Friendly Reminder to Thank your Hardworking Houseplants for Clean Air

Have you thanked your houseplants recently for all they give you? Sure, we know they produce oxygen. But, did you know they working 24/7 to detox your home? Unfortunately, I've taken them for granted, too. I water them, feed them regularly during the growing season, check for livestock infestations, and think that's enough. Do I consciously think about what my tropicals do for me every day besides being beautiful, calming and oxygen-producing? Not so much!

Our emphasis on energy efficiency and "tight" construction comes at a cost. Toxic compounds like benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, trichloroethylene and a host of others are lurking in our homes. Cigarette smoke, emissions from construction materials, cleaning fluids, paint removers, adhesives, flooring, hair care products and nail polish are just a few of the volatile organic compound (VOC) producers.

NASA conducted studies years ago that prove just how much houseplants do to protect us. They literally absorb and remove VOCs from our indoor environment. Want a staggering fact to share when conversation lags at your next party? Having fifteen (6-8" diameter pot size) houseplants placed throughout an 1800 sq. ft. house removes 87% of the total toxins in just one day! Isn't it great to know you can dramatically improve your family's air quality with the addition of some houseplants? How much easier can life be?

Are all plants created equal in their ability to purify air? Evidently there are plants that are specific in their toxin-removing capabilities. So, it would seem logical to have a variety of plants to capture as many different pollutants as possible. The plants that show up on everyone's list of great air cleaners are:

  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)   
  • Philodendron
  • Golden Pothos 
  • Schefflera 
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum) 
  • Ferns
  • Palms 
  • Orchids
  • Dracaena (many - including marginata, Corn Plant and 'Janet Craig')

Research has even suggested room-specific plant placement. If you're concerned about oxygen in your home consider Bromeliads, many orchids and succulents (think Jade Plant) for your bedroom. Why? These plant families really increase their oxygen production/carbon dioxide absorption cycle at night. Wouldn't it be great to know your plants are working hard to enhance your personal health, even while you're sleeping?

In addition to better air quality, another plant benefit is increased learning. Sounds incredible, doesn't it? But, at the university level, European research found that attendance improved, test scores rose and behavioral issues dropped more than 60% in classrooms containing plants- as opposed to plant-free environments. To be fair, let's put the shoe on the other foot. Parents, you can improve your reaction time up to 12% on computer tasks in a room containing plants. 

Everyone, rise from your beds and computer stations right now. Go thank your Schefflera, your Spider plant and your Dracaena for the daily gift of clean air. It's easier than writing a thank you note, don't you think?

Tony Fulmer

Chief Horticulture Officer