Can Certain Plants Actually Purify the Air in Your Home?

Houseplants have been hyped for decades for their ability to purify the air. But is it really true? The short (and more confusing) answer: yes and no. A 1989 study by NASA found that common houseplants can improve air quality by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene and formaldehyde, from a sealed chamber. But an EPA review noted that because the sample size was limited, the results don't translate well to the real world: To achieve the same pollutant removal rate as in the test chamber, you’d need 680 plants in a 1,500-square-foot home!

Yet there's definitely some truth behind the theory that plants can remove hazardous substances from our homes. “All plants ‘clean’ the air to some extent as they take in air through their stomata,” says Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD, professor and extension urban horticulturalist with Washington State University. “However, there are no miracle plants. Plants vary by species when their stomata are open and if they can use the contaminants in the air.”

More recent research found that the level of VOCs reduced is influenced by the plant species, light intensity, and VOC concentration, too, so we're not sure what plants would work best and in what type of environment, for example. And plants also release other compounds, which may or may not be considered contaminants, says Chalker-Scott.

That being said, there’s actually a ton of research that says plants are good for us in other ways. They can boost mental health, may improve sleepreduce blood pressure, and help us feel less isolated. “While plants may metabolize certain pollutants in the air, whether they will improve air quality is unclear,” says Chalker-Scott. “Air purification, in my opinion, is a minor benefit. But their color, shape and smell create a peaceful environment.”

So, while we aren’t exactly sure how well houseplants purify the air, they do provide plenty of other benefits, including making us happier and our homes feel more cozy and welcoming. With that kind of evidence, why not add plants to every room? Here are our easy-care favorites, many of which were touted in the NASA study as air purifying plants:

1 Parlor Palm
parlor palm plant decorating black wooden dresser modern home decor
Many palms are somewhat fussy, but parlor palm has been a favorite since Victorian times for its easygoing personality. It has graceful, feathery fronds and will tolerate low light levels better than most other types of palms. Keep it lightly moist.
2 Aglaonema
aglaonema, aglaonema commutatum or pink aglaonema plant
Aglaonema comes in many different types and will add a splash of brilliant color to any room. It’s a super-tough plant that will tolerate less-than-ideal conditions. It does best in moderate light, but it will do just fine in low light, too. Keep it lightly moist.
3 Dracaena
bamboo plant dracaena sanderiana in white flower pot on room window sill on blurred city natural background close up selective focus copy space
Many different kinds of dracaena are available, with long, strappy leaves and pretty markings, but they all have strong upright forms. They prefer moderate light. Let dry out slightly between waterings.
4 Peace Lily
home plant, flowering peace lily or spathiphyllum on window sill at home
Peace lily is nearly indestructible! It has shiny green leaves and white spoon-shaped flowers with a light scent. It tolerates low light but will bloom better in bright light. Keep it lightly moist, not sopping.
5 Cast Iron Plant
unspecified   january 27 variegated bar room plant aspidistra variegata, asparagaceae photo by deagostinigetty images
If you have perpetual bad luck with plants, the aptly named cast iron plant is for you! Its long, dark-green strappy leaves tolerate almost any light level, including low light. Let it dry out slightly between waterings
6 Pothos
tropical epipremnum aureum marble queen pothos houseplant with white variegation in flower pot on wooden table
If you only own one plant, make it a hard-to-kill pothos. Give this vining beauty bright indirect light, and let it dry out between waterings. It will tolerate low light levels but won’t grow as quickly.

7 Money Tree
pachira in the room
The money tree has a unique form and shiny green leaves; several trunks often are braided together for visual interest. Give it bright light, and let it dry out a bit between waterings.

Post a Comment