#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant Care

Our Favorite Air-Purifying Houseplants

December 28, 2017

Indoor plants don’t just look good – they make us feel good mentally and physically, too. Studies have shown indoor plants…

– Boost morale, productivity, concentration, and creativity
– Reduce stress, fatigue, sore throats, and colds
– Improve indoor air quality by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity, and producing oxygen
– Improve offices by softening sterile interiors, dividing areas, and reducing noise levels
– Are pleasing to look at and therapeutic to care for

This is because the presence of plants improves indoor air quality, and improved indoor air can positively impact our overall health and wellbeing.

Have you heard of Sick Building Syndrome? The term is used to describe symptoms experienced by individuals working or living in large commercial buildings – when no other cause can be detected for their illness. Dr. Bill Wolverton, a leading scientist in NASA’s Clean Air Study (1989), explains, “When the building occupants are away for a given time, the symptoms usually diminish, only to recur upon re-entry into the building.” These symptoms can include sudden allergies; irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headache, dizziness, and fatigue; respiratory and sinus congestion; and nervous system disorders.

What’s the cause of the majority of these symptoms? Indoor air pollution. Not great news when the Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Indoor air pollution is generally a consequence of toxic emissions from synthetic building materials, airborne mold, viruses, and pollutants – along with energy efficient construction, like making spaces as airtight as possible, which reduces the circulation of air. These contributors release toxin emissions such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.

It is important to try to improve your indoor air quality in the home and office even if symptoms are not noticeable. And one of the best ways to do that is with indoor plants. Plants absorb these harmful toxins, break them down into gentle organic byproducts, and store them in their soil to use later for food!

Not only can the presence of indoor plants lead to a decrease in Sick Building Syndrome symptoms, but studies have shown that, where indoor plants have been installed, office work performance increased, staff wellbeing improved, and sick-leave absences were reduced (see lean vs green study).

In addition to the benefits associated with improved indoor quality, contact with nature in general has been shown to reduce mental fatigue and stress, and increase relaxation and self-esteem. Even brief exposure to nature has been shown to make us more altruistic and cooperative. In a 2013 study, touching real foliage – rather than fake foliage made from resin – was shown to elicit an unconscious calming effect on participates.

We are only beginning to understand the impact indoor air quality has on our mental health and work performance – but we do know it is a positive one.


1. Snake Plant

This no-fuss tropical plant has thin, upright leaves with irregular banding that resemble the skin of a reptile. Its adaptations for surviving drought make it a suitable plant choice for anyone, anywhere.

Snake Plants have been shown to filter benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene.

2. Pothos

Nicknamed the cubicle plant at our office, the Pothos is our go-to for brown-thumbed clients with less than ideal conditions. Like the similar-looking Philodendron, the Pothos’s trailing vines can grow to over 10 feet long.

The Pothos has been shown to filter benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

3. Rubber Plant

A popular houseplant, this variety of ficus has thick upright stems with glossy, oversized leaves that can store water in case of drought. They prefer bright to moderate indirect light.

Rubber Plants have been shown to filter formaldehyde.

4. ZZ plant

A ZZ Plant is a spectacular choice for any low-light environment. They are extremely dry-tolerant and low maintenance. In addition, the plant meaning of ZZ is prosperity and friendship, making it a gift choice for a beginner!

5. Bird’s Nest Fern

The Bird’s Nest Fern is characterized by ripple-edged fronds that grow out of a nest-like crown. It makes for a lovely hanging plant indoor. They thrive in indirect light and a humid environment.

Ferns have been shown to filter formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

6. Philodendron

In the right indoor conditions, the Philodendron’s heart-shaped leaves and trailing vines can trail to over 10 feet long, making it the perfect plant for a high shelf. Did we mention it has a reputation of being one of the easiest houseplants to grow?

Philodendrons have been shown to filter formaldehyde.

*NASA recommends 1 potted plant per every 100 square feet of space. For more information, check out NASA’s Clean Air Study and Dr. B.C. “Bill” Wolverton’s “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office”.




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