The Best Plants For Indoor Air Quality

January 1, 2022
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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. What are VOCs? VOCs are organic chemicals that have high volatility, due to their high vapor pressure and low boiling point. 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.

VOCs can be things that you like, however. The reason perfumes smell as strongly as they do is because they are also VOCs.

There is a reason we spend time outside when we want to feel clean and fresh. Due to the vast amount of space outside, dirt and pollutants in the air are harder to accumulate, and you are less likely to feel the dirty air. In contrast, due to poor ventilation and stale air, you can feel how dirty air is inside. Combine the VOCs with smells from cooking, and smoke from matches or lighters, or just our breathing and talking, it is no surprise that indoor air quality is so poor. Another surprising reason the indoor air has poor air quality is because of the smoke from candles and the fireplace.

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 a decent job. This list was created from old studies on houseplants and air quality. 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.

We have begun to embrace some of these houseplants as the best methods to filter our indoor air quality, but that is not necessarily the case. Previous research demonstrated the efficacy of these houseplants at cleaning the air, but the reality is that recent scientific articles disagree with previous research. While these plants do allow for some filtering of our air, the best way to filter and clean your air is to open windows and promote air circulation.

That being said, opening windows and increasing ventilation is not always possible, especially if we are looking to keep our electricity costs low. That is where these houseplants are especially important. While they are not the most efficient, they are a very natural way to filter air quality. The quantity of houseplants is important, though. While the above houseplants are the best plants at filtering, you still need a lot of these plants to efficiently filter out the air in your home. That means that if you want to get the most out of using your houseplants as a method to filter your air and increase air quality, you are going to want to have many of these plants throughout your home, in each of the rooms. Perhaps you would consider adding a couple of plants to each room in your house where you spend a decent amount of time. These plants can be a good method to improve your air quality.

Not to mention, there has been a recent rise in personal mental health care. As a society, we are looking for individual and simple ways to alleviate the stressors in our lives and get a little relief from our high-stress jobs and living environments. For many, house plants have become a solution. People add tiny houseplants to their desks during work, in their bedroom to add an essence of relaxation, and to kitchens to add some aesthetic. While adding a houseplant is not a great solution to mental health issues, they are nonetheless being used as substitutions for proper treatment.

As you can see, there are a lot of positives to having houseplants. While they are not the most efficient method of filtering indoor air, they are nonetheless a good option, and we highly encourage you researching and discovering which of the above houseplants is best for you and your home.

Want to keep your houseplants healthy? Check out our potting mix!