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A very interesting study conducted in the 1980’s concluded that there are certain house plants that actually help purify the air. The study was directed by NASA in an attempt to help keep the air purified on extended space expeditions.

Top Plants to Purify the Air

A very interesting study conducted in the 1980’s concluded that there are certain house plants that actually help purify the air.  The study was directed by NASA in an attempt to help keep the air purified on extended space expeditions; the results were rather amazing that the plants not only were beneficial for use in space but also in our homes. 

Having learned this information my thoughts went back to my childhood; my mother always had an extra green thumb and we always had house plants in almost every room of the house.  I am one of five children that grew up in that household and none of us ever had allergies, seldom had colds or flu and it makes me wonder now if, in fact, it was the plants that were the saving grace that helped prevent those things. 


Here is a list of plants that help purify the air in your house; they aren’t just decorative but they serve a great purpose.  We’ve all heard of “sick buildings” where pollutants get trapped and can cause people to get sick; many houseplants, which turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, can actually help make a “sick building” cleaner and healthier. 

The plants that are recommended can be found at nearly all local nurseries. 

1.    Spider plant
2.    Weeping fig plant
3.    Chinese evergreen
4.    English ivy
5.    Peace lily
6.    Philodendron
7.    Golden pothos
8.    Bamboo or reed palm
9.    Elephant ear philodendron
10.    Snake plant
11.    Red-edged dracaena
12.    Dracaena
13.    Philodendron
14.    Janet Craig dracaena
15.    Dracaena deremensis

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

                                                                                                                                                                       

It is recommended that for a house that is two thousand square feet you should have 15 plants of these varieties to help in improving the quality of air in your house.  It is best that they are grown in pots that are six inches or larger. 

How Do Plants Purify Air

Houseplants are very efficient in capturing light; this means they are also very good at processing the necessary elements for photosynthesis.  What all that means is houseplants can potentially absorb other types of gases which can be harmful. 

The NASA study singled out three certain chemicals; Benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.  They tested these chemicals because formaldehyde can be found in building materials like particle board and some types of insulations such as foam.  Some cleaning materials have benzene and are found in paints and solvents.  Paints, ink, and varnishes have trichloroethylene in them.  These are all products that can be found in our homes and offices that can cause us to become sick.  When having these certain types of houseplants in your home or office you can greatly reduce the risk of having a “sick house” or “sick building”.  The study showed that there were some plants that were better than others in removing or absorbing the harmful chemicals, but all the plants had elements that are very helpful in improving the quality of air inside your house or building. 

It was found that some of the plants were better at absorbing certain contaminates than others; gerbera daisies, peace lily, mother-in-laws’s tongue, and English ivy were found to treat the air better if it were contaminated with benzene.  To treat the air for contaminates of trichloroethylene it was found that the best plants were bamboo palm, the peace lily, and gerbera daisies.  To treat contaminated air with formaldehyde it was found that mother-in-laws’s tongue, bamboo palm, spider plant, golden pathos, and dracaena marginata were best for purifying the air with these plants. 

More Than Just Decoration

We all learned at one time or another in school about photosynthesis and how plant are essential for absorbing carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen; I guess we just never really got it and applied that to our everyday houseplants.  I didn’t inherit my mother’s green thumb; in fact, all attempts I’ve made in having houseplants have all ended in failure.  I came to the conclusion that I could probably kill plastic plants so I gave up trying.  Now I’m thinking I might be wise enough to give it another shot; it’s well worth the try.

For those of you whom might be like me and don’t have the natural ability to grow anything except mold on bread, there are some very informative websites you can search the Internet for and hundreds of books that will help you to grow and maintain houseplants with success. 

It’s important to remember and make a list of the plants that are most beneficial; take your list to your local nursery and let them help you pick out your plants.  They might even offer some very good advice as to how to keep them healthy, what kind of light they need, and how much to water them.  My problem, it seemed, was that I would over-water my plants; that’s just as bad as not watering them, as I found out.  The soil you use makes a big difference as well and plants need to be fed; makes sense, now but back then I thought all I had to do was water them and let them grow. 

Certainly you shouldn’t just run out and start buying plants; you need to educate yourself on the dos and don’ts of keeping your houseplants healthy.  Then you need to figure out, according to the size of your house or apartment, how many of these plants you need to help purify the air in your home.  I really don’t think having too many is a problem but if you live in a small house or apartment, it may begin to look like a jungle; so determine how may houseplants will be sufficient for your home and then begin your houseplant project. 


I’m thinking I will start slow and buy a few to begin with; making sure I can keep them alive long enough to not only look pretty but help to purify the air in my home.  I should probably call my mother; she knows everything there is about plants and I’m sure she can give me some very good advice. 

  • www.cleanairgardening.com/houseplants.html
  • www.care2.com/greenliving/top-ten-houseplants-for-cleaner-air.html#