According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality is one of the top five risks to public health. This is a result of home products made with toxic chemicals, such as vinyl flooring and air fresheners. If you don’t want to stop using these products and leaving the windows open all the time isn’t an option, there are houseplants that can help detoxify your indoor air.
So, how do houseplants clean the air? Plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. But that’s not all—microorganisms associated with the plants are present in the potting soil, and these microbes are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect .
Beyond air quality, plants just make people feel better. For example, hospital patients with plants in their rooms were more positive and had lower blood pressure and stress levels . Similarly, indoor plants may make people smarter by allowing them to stay alert and reducing mental fatigue.
Although houseplants may be intimidating to those with a “black thumb” or fear of commitment, it turns out that many plants are easy to care for—so easy, in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard to kill them. Below, we’ve pulled together a list of ten virtually-indestructible plants inspired by NASA’s research.
You may know this plant as a sunburn soother, but it’s also a wonderful air purifier. Aloe actually absorbs chemicals from cleaning products and even gives you a warning sign by developing brown spots if the chemicals reach a high level.
Purple Waffle Plant
Researchers at the University of Georgia tested 28 common indoor decorative plants for their ability to remove the top five indoor pollutants. And the purple waffle plant was rated one of the best detoxifiers. This showy, low-maintenance spreading plant is an excellent choice as ground cover in a terrarium or to drape over a cupboard.
This beautiful palm tree pumps out loads of oxygen during the day and was rated by NASA as having the eighth highest removal rate for formaldehyde – a chemical often found in carpeting. Additionally, the Areca palm helps restore moisture to dry winter air at levels comparable to an electric humidifier.
This lily absorbs pollutants such as formaldehyde (found in carpeting) trichloroethylene (found in plastics), benzene (found in paints), and xylene (found in adhesives). The peace lily requires watering once a week and your choice of a bright or shaded home. Even though this is a “peace” lily, which is less toxic than true lilies, it still can pack a toxic punch if consumed by pets.
The thick, deep green leaves of rubber plants help filter formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from the air – all while improving the aesthetic of your living space. This somewhat demanding plant requires high light and frequent deep watering, and should also be kept far away from animals or children, as it is poisonous when consumed.
Complementing the Areca palm’s daytime oxygen production, this plant is an evening oxygen producer – making it an excellent plant choice for the bedroom. To sweeten the deal, this prehistoric-looking plant is perfect for those lacking a green thumb. The Mother-in-Law’s Tongue can withstand any environmental conditions from light to dark, and wet to dry.
This superhero plant is an all-around air purifier that can remove formaldehyde and many other pollutants. It is also believed to bring the owner good luck, good fortune and good health in Chinese culture, where Money plants are often given as gifts on the Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, this type of bonsai tree is toxic to cats and dogs when ingested, and should also be kept out of reach of children.
Consider this plant if you’d like to add a pop of color to a room. The red-edged leaves are very attractive, and this plant can grow up to 15 feet tall–all while removing airborne chemicals from lacquers, varnishes and gasoline.
This “spider” is tough to kill – but that’s a good thing because unlike its creepy-crawly namesake, you’ll really want this plant to thrive in your home. It has long wispy leaves and tiny white flowers. The spider plant destroys benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene – a solvent found in leather and rubber.
A superstar of filtering formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, these palms thrive in full sun or bright light. Part of the reason they can filter so much air is that they can grow to be pretty big—as tall as 4 to 12 feet high, making them exciting (and pet-friendly) indoor additions.