the market for houseplants. Some will only grow about a foot high, but some can reach up to 3 feet tall.
It’s easy to care for, and will grow nicely in a sunny window or a spot that only has indirect light. You don’t even have to be all that regular watering it as it will do fine in dry soil. In fact, over-watering is one of the big problems with snake plants.
Snake plants are an excellent choice for any room in the house and will help remove formaldehyde from your air.
The plant will produce new sprouts from the underground rhizome, so it can outgrow a pot if you are not watching. Either cut away the developing sections or repot in a bigger container, until it’s as large as you want to manage.
3 – Peace Lily
What about an air-cleaning plant that has some flower to it? Peace lilies have large, elegant white blooms as well as abundant dark green leaves. They’re also easy to care for. As soon as it gives a little droop, you know it’s time to give it a drink (usually just once a week). They do best in indirect light, making them excellent for those rooms without a lot of sun. Your lily may only bloom once a year, in the spring, but if you give it a little extra fertilizer, you might get a second flowering in the fall too.
A peace lily will help filter out a wide mix of volatile organics from the air, like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and xylene.
Lilies are known to be toxic to pets, but the peace lily isn’t actually a true lily. It won’t taste very good if chewed on, and it might make a dog or cat froth at the mouth a bit but there is no drastic health risk there. If you’re concerned about the health of your pets around certain types of plants, check out our article about plants that are toxic to your pets.
4 – Pothos
If you have a certifiable black thumb, you should go with a pothos vine. They are extremely hardy houseplants that anyone can keep alive, and will produce large yellow and green leaves on trailing vines. Choose a spot that is sunny, but without too much direct light, or you can put up a pothos in a lower light area if that’s what works best. The variegated leaves will adjust in color to become greener if it’s in a shadier spot. Water occasionally but don’t worry if the soil dries out. Better a little too dry than too wet with a pothos plant.
Again, this is a good choice for cleaning up formaldehyde in the air, as well as adding clean oxygen to your environment. Got pets? Make sure you have your pothos in a hanging basket and well out of reach. It’s toxic if ingested or chewed.
5 – Weeping Fig
This one is more of a tree than the usual potted plant, and may not be the best choice for the novice indoor gardener. Also known as a ficus, these indoor trees are great air cleaners and they’ll help lower levels of trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde in your home. If you want something larger than your average houseplant, a ficus might fit the bill.
But you will have to give it a little more attention to keep it healthy and thriving, though once it’s established, a weeping fig isn’t any more work than other plants. They need consistent bright light that is not too direct and they will not do well in cool areas or parts of the house prone to drafts. High humidity also helps keep a ficus happy, and you can add that with misting or placing the plant on or near a shallow tray with stones in it. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should keep the soil wet because that won’t help at all.
Once you have the right location and care regimen in place, you can expect your air-scrubbing fig tree to stay healthy for many years.
6 – Philodendrons
Like the pothos vine, philodendrons are toxic and shouldn’t be kept if there is a chance that kids or pets will get at the plant. You can find various species of philodendron for houseplants, with the most common being the heartleaf variety. It’s a vine, much like the pothos but you can also get more upright types like the lacy leaf philodendron. They are super easy to grow and will help reduce formaldehyde and other VOCs in the air.
Whether you have a spot with great light or weak light, a philodendron will be fine as long as it doesn’t overheat. Give it a drink when the soil is dry to the touch.
7 – Aloe Vera
Our last air-cleaning plant is the aloe vera. It will target benzene and formaldehyde, and will grow well in any sunny window.
Aloe vera is a succulent, putting it in the same general family as cacti. They grow quite slowly and have thick fleshy spear-like leaves. Dry conditions are the best, so you should let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Give it a thorough soaking, and then just leave it alone until dry. They like a lot of sun too. Find a window that faces south if you can.
Another added benefit of having aloe vera around is that you can snip off a spear, and the clear gel inside is a wonderful (and natural) treatment for burns or minor cuts. Every home should have one.
8 – Chrysanthemum
I haven’t mentioned a lot of flowering plants yet, so here is one choice that brings a pop of blooming color as well as benzene-cleaning benefits. Chrysanthemums come in a range of bright colors, and will need some regular fertilizing to keep the flowers coming indoors. Give them a bright sunny spot, and keep them watered enough so the soil never dries right out. They don’t do well in cool temperatures, nor do they like too much heat. You might need to move your plants around a little to make sure you have that sweet spot for them.
Even if your mum doesn’t flower all the time, the leaves are where the air-purifying takes place anyway. As long as your plant has thriving foliage, it’s doing its job.
All These Chemicals
Before we wrap up, you might be wondering where all these exotic chemicals are coming from and whether or not they are likely to be in your home environment. Believe it or not, all of the toxins mentioned here are probably present in your home, possibly in high concentrations.
Formaldehyde is extremely common in the home, even though it is a known carcinogen. It is used in a number of adhesives, wood treatments (particle board and plywood especially), upholstery and can also be found in cigarette smoke. So it is released into the air from furniture, bedding, carpeting, paints, cleaning products, pesticides, clothing and more. In other words, it’s almost certainly in your air.
Other chemicals like benzene, toluene, and xylene are all varieties of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that come from sources like paints, adhesives, cleaning products, solvents, treated wood, smoking, dry cleaning and pesticides. Again, all things you find in the typical home.
Unless you are taking extreme care with every item that comes into your home, it’s almost guaranteed that you have some level of air quality problem. Well-chosen houseplants can make a difference, cleaning out the impurities as well as adding fresh healthy oxygen at the same time.