6 Houseplants That Are As Pretty As They Are Powerful Air Purifiers
See how these plants do double duty, all for the benefits of every homeowner
Plants can do wonders for the home. With a simple addition of flowers in a vase or a pretty potted plant, a room is instantly changed for the better.
But plants offer more than just their looks; they're extremely beneficial to our overall health, and one of the ways they achieve this is by helping filter the air we breathe. This is especially true for plants that are brought to indoor environments where natural ventilation is tough to come by for a myriad of reasons.
Think of what you learned about plants when you were little; when plants feed, they breathe in carbon dioxide, a gas that humans breathe out, and in the process of photosynthesis, they breathe out oxygen. It's the mirror image of how the human respiratory system works; they produce life-giving air for us, and we give plants a crucial gas needed for them to thrive.
Aside from this function, some indoor plants are thought to purify the air by removing harmful toxins, residues, and chemicals. In the same way they use carbon dioxide, they're able to break down these chemicals and protect us from exposure to them.
And in a time when so many of us are spending so much time indoors (and want to take better care of our respiratory system and overall health), air-purifying indoor plants have definitely become a must-have for every household.
Check out our Top 6 recommendations for these double-duty plants below!
These hardy little guys are at the top of the list for one reason: they're great for beginners, and the joke among those in the know of plants is that you'd have to have the blackest of black thumbs to kill them. Snake plants are tough, literally and figuratively. Their leaves are stiff, almost cardboard-like, and they can survive more manhandling than average compared to its more delicate cousins in the succulent family. They're fine being left to themselves, requiring direct sunlight for a couple of hours at a time every day and a low-moisture environment, so worry not about forgetting when to water them because they prefer dry soil and don't demand a delicate touch.
Where to place them: They'll like it best when they're in a room or near a window where they can soak up bright, and we mean bright, sunlight. A bedroom with a bay window or a living room with west-facing windows (west-facing rooms get more intense afternoon, not morning, sunlight) are your best bets.
How they purify the air: Snake plants are unique in their air-purifying powers because they do most of their carbon dioxide-to-oxygen conversation at night. This is actually why most people prefer snake plants in their rooms (or transfer small potted ones on their nightstands come bedtime)—to reap the benefits of clean air when they're fast asleep and when our bodies are naturally busy repairing themselves.
Surprise! Chrysanthemums, or just mums for short, do more than make a space pretty with bold, colorful blooms. The flowers that are easy to care for with regular stem trimming and change of water could lessen the amount of ammonia and benzene in the air (often found in common household items like detergent and plastics). Mums are easy to find in a wide variety of stores, and if you're thinking of going the extra mile with your indoor plant game, you'll be happy to know that they can be grown quite easily, too! You can grow them in a pot, a sunbed, or a garden patch, but make sure to keep them out of reach from pets because mums are toxic to cats and dogs.
Where to place them: Think of places in your home that harbor the offenders mentioned above. Perhaps, the kitchen or laundry areas might benefit the most from a plant that rids a room of ammonia and benzene. Mums can survive in low light, but do note that the more light they get (recommended up to six hours a day of shaded sunlight) helps them grow bigger blooms and tougher stems that last longer.
How they purify the air: The challenge with mums is that you'll need a lot of them to reap any benefits of air purifying. A cute container on your kitchen counter with just five or six blooms might not be enough, so you can incorporate more than vase to amplify mums' air cleaning abilities. Also, it's suggested that you keep areas with mums well-ventilated (open windows whenever you can to let fresh air in), because having a large quantity of them indoors could increase humidity and give you that damp, heavy feeling in the air.
It looks assuming, but don't gloss over it just because of its appearance. An experiment conducted by no less than NASA revealed that of all the plants lauded for their air purifying properties, spider plants were one of the most efficient air cleaners there are. And just like the snake plant, spider plants don't require expert plant care knowledge or hours of your day to tend to them. They don't require trimming, singing to, or a carefully scheduled watering regimen. Considering what they don't need from us, they give us a lot back in return! Plus, they're pet-safe and they can be potted and placed on surfaces, or you can get creative and turn them into cute hanging/wall plants.
Where to place them: Spider plants thrive on lots of watering, misting, and light. As for their lighting conditions, they're quite flexible; they're okay when exposed to near-scorching light but also manage to adapt to low-light rooms or even artificial lighting. In other words, place them where you need them the most, perhaps, the part of your house where you spend most of your time in.
How they purify the air: Spider plants potentially protect us from carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and xylene. And no, formaldehyde isn't just found in morgues; you'll likely have been exposed to the chemical as it's used in furniture, mattresses, upholstery, carpets and rugs, ceiling panels, flooring, and cabinet panels. Xylene on the other hand is often found in rubber items, printed items, and leather. (Consider the areas of your house when most if not all of these things are found. It's likely that your workspace will be where they're all at).
Originally from India, these plants can now be found anywhere in the world. They're loved by so many mostly because they're very pretty and not at all messy. Their big, glossy leaves come in various shades of green and they can be beautifully paired with many different kinds of pots and containers, something that's sure to appeal to the homeowner that's all about preserving an aesthetic. Once again, rubber plants (or rubber trees) are low-maintenance, so rejoice if you're one of the many folks out there who wish to get into plant care but worry about their lack of experience. The rubber tree is forgiving of newbie green thumb mishaps.
Where to place them: They're quite large for an indoor plant, so choose a spot where they won't overwhelm the space. Light-wise, they love bright but filtered light, and as for their preferred watering schedule, a weekly but generous watering should do the trick. It's simple to build a plant care routine around rubber plants. Most people place rubber plants in the biggest rooms in the house, like family dens, dining areas, living rooms and salas.
How they purify the air: We mentioned the problem of excessive humidity earlier, but guess what—fighting against humidity-related issues is what rubber plants do best. They effectively eliminate bacteria, spores, and molds in the air, a lot of which can cause skin and eye irritations and trigger asthma attacks and rhinitis for those with sensitive noses.
Just like mums, gerberas do double duty with beautifying a home and keeping its inhabitants safe from common air pollutants. We love them for practically the same reasons we do mums; they instantly brighten up a room, they're organic (not artificial) home décor, they're easy to find, and with proper care, the sturdiest blooms can last up to two weeks.
Where to place them: Anywhere with east-facing windows is ideal. Gerberas thrive with copious amounts of sunlight, but they like gentle, morning light—midday to afternoon light are too much for them to handle. You don't have to overthink placing them away from an area in a room where there are delicate items around (like paper documents or gadgets), because they don't require much watering, so worry not about spilling water. They prefer misting over than watering if we're being specific, and they're more than happy with moist, not soggy, soil.
How they purify the air: Similar to mums, they fight against benzene, as well as formaldehyde, but they also protect us from trichloroethylene. Though trichloroethylene isn't as common at home, you might be exposed to via cleaning products, solvents, spray adhesives, wipe cleaners, and aerosol products.
You can't go wrong with this vine-like, heart-shaped plant that isn't at all picky with where you put it, how much light it gets, or how often it's watered. It's a great training plant for budding green thumbs, and it can be quite encouraging given how quickly it propagates! It's nicknamed devil's ivy for a reason; it's almost impossible to kill, even with the most intense of neglect, but it will, of course, thank you if you do take the time to care for it.
Where to place it: Golden pothos can live in two environments: in a purely water environment, or with traditional soil. The water presentation is arguably more attractive, but it can be a step up from basic plant care. Now, if you do want to put it in soil, water only once a week and make sure its container has proper drainage. Don't fret if you happen to live in a place or want to place your pothos in low-light. It'll be fine. It's not a sensitive plant, so the choices are endless when it comes to where you want to put it. If you want to make the most out of its vine-y structure, place it high above a shelf where it can cascade downwards, around a full-length mirror, or even as a hanging plant in your bathroom.
How it purifies the air: Golden pothos is a pretty effective purifier as it shields you from most of the pollutants we've talked about here, but it does so with toluene, too. If you've never heard of it, youv've surely been around and used the households products that contain it. Think paints, varnishes, and primers, cement, wood sealers, and sanitizing agents; they're pretty much everywhere in our homes!
Opening images from Unsplash