The old, drafty houses where the air whistled through on windy days had one significant advantage: the air in them was always fresh. Nowadays, ever-tightening insulation standards means that the homes with the best efficiency also need to have a fan circulating fresh air constantly to avoid harmful gas build-up.
Moreover, many of the items in your home off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which contributes to poor air quality. Ever notice the foul smell from a new pillow or couch cushion? That’s caused by off-gassing, and many items in your home do the same thing — particle-board furniture, everyday plastics, and cleaning supplies.
It’s a widely known problem. In 1989, NASA commissioned a study to find the best, most cost-effective ways to improve indoor air-quality, and it turns out that certain houseplants do the best job. What are those houseplants? Here’s a list for you.
English Ivy: A somewhat finicky plant, but at least it won’t take up valuable floor space. It likes part-shade, so a room doesn’t have to be particularly well-lit to make a good home for it. It doesn’t like much water, but does need its leaves misted regularly, since dry indoor air will make it drop its leaves.
Boston Fern: Another finicky choice, but if you have the skill to keep it healthy, it’s among the best air cleaners. Be sure not to overwater, but do make sure it gets regular waterings and feedings. One particular variety, “Kimberley Queen” has the highest “aspiration rate” and will improve the humidity of the home if you have dry air.
Golden Pothos or Philodendron: At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Golden Pothos is not as good at cleaning the air as the Boston Fern, but it’s a lot harder to kill. It’s often mislabeled in nurseries as a type of Philodendron, and Philodendrons work too, so we’ve lumped them in together. It’s a great choice for a beginner indoor gardener.
Peace Lily: If you love flowers, then this might be for you. The peace lily is one of the few plants that will bloom indoors. It prefers low light conditions, so you can use it to perk up a dark corner. Don’t forget to water it regularly, as it’s another plant that loses moisture through its leaves quickly.
Dracaena or Ficus: It’s not surprising that the two most popular office plant varieties are also good at filtering the air. They are also incredibly tough and long-lived. If you’ve got the space for them, they are an ideal choice.
Having a house full of plants will not only improve your air quality, it will improve your mood. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by green and growing things when the weather outside is grey and cold?