With summer winding down, what better way to retain that summery feel indoors than with some fresh houseplants? Not only do houseplants brighten rooms and make homes more welcoming, but they also improve our health by removing dangerous toxins from the air.
All plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. However, research led by Bill Wolverton, PhD, a former senior research scientist at NASA, shows that some plants are particularly effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene from the air. These toxins have carcinogenic properties that can cause ailments such as headaches, burning eyes, or itchy throats.
Improving indoor air quality
Plants can be extremely effective at removing toxins. A study at the University of Norway found that after adding plants to office environments, the participating companies had 37 percent fewer complaints of coughing and 30 percent fewer complaints of fatigue.
Here are some of nature’s most effective air cleaners for your home.
One of Wolverton’s favourites, lady palm is a slow grower that prefers bright light but not direct sunlight. It has thick leaves that radiate out from a centre stem and is great at removing toxins from the air. It is also easy to take care of and releases high levels of moisture into the air.
Dracaena (Janet Craig)
If you want a large plant in your home, a dracaena is a good choice. It can grow as tall as 10 feet (3 metres) and rates highly in toxin removal. It can also easily tolerate low light levels.
The rubber plant is another of Wolverton’s favourite air purifiers. It’s easy to grow, insect-resistant, effective at removing the main indoor air pollutants, and adds healthy moisture to the air—an important benefit in dry winter climates.
“Golden pothos is great in bathrooms or bedrooms—areas of the home that tend to get low levels of light,” says Theresa Wells of Humber Nurseries in Brampton, Ontario. This nonflowering climbing vine can tolerate periods of neglect—great for those who aren’t blessed with a green thumb. Golden pothos is particularly good at removing formaldehyde from the air.
One of the most popular desk plants, the peace lily has rich dark green leaves and white flowers and is easy to care for. Bob Tuckey of The Natural Gardener store in Vancouver, BC, gives this plant a thumbs-up. “The peace lily is tough as nails, tolerates very low light levels, and— best of all—removes benzene from the air.”