Did you know that your humble green house plant may be a powerful source of clean indoor air? Based on preliminary evaluations of the use of common indoor plants for indoor air purification, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) funded a study of popular varieties of ornamental plants to determine their effectiveness in removing several key pollutants associated with indoor air pollution.

The NASA research study concluded that “plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals from indoor air.”  The study focused on the following common chemicals: Formaldehyde (sources include foam insulation, plywood or particle board, carpeting, furniture, paper products, cleaners), Benzene (sources include tobacco smoke, petroleum products, synthetic fibers, plastics, inks and dyes, rubber products, detergents) and Trichloroethylene (sources include Dry Cleaning, Inks & Dyes, Adhesives, Varnishes, Lacquers & Paints).

The researchers evaluated the house plants using four criteria: (1) removal of chemical vapors; (2) ease of growth and maintenance; (3) resistance to insect infestation; and (4) transpiration rates.

Each plant type was placed in sealed, plexiglass chambers in which chemicals were injected. Philodendron, Spider plant and the Golden pothos were labeled as the most effective in removing formaldehyde. Flowering plants such as the Gerbera daisy and Chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere.

Other plants demonstrated to be effective air purifiers include the Bamboo palm, Peace lily, Ficus, Dracaena massangeana cane, Mother-in-Law’s tongue (Sanseveria), English Ivy and Chinese evergreen species.

Researchers suggest the following common houseplants are most effective in removing VOCs in energy efficient, non-ventilated buildings.

  1. Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  2. Lady palm (Rhapis excels)
  3. Bamboo palm(Chamaedorea seifrizii)
  4. Rubber plant (Ficus robusta)
  5. Dracaena “Janet Craig”  (Dracaena deremensis)
  6. English ivy (Hedera helix)
  7. Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelinii)
  8. Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
  9. Boston fern (Nephrolepis exalta “Bostoniensis”)
  10. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Along with an advanced indoor air purification system like Air Scrubber Plus, plants are a great addition to a healthy home, so be sure to bring this shopping list with you to Home Depot or your nearby nursery and start breathing easier when you get back home!