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Indoor Plants Beautify Surroundings, and May also Purify the Air

January/February 2014

Submitted by the Riverwoods Preservation Council


Indoor plants can add beauty and sense of tranquility to any environment, but did you know that some favorite houseplants possess the ability to improve our air quality as well? NASA recently conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of houseplants to reduce common environmental pollutants found in homes. The following is a short list of plants NASA found could reduce specific air pollutants and were easy to grow.

Kentia Palm (Howea fosterania) The Kentia is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. This palm is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air and removes chemical toxins. This plant is kept best in semi-shade.

Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera delicosa) This is a fast-growing plant with good all-round air cleaning properties. It is particularly effective in humidifying air and is easy to grow.

Philodendron These plants are very tolerant of shady conditions. In a NASA study they were shown to be particularly effective in removing formaldehyde molecules as well as other toxins.

Miniature Date Palm (Phoenix roebelinii) This slow-growing palm can reach a height of five to six feet and is one of the best palms for removing indoor air pollutants, especially xylene. This plant can be kept best in semi-sun.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) This elegant plant produces beautiful white spathes. The Peace Lily excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. This plant is kept best in mid-light to shade.

Dracaena fragrans "Janet Craig" (Dracaena fragrans) This is one of the best plants for removing trichloreoethylene. These plants can tolerate neglect and a dimly-lit environment, but growth will be slow.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata) The Boston Fern requires a certain amount of attention. It must have frequent misting and watering or the leaves will quickly turn brown and begin to drop. Of the plants tested, it is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment. This plant is kept best in semi-sun to shade.

Ficus (Ficus Alii) This is a new ornamental which is easier to grow. However, like all species of ficus, expect some leaf drop until the plant adjusts to its new location. Its ability to help purify the air and resistance to insects make it an excellent choice. This plant grows best in full sun and semi-sun.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Rubber plants like semi-sun to semi-shade, but will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures and are easy to grow. They are especially effective at removing formaldehyde. Rubber plants are the best for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment.


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