Can Indoor Plants Really Purify the Air?

We’re thankful that there are always plants to clean the air that we breathe.

When we think about air pollution these days in Sydney, we usually picture smoke and fumes from bush fires, vehicles and industry, rather than the air inside. However, depending on where you live and work, the air you breathe in your home or office could be dirtier than the air outside and putting you at risk of a number of health problems.

Indoor air pollution is a growing concern in Australian homes and workplaces. Studies have shown that levels of toxins from harmful chemicals including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and other VOCs are higher indoors than outdoors.

This indoor air pollution is caused by cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners, materials in the building such as paint and carpets, secondhand tobacco smoke, toxic chemicals, mould, dust, and other contaminants like bush fire smoke.

Have you ever got a headache from paint fumes or someone wearing overpowering perfume? These are obvious signs that indoor air pollution is affecting your health, albeit temporarily.

However, many of the health consequences of breathing in these toxins on a daily basis for months and years are not so immediately obvious. In fact you may not even notice that your home or workplace was affecting your health until you move house or get a different job and realise that your asthma improves or you stop getting headaches.

Indoor Plants that Clean the Air

If you’re worried about indoor air pollution at home or in your office, there are a few different things you can do. Improving ventilation by opening windows is an obvious step, although this isn’t always possible with bush fires. You can also cut down on the chemical products you use and substitute eco-friendly natural cleaning materials.

Using indoor air cleaning plants is another simple way to improve indoor air quality. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which they combine with water and light to produce energy from growth. A famous study carried out by NASA demonstrated that they also filter out toxins from the air by absorbing them through their leaves.

The study identified 50 plants that clean the air, although most family of plants filter toxins to at least some degree. The best indoor plants for air purification tend to be those with lots of leaves, as it is the leaves that absorb gases from the air.

Which Plant Gives Oxygen 24 Hours

Several plants that clean the air include the Snake plant, aloe vera, peepul, and areca palm. These plants are known to give oxygen at night.

Which Plants Generate the Most Oxygen

These plants are known to provide the most oxygen: aloe vera, areca palm, spider plant, bamboo plant, tulsi, snake plant and so much more.

The Best Plants for Clean Air

If you’re looking for some new houseplants to improve the air quality of your home or office, these air purifying plants are perfect choices:

  1. Peace Lily (indoors)
    An attractive flowering plant with shiny green leaves. Peace lilies thrive in low light and just need weekly watering to keep them healthy. However, be aware that they are poisonous to cats and dogs. These plants are great at removing toxins including formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
  2. Snake Plant (indoors and outdoors)
    They are visually appealing both indoors and outdoors with very minimum maintenance. Great for air filtering keeping people healthy.
  3. Spider Plant (indoors)
    Spider plants are incredibly hardy and one of the lowest-maintenance indoor plants around. These air filtering plants are also great at removing formaldehyde and xylene from the air.
  4. English Ivy (best outdoors)
    English Ivy is a common outdoor plant that can be grown in hanging baskets or against a wall, but it’s also a pretty plant inside and its long tendrils look particularly attractive hanging from a shelf. English Ivy removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, and studies have shown that it’s also effective at reducing levels of airborne mould spores.
  5. Areca Palm (best outdoors)
    Many palms scored highly on their ability to remove toxins from the air. The Acrea or Butterfly Palm can grow up to 4m high, so it’s a great statement plant for your room. It’s highly effective at reducing toluene and xylene levels in the air.
  6. Boston Fern (outdoor filtered light)
    The delicate looking Boston Fern prefers humid environments, but you can keep it healthy with regular misting. It’s one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde from the air, as well as xylene.
  7. Aloe Vera (best in home kitchens and bathrooms)
    The Aloe Vera Plant is known for its healing properties, but it is also highly effective at filtering toxins from the air.
  8. Rubber Plant (indoors)
    Rubber plants are incredibly hardy and difficult to kill off, so they’re great for novice indoor gardeners. Rubber plants not only look attractive with their large green glossy leaves, but they also reduce formaldehyde levels in the air.
  9. Dwarf Date Palm (outdoors only)
    The Dwarf Date Palm is sometimes known as “nature’s air freshener” as it’s so good at helping to neutralise unpleasant odours. It’s also very effective at removing the compound xylene from the air, which is in many paints and solvents.
  10. Golden Pothos (indoors)
    The impressive sounding Golden Pothos is known to be effective at reducing ozone levels in the air. It can also filter out benzene and formaldehyde.
  11. Chinese Evergreen (best in shaded balconies or courtyards)
    This attractive plant with bright pink and green leaves is effective at removing harmful VOCs from the air, and it’s easy to take care of too. However, it can be harmful to animals, so keep it out of reach of your pets.
  12. Bamboo Palm
    Bamboo palm makes a great indoor plant. It provides a tropical vibe to any room in an instant. You can place them in brightly lit rooms.
  13. Halides
    Halides are used for larger spaces. If you have a green house, this would be the perfect light system.

Why Does Indoor Air Quality Matter?

Most people spend significant amount of time indoors. Whether inside the home or office, having poor air quality is critical for good health. Chemicals and pollutants may cause allergies and headaches. It can also lead to long-term health complications. Clean air can help prevent chronic complications like asthma.

How to Choose the Best Indoor Lighting for Plants

Lighting plants indoors can be tricky, but if you know which lights suit plants that clean the air best, you can achieve a good quality of air indoors.
Some of the lights you can use are good old fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent lights, LED lights, halides and incandescent lights.

  1. Fluorescent Lights
    Plants that need indirect sunlight like the African violet can be lit with fluorescent lights from your ceiling or from an electric lampstand. These are also good for vegetables indoors. Choose tubelike bulbs and light it up between 4k-6k Kelvin.
  2. Compact Fluorescent Lights
    These are T5 lights that are cheaper. It works with carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap and the Yellow Pitcher.
  3. Incandescent Lights
    These types of lights which are not recommended for buildings can still be placed to pretty good use.

    Incandescent lights are perfect for low-light house plants like vines and ferns. The downside to this though is that they use up electricity, but having one or two wouldn’t hurt your energy savings.
  4. LED Lights
    LED lights provide a full spectrum of lights at different levels of intensity. You can adjust the settings according to what your plant specifically needs so this works mostly for plants needing indirect sunlight.

How Many Plants Do You Need to Purify a Room?

An interesting study from NASA in 1989 concluded that house plants can remove toxic substances like formaldehyde and benzene that could cause cancer. NASA Scientist bill Wolverton stated that two big potted plants are needed for every 9.3 square metres of space indoors to purify the air.  The study also concluded that air quality increased by 25% in a room with a one house plant while two plants improved the air quality indoors by 75%. On average, about 10 house plants are needed inside a regular home to keep the air clean. This is actually more cost-efficient than getting an air purifier that eats up electricity!

One good point to remember is that all plants need darkness too, so make sure to turn off your lights at the right time. Plants generally need 12-18 hours of light a day.

Need help with landscaping and maintaing your office or home garden? Speak with us for timely advice and a full range of plant installation and maintenance services.