Tuesday, 10 April 2012 18:36

The Best Air Filtering Plants

Photo by Dora MeulmanEver walk into a home filled with plants, inhale deeply, and feel that bounce in the air?  Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but house plants can dramatically improve the air quality inside a home or an office.  What kind of plants are the best at cleaning the air?  It depends on what you mean by best, but according to an old NASA study and papers by Dr. Wolverton, peace lilies and pot mums are two of our universal chemical removers.  (Photo by Dora Meulman)

The most commonly cited source is this old NASA report titled Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, where controlled studies were performed on removal of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene by common house plants.  Dr. Wolverton later confirmed the study, and further focused on the removal of additional chemicals including xylene, toulene, and ammonia.  His results were later published in his papers and book, How To Grow Fresh Air.

The following condensed table (source: Wikipedia), provides a summary of both NASA and Wolverton findings, included are plants that remove a substantial amount of a particular toxin from the air:

Plant, removal of:benzeneformaldehydetcexylene / 
toluene
ammoniaToxicity
Dwarf date palm 
(Phoenix roebelenii)
No Yes No Yes No Non-toxic
Areca palm 
(Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
No No No Yes No Non-toxic
Boston fern 
(Nephrolepis exaltata "Bostoniensis")
No Yes No Yes No Non-toxic
Kimberly queen fern 
(Nephrolepis obliterata)
No Yes No Yes No Non-toxic
English Ivy 
(Hedera helix)
Yes Yes No Yes No Toxic to cats
Lilyturf 
(Liriope spicata)
No Yes No Yes Yes Non-toxic
Spider plant 
(Chlorophytum comosum)
No Yes No Yes No Non-toxic
Golden pothos 
(Scindapsus aures)
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats, dogs, children
Peace lily 
(Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Toxic to cats
Flamingo lily 
(Anthurium andraeanum)
No Yes No Yes Yes Poisonous
Chinese evergreen 
(Aglaonema modestum)
Yes Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Bamboo palm / reed palm
(Chamaedorea sefritzii)
No Yes No Yes No Non-toxic
Broadleaf Lady Palm 
(Rhapis excelsa)
No Yes No Yes Yes Non-toxic
Snake plant 
(Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')
Yes Yes Yes Yes No Toxic to cats and dogs
Heartleaf philodendron
(Philodendron oxycardium)
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Selloum philodendron
(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Elephant ear philodendron 
(Philodendron domesticum)
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Red-edged dracaena 
(Dracaena marginata)
Yes Yes Yes Yes No Toxic to dogs and cats 
Cornstalk dracaena
(Dracaena fragans 'Massangeana')
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Janet Craig dracaena
(Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig')
Yes Yes No Yes No Toxic to dogs
Warneck dracaena
(Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii')
Yes No Yes Yes No Toxic to cats
Weeping Fig 
(Ficus benjamina)
No Yes No Yes No Toxic to dogs, cats and horses
Gerbera Daisy / Barberton daisy
(Gerbera jamesonii)
Yes Yes Yes No No Non-toxic
Pot Mum / Florist's Chrysanthemum
(Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Toxic to dogs, cats and horses
Rubber Plant 
(Ficus elastica)
No Yes No No No Toxic to cats
Dendrobium orchid 
(Dendrobium sp.)
No No No Yes No Non-toxic
Dumb cane (Camilla) 
(Dieffenbachia)
No No No Yes No Mildly toxic to children and pets
Dumb cane (Exotica) 
(Dieffenbachia)
No No No Yes No Mildly toxic to children and pets
King of hearts
(Homalomena wallisii)
No No No Yes No  ?
Moth orchid (Phalenopsis sp.) No No No Yes No Non-toxic to cats

Even though they may not exhibit the highest rate of removal, it seems that Pot Mum and Peace Lily are the universal chemical removers as of note today.  However, if you're worried about your feline friend nibbling on them, you may want to consider a combination of other plants.  

By no means are these studies conclusive, nor the chemicals tested exhaustive.  The studies serve as a guide to a few purifying characteristics of some common houseplants, and we would recommend you to house a variety of them.  A single plant or two will probably not make much of a difference, especially inside a large smoggy city.  To act as effective purifiers, it is recommended to use 1 medium to large house plants (6-8" diameter pots) for every 100 squre-foot of the space.  Get to planting!

Has your allergies gone down after planting?  Is our table incomplete, anything you would like to add? What's your favorite house plant? Discuss it in our forums!

Read 5254 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 00:47
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