Clean up the Air: Buy a Houseplant!

It seems like such a no-brainer, really. Like, why on earth didn’t I figure it out sooner? OF COURSE plants help make your indoor spaces fresher and nicer. And now I read that they actually remove chemicals from the air. Perhaps you all knew this already? Perhaps those of you lucky enough to keep plants alive longer than one season have noticed the long-term benefits? (Seriously, pre-kids I used to actually wonder what it meant for my future offspring that houseplants never lived more than a month or two. I reassured myself that, if only plants could cry, they would have a fighting chance.)

Experts say: “Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution. Those plants in your office or home are not only decorative, but NASA scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside modern buildings.”

Plants most effective in removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air:

Common Name

Scientific Name

Aloe Vera, Burn Plant

Aloe Barbabensis

Bamboo Palm

Chamaedorea Seifritzii

Chinese Evergreen

Aglaonema Modestum

Common English Ivy




Elephant Ear Philodendron

Philodendron Domesticum

English Ivy

Hedera Helix

Ficus/Weeping Fig

Ficus Benjamina

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Jamesonii

Golden Pothos

Epipiremnum Aureum

Heartleaf Philodendron

Philodendron Scandens `Oxycardium’

Janet Craig

Dracaena “Janet Craig”

Marginata/Red-Edged Dracaen

Dracaena Marginata

Mass Cane/Corn Plant

Dracaena Massangeana

Mauna Loa

Spathiphyllum Sp

Mother-In-Law’s Tongue

Sansevieria Laurentii

Peace Lily

Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”

Pot Mum

Chrysantheium Morifolium

Selloum Philodendron

Philodendron Selloum

Snake Plant

Sansevieria Trifasciata

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum Comosum


Dracaena “Warneckii”

Never heard of most of these? Me either. Some of them sound positively Potter-esque (“Dracaena Marginata” anyone?). Some sounds just scary. (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”? Oh, did you think I was going to say “Snake Plant”? Yeah, I meant that one…) However, even I know what an Aloe is, and I could probably find my way to a Ficus (see picture above) with only a little difficulty.

How Many Plants Do I Need?

As a rule of thumb, allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living area. For the spatially-challenged (hand shooting into air), that means you should have one plant for every 10′ x 10′ space. So, a small bedroom or kitchen needs one large plant or two small ones, and your living room probably needs 2 or 3 big plants. Or, if you’re me, 8 newly purchased sproutlings in the hope that 2 will survive to adulthood in the big, bad world of my living room.



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