Improve Indoor Air Quality with These Houseplants

In the late 1980s, NASA—maybe you've heard of them, they're those guys that put a man on the moon?—published a comprehensive list of the best plants for air purification.

Why NASA? And why this list?

Well, when you inhabit a confined space for an extended period of time, as most astronauts and space-dwelling folk tend to, you're exposed (both directly and indirectly) to all manner of unhealthy synthetic agents floating about in the air, from formaldehyde to ammonia and beyond.

The same is true for us earthlings. Our apartments, condos, homes, hotel rooms, offices—they're filled to the brim with a toxic mix of cleaning product fumes, mold, bacteria, pollen, and more.

Combine this with the fact that we all spend 90% of our lives indoors, and you've got a major problem on your hands. A problem that can be solved, in part, through clever (not to mention low-maintenance) filtration mechanisms, like houseplants.

Those listed below are guaranteed to help purify the air in your home over time. What's more, they're so easy to care for, whether you're in a dark basement apartment or a sunny corner office, they're sure to work for you.

Aloe vera

Requires: Direct sunlight, occasional watering, proper drainage

Removes: Mold

NASA called plants like this "nature's life support system," and with the range of additional benefits you can glean from having aloe in your home, it's clear that they weren't overstating their case in the slightest with that phrase.

This low-maintenance, sun-hungry plant will show brown spots on its leaves if the air in your home is too saturated with harmful chemicals.

Bamboo palm

Requires: Indirect sunlight, regular watering

Removes: Benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene

Did you know that a bamboo palm can grow anywhere from four to twelve feet high? That's just one of the amazing things about this plant, which received an 8.4 rating from NASA on its purification test.

It's perfect for filling negative space in any area of your home—just be sure you're keeping it watered, and that it gets routine exposure through indirect sunlight.

Heartleaf philodendron

Requires: Indirect sunlight, proper drainage, twice daily misting in the summer, and limited watering in the winter

Removes: Xylene

Particularly adept at absorbing xylene from the air, the heartleaf philodendron puts out gorgeous, long decorative vines, and can survive for many years if cared for properly.

Mother-in-law's tongue

Requires: Indirect sunlight, occasional watering

Removes: Carbon dioxide

Since it requires limited sunlight and watering, this is an especially excellent option for folks who can't devote too much time to plant care.

Unlike most plants, mother-in-law's tongue (also referred to as a snake plant) absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide at night instead of during the day, releasing copious amounts of oxygen in the process.

Red-edged Dracaena

Requires: Direct sunlight

Removes: Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene

Similar to the bamboo palm, this is a perfect plant for filling up space—it, too, has been known to grow up to fourteen feet or more.

We cover this in the section that follows, but it's nevertheless important to underscore that this plant is highly toxic to pets, so consider yourself forewarned.

A word of caution for pet owners

Careful, pet owners! Not all of these leafy greens are safe to keep around your furry family members, as quite a few are toxic if eaten.

We've taken the liberty of identifying those that are toxic so you can make informed decisions about your houseplant choices moving forward. Check out the bulleted list below for clarification.

  • Aloe vera - Toxic
  • Bamboo palm - Non-toxic
  • Heartleaf philodendron - Toxic
  • Mother-in-law's tongue - Toxic
  • Red-edged Dracaena - Toxic

Beyond that, when it comes to houseplants like this, there's not much more that you have to worry about.

And, it's worth noting, you'll enjoy benefits well in excess of the obvious improved air quality. The presence of plants in your home has been shown to lower overall stress levels—as well as blood pressure—and to cut into tiredness and poor psychological health.

What are you waiting for? Spruce up your home and your day-to-day life. Rush out to your nearest plant nursery to get one of these essential air purifiers!