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Home » Environment issues

the best house plants for removing pollutants and improving indoor air quality

Submitted by on Thursday, 28 August 2008 Loading Add to favourites  11 Comments

how to grow fresh air by Dr B C WolvertonI’ve been reading a fascinating book by Dr B C Wolverton about house plants that purify the air in your home and office. It’s called ‘How to grow fresh air’.

The EPA state that indoor air pollution is up to 5 times more than outdoor! So do yourselves a favour, get up from your computer right now and throw open your windows!

I guess with double glazing, insulation and wall to wall carpets, along with our desire to fill our homes with new furnishings, MDF furniture and electronic gadgets we are polluting our homes as well as our environment. Add to that the fact that we spend 90% of our time indoors and it’s a sure recipe for ‘sick building syndrome’ and multiple chemical sensitivity.

Respiratory infections are a well known consequence of poorly maintained air and air conditioning systems. I bet you can all recount times when one person in an office has succumbed to a cough or cold and within 2 weeks everyone has had it.

Low relative humidity levels are also associated with poor indoor air quality. During the winter months especially, humidity drops well below the ideal range. Cold winter air is normally dry and when you add your heating system into the mix you’ve got the perfect conditions for colds, allergic attacks and asthma.

Well, there’s good news from Dr Wolverton! He did some lengthy studies on house plants and their ability to purify the air.

So, if you end up with colds every winter or fatigue, headaches and sinus congestion every day, perhaps all you need is a visit to the garden centre rather than some toxic over the counter medication!

You may remember from your biology lessons at school that plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen during the day. This increases humidity which helps to improve the quality of the air. According to Dr Wolverton, some plants also absorb pollutants from the air such as formaldehyde, toulene and benzene.

Following research, the recommendation is that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house.

The best plants for removing trichloroethylene were Gerbera daisy (Gerbera janesonll), Marginata (Dracaena marginata) and Peace Lily (Spethiphylium “Muana Loa”)

The best for removing benzene were Gerbera daisy (Gerbera janesonll), Pot Mum (chrysanthemum morifollum), and Peace Lily (Spethiphylium “Muana Loa”)

The best plants for removing formaldehyde were Bamboo Palm (chamaedorea selirizll), Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”) and Mother-In-Law’s tongue ( sansevieria laurentii).

Now you have a great excuse to indulge yourself in some of nature’s finest gifts and be sure to give your friends plants whenever they move into a new home. It could be the best gift they receive!

Click on the book to buy and learn all about the amazing benefit of house plants!


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  • I grew up with houseplants as my mother was very keen on their purifying qualities as well as their beauty. Dragon Plants (Dracaena) and Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) were what I started with but now I have several exotics and my husband is just as into them as I am. When friends come to dinner they all go away with a little cutting and the enthusiasm for houseplants grows. I consider houseplants just one of the ways to ‘Green’ the home, add beauty, and be a little micro-hobby that even the busiest person should have time for.

  • Anna-Lisa says:

    Hello Mrs Green! I will check that book out. Now that I have no proper garden, just a very small narrow concrete path outside my flat and a wall, I am going to start growing more house plants. A good way of growing house plants for free and recycling is using seeds from fruit. Occasionally I treat myself to an avocado and the big seed germinates pretty quickly and grows into a nice plant. We gave the last few away as gifts, but I will grow another one and show the process in a blog post perhaps.

    Speak soon, keep up the great work x

  • Mrs Green says:

    Hi Shauna,
    What lovely memories you have of your home full of plants. My first houseplant when I left home was a spider plant, but my cat LOVED the thing and ended up eating it! It’s beautiful that you send your friends away with cuttings. I love that idea.

    Anna-Lisa, it is so good to see you again. I think of you often. Oh do grow another avocado and lots of houseplants too! the book is well worth a read; I got mine from the library and was so inspired by it. I’m not good at looking after plants for some reason, but this motivated me to get into it more.

  • Jesse says:

    I’ve been reading up on the air cleaning properties of plants as well. This is some great info to have and I’ll be getting these plants soon. I went to Wal-Mart yesterday to scope out their selection. My local store only had the Peace Lilly, but it’s a good place to start and I’m sure I can find more if I keep looking. Maybe Home Depot? =)

  • Mrs Green says:

    @Jesse: Hello Jesse, thank you for leaving a comment on the site.
    Using air plants to reduce air pollution is a fascinating subject and I love how it utilises nature in a very simple way. I love peace lillies, they are so easy to take care of as long as you don’t over-water them.
    Did you manage to get any more plants for your home?

  • I grew up with a lot of plants in the house and liked it. My husband and I had a dog and a cat that liked to destroy the plants, so we went from having several to having none very quickly. They’re no longer with us, but now we have a toddler and I need to do some research on what types of plants are non-toxic since she puts everything in her mouth!

  • Mrs Green says:

    @Chrystal @ Happy Mothering: I love being surrounded by plants too, but I’m not that good at looking after them for some reason. I seem to fare better with animals and people LOL! I found that my cat used to devour a lot of plants too. Hope you find something nice that is safe for your toddler 🙂

  • John Green says:

    What a nice article! Growing plants indoors is so easy, far more people should do it. Of course if you have young children or pets you have to choose certain types as they can be bad if eaten, but most are fine. Anna Lisa, I’ve tried planting a peach stone before and this grew into a minature peach tree!

  • Mrs Green says:

    @John Green: Welcome John and thanks for the tips about growing plants

  • Great tips! I hate taking any OTC cold medicine and resort to a netty pot when the going gets tough. But this is a lot of great information that I’m going to try out. I can’t wait to read the book. Thanks!

  • Mrs Green says:

    @Jill @ Healthy Kiddo Snacks: I’ve heard lots of good things about a netty pot but I’m scared to use one because I think I’ll choke or something. Perhaps I should feel the fear and try one!