NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, does a lot more than launch rockets into space. In service of their broader goals regarding space stations, the winners of the Space Race launched something else—a study into plant life’s ability to filter air. As every fourth grader will tell you, humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while plants do the opposite, turning carbon dioxide back into oxygen for us. What if, asked NASA, they can do more than that? Indeed, scientists affirmed that common plants might help remove ambient volatile organic compounds from the air. To breathe better at home, consider adding one or more of these five house plants that help purify your air—no space station necessary.
We’ll start with one of the classic indoor plants: the soft but resilient Boston fern. Commonly hanging from the ceiling by a hook but just as aesthetically pleasing at ground level, ferns are low-maintenance and shade-loving plants. They can remove aromatic hydrocarbons from your air.
Part of the Ficus genus of plants, the weeping fig—better known as a “ficus tree”—is another common houseplant. Unlike the often-hanging ferns, ficus plants are ground-bound, making an excellent accent to a once-neglected corner of a room. As a show of gratitude for its air-filtering properties, make sure to water and prune your ficus regularly—they can just as easily grow out of control as they can die from neglect.
It’s not just for treating sunburn, you know. Aloe vera plants are filters of formaldehyde, which you may know as embalming fluid. However, you don’t need to operate an undertaking practice in your living room to have formaldehyde in the air. It’s a volatile organic compound that furniture often releases in heat and humidity, and an aloe plant can help take some out.
Just as spiders filter the insects from your home, spider plants can purify your air. Native to tropical Africa, Chlorophytum comosum has proved itself in its ability to adapt, growing just as well in temperate indoor climes. Like aloe, it also filters formaldehyde from the air.
Mums, with their robust blossoms, are lovely flowers to have in the home. NASA also found that they are some of the most effective capturers of VOCs, removing formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from the air. However, unlike ferns, mums call for a bit more TLC, with thrice-weekly watering and monthly fertilization to grow indoors.
A Closing Note
These five house plants that help purify your air, and many more, can do amazing things by removing those dreaded VOCs. However, they can’t do it alone. Mitigating off-gassing still requires a robust flow of air out of the house, and you cannot rely on plant life altogether to act as your home’s air filtration system. You’ll still need to remember the filter. For the most effective filtration in concert with your greenery, Remember the Filter recommends pleated AC filters, boasting expanded surface area and high MERV ratings. They’re not as pretty as a Boston fern, but they get the job done.