Recently, my asthmatic child has been wheezing a lot. My pediatrician told me to look into houseplants that air quality improving traits. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Is it true that there are indoor plants that can improve air quality? If so, which houseplants do that? Are they hard to grow and maintain? I’m not really a person with a green thumb.
There are quite a few houseplants that improve indoor air quality. Actually, NASA did a study about it, and they discovered that organic chemicals removed by some houseplants were common toxins found inside of our houses every day. When my elderly mother was having some issues after bronchitis, we put some air quality improving houseplants that were on the list that NASA came up with, and they seemed to help her a lot with her wheezing. I did quite a bit of research on the matter when I heard about the NASA list, and I found a lot of information on the plants on the list I’ve given below.
Removing organic chemicals from the air
Plants absorb gases through the pores that are on the surface of their leaves. It is the quality of plants that facilitates photosynthesis. Plants can absorb some cancer-causing VOC’s short for, volatile organic compound that is found in the air, such as benzene (which is found in cigarette smoke, plastics, fabric) and formaldehyde (which is found in cosmetics, detergent, carpet cleaners).
Plants also absorb harmful ozone. There is also evidence that soil microorganisms play a part in ridding the air from VOC’s and toxins.
VOC’s and toxins contribute to conditions like asthma and chronic nausea. Other links that have been made to VOC’s are cancer and respiratory illness.
However, while houseplants may improve air quality a great deal, it is not enough to compare to an air filtration system, and it certainly isn’t enough to cure any chronic illness that a person may be suffering from.
Basically, although regular houseplants have the capabilities to serve as filters for many different toxins and wastes, they just aren’t powerful enough to filter out the variety of things that we bring in and out of our houses every day.
Even an entire room full of houseplants probably isn’t going to be able to make a very discernable difference to our air quality, but houseplants make us feel good in many different ways.
The benefits of growing houseplants
With the increased moisture in your home from your houseplants constantly giving off and taking in moisture, that is probably a large part of why having houseplants can make people feel as though they are able to breathe more easily with their plants inside.
Although there is no evidence that houseplants clean enough toxins and VOC’s from the air in our homes to make a huge impact on the air quality, it certainly cannot be a negative side effect to having houseplants.
If you feel as though your houseplants help you with your chronic conditions, by all means, grow the houseplants you have, and add a couple more to your collection.
Not only are they a beautiful addition to your decor, but they are also certainly removing some toxins, and working hard to keep your air quality nice and fresh for everyone inside your home.
Tropical houseplants have been shown to reduce the VOC’s (remember VOS’s are the bad stuff) and toxin levels most effectively, and there are many different tropical houseplants to choose from.
However, when taking care of tropical houseplants, moisture levels are imperative to their growth. Most tropical plants grow better and thrive if you have a humidifier running in the room that the tropical plants are in.
Due to the fact that most breathing conditions seem to lessen when those who are suffering with the condition run a humidifier, it makes sense that being around tropical houseplants would definitely make people with breathing conditions start to feel better.
Try growing a few tropical houseplants with a humidifier running and see if it helps those with chronic breathing problems. It could help.
Now let's get into the list of houseplants that gets rid of these VOC's in the air!
The Peace Lily is widely known as a very easy plant to care for. It is a pretty evergreen colored plant that requires very little light or water to remain healthy.
However, you don’t ever want to put it in direct sunlight, because the sun rays will cause leaf burn. The Peace Lily is actually great ground cover for the shady areas outside and around your home, but can easily grow indoors as well.
In the NASA analysis, it was revealed that the Peace Lily is one of the most efficient houseplants at removing volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. VOC’s like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene can aggravate breathing issues.
Be aware if you have pets or small children that the Peace Lily is toxic to humans and animals, causing nausea and a burning sensation to mouth or skin, so make sure you keep your toddlers and animals away from your Peace Lily plants.
Otherwise known as the Florists Daisy or the Hardy Garden Mum, the Florists Chrysanthemum loves direct sunlight and a medium level of watering.
With lots of pretty blooms, the Florists Chrysanthemum comes in various colors and makes a very pretty indoor addition.
This plant is very toxic to pets, though, so if they ingest even a small amount, you will need to contact your veterinarian immediately.
Also called the Golden Pothos, this plant is native to the Solomon Islands, but it now grows all over the world. With evergreen vines and small, heart-shaped green leaves that are marbled with yellow and white hues, it is a popular hanging basket plant.
This is an extremely easy houseplant to care for, but is also very toxic to pets, so seek vet care immediately if you discover that your pet has ingested it.
Red Edged Dracaena
Otherwise known as Pleomele, Red Edged Dracaena, this upright evergreen shrub produces narrow green, yellow, or cream-colored leaves. When this plant reaches maturity, it will first bloom small white flowers, which is shortly followed by orangish-red berries.
This is an extremely low maintenance houseplant, fit for someone who is new to plants. All that the Red Edged Dracaena needs to thrive is, indirect sunlight and moist soil, and it will be a healthy addition to the air quality in your home.
Sansevieria, Snake Plant
The Snake Plant, or Mother In Laws Tongue, is another great houseplant for a first-timer to grow. NASA studies have shown it to be one of the top toxin removing plants in relation to indoor air quality, so it is definitely a good idea to have this easily maintained plant in your home.
The Snake Plant is an evergreen perennial plant native to Western Africa, but now it grows all over the world. As long as the Snake Plant gets plenty of bright light, and it isn’t overwatered, it will thrive in your home.
However, if it is overwatered, or it is in a pot without proper drainage, it will suffer from root rot, which can kill your plant. It is a great starter plant for beginners and a nice easy air quality addition to your home.
Rhapis Excelsa, Lady Palm
The Lady Palm, otherwise called the Broad Leaf Lady Palm, has a maximum height of six feet when it is at full maturation, so this palm makes a great plant for a dark corner of your home.
The Lady Palm can tolerate low levels of light, high water amounts, and wide temperature ranges, so it really makes a nice starter houseplant. The Lady Palm needs to have moist soil, but don’t overwater it and make sure your pot has good drainage because the Lady Palm is prone to root rot.
This is a plant that is native to Asia, and it will grow well and thrive both indoors and outdoors.
Anthurium, Flamingo Lily
The Flamingo Lily is also called the Laceleaf plant. This is another of the NASA clean air study winners, although the Flamingo Lily is not easy to grow like some of the other clean air study winners are.
You will definitely need a green thumb in order to get the Flamingo Lily to thrive in your home, but you may find some success if you keep it in a room with a humidifier running.
The Flamingo Lily also needs a lot of indirect light. The Flamingo Lily is incredibly toxic when ingested by both animals and humans alike, and it will cause difficulty in swallowing, so veterinary or medical care for a child will need to be obtained immediately if they ingest the Flamingo Lily.
The English Ivy, or European Ivy, can not only help to filter airborne toxins in your home, but it can also help reduce mold growth inside of your home, which has been known to contribute to breathing problems.
This evergreen climbing vine is extremely popular in outdoor landscaping and is often used as a ground cover in areas where grass doesn’t grow. However, it spreads in such an aggressive manner, it should only be kept as an indoor plant.
English Ivy is another great first-time plant for a beginner because of its’ easy care. A constant temperature, plenty of direct sunlight, well-drained soil that is watered often, and you will have a thriving English Ivy plant.
The Barberton Daisy is a plant that is native to East Africa, but it grows essentially everywhere at this point, with the proper care. The Barberton Daisy was used mainly in outdoor landscaping, but recently they’ve become popular indoor container plants.
The Barberton Daisy needs full sun, plenty of water, and well-drained soil. The Barberton Daisy can withstand wide temperature ranges, but it will not do well without a natural light source.
This is a houseplant that is also on the NASA clean indoor air list, so having a couple of Barberton Daisies in containers in your home is a great idea.
Ficus Benjamina, Weeping Fig
The Weeping Fig is commonly known as the Ficus Tree and has been a popular houseplant for quite some time. The Weeping Fig is another NASA top VOC cleaner houseplant, but it isn’t an easy to grow plant for a first-timer. The Weeping Fig needs plenty of bright, indirect, natural light, but you cannot allow it to be in direct sun, or the leaves will burn.
The Weeping Fig needs to be watered frequently, but you cannot allow the soil to become too heavily moist, or the Weeping Fig can develop root rot.
The Weeping Fig needs a fair amount of humidity and would do well to have a room with a humidifier in it to ensure the plant received enough moisture and isn’t in sitting water to induce root rot. It is also toxic to animals, and veterinary care should be sought if your animals ingest this plant.
So how does this all work?
When a plant mitigates any form of pollution, be it air, water, or soil pollution, that process is called phytoremediation. It’s a bioremediation process that has been used scientifically to scrub contaminants from groundwater supplies.
Plants actually have several fairly complex ways to rid themselves and the areas around them of wastes, toxins, and contaminants. When roots absorb the toxins, that process is known as phytoaccumulation.
Even more interesting, some plants can absorb metals and the metals actually store in the leaves and plant shoots.
In these cases plants have absorbed such poisons and heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic and copper. In a process called phytodegradation, plants metabolize and destroy contaminants that are within the plants own tissues.
Poplar trees are commonly used in waste removal by phytoremediation, but we can’t grow a forest of poplar trees inside of our homes.
However, our houseplants certainly do make us feel better by upping our level of happiness, and that is definitely good for us. Let’s not forget that old trick that our houseplants have been doing for us, which is turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
So, if we think about it logically at the very least our houseplants are serving us fresh oxygen levels to enjoy when they’re inside, and that can’t be a bad thing.