The role plants can play in improving the quality of the air we breathe has long captured the interest of scientists.
NASA is among the organisations that has spent years evaluating the ability of leaves to filter toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde, used in some detergents and other household materials, and various allergens.
While the conclusions of these scientists differ, particularly when it comes to the number of plants needed for a quantifiable improvement, some suggest that certain species can make a difference to air quality.
And when all is said and done, there’s no denying the basic ability of plants to absorb carbon dioxide and create oxygen, with some continuing to emit this important gas at night, as well as improving our moods by providing an injection of natural beauty to rooms.
Based on the available evidence, here’s our guide of good plants to choose:
Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)
The peace lily grows in anything from low to bright light and is said to filter toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from the air. Its glossy leaves and yellow flower spikes surrounded by a white hood-like spathe make it look good too. Water and mist these plants regularly.
The attractive fronds of Sword, or Boston Ferns Nephrolepsis exalta look especially beautiful in bathrooms, where they thrive on humidity, and are said to filter several chemicals from the atmosphere. They do well in positions where there’s indirect light. Make sure their compost is always moist.
Various kinds of dracaena, such as D. deremiensis ‘Lemon Line Tip’, D. Massengeana, D ‘Marginata Colorama’, D. deremiensis ‘Yellow Line’ and D. marginata ‘Bi-Colour’, are said to reduce levels of trichloroethylene and xylene, along with various other chemicals. These tall plants, which have long arching leaves, thrive in rooms that are light or have a little shade and like their compost to be moist but not waterlogged.
Sansevieria trifasciata var laurentii (Snake Plant)
Snake Plant Sansevieria trifasciata var laurentii, also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, has been found to have an adaptation that allows it to release oxygen by night as well as day, making it a good choice for the bedroom, and it’s said to filter several toxins. Its sword-like leaves with attractive patterning and yellow edges really draw the eye. Snake plant doesn’t need a lot of water.
Aloe vera, also known as the medicine plant for the way it soothes burns, releases oxygen into the air at night as well as day. It’s said to have an effect on levels of formaldehyde and benzene. The striking fleshy leaves of this plant have crocodile-like teeth and distinctive white splodges. It thrives on a sunny windowsill and, being a succulent, doesn’t need a lot of water.
Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’
Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’, is said to filter several chemicals and looks fabulous with its lush sword-like foliage generously daubed with silvery white. It does well in warm rooms with a range of light conditions and loves a humid environment like the tropical forests from which it originates.
Houseplants look fantastic and have the ability to make us feel great on so many levels, with many of their healing and cleansing qualities yet to be discovered by science. As far as we’re concerned, any air purfying qualities they possess must be considered a bonus.