Peace Lily

Peace Lily

As the autumn season approaches, the days become shorter and the nights become crisper.  Most of us begin to think of moving indoors and spending less time in the fresh air.

If your home is old enough to be leaky and drafty,   you may not need to worry about the many pollutants that can become trapped indoors with us.  But, if you live in a newer, energy efficient home with windows and doors tightly sealed, or you work in a building where circulation is poor and the air is stale, these pollutants have less opportunity to move to the outside.

What NASA says about houseplants

Over the years our space program has led the way to an important discovery about the role of houseplants indoors.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been researching methods to cleanse the atmosphere in future space stations to keep them fit for human habitation.  In doing this research, NASA has found that many common houseplants and blooming potted plants help fight pollution that occurs indoors.

The science of plants

Snake Plant

Snake Plant

Plant scientists already knew this!  Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process.

Now researchers have found many houseplants can absorb benzene, formaldehyde and many other air pollutants that are created as gases when we install man-made materials such as carpets, laminates, paints, wallpapers and fabrics in our homes.

While saving energy and money is important to all of us, we must remember that it is crucial to our indoor environment to have clean, fresh air in our homes.  So, houseplants take on a larger role in our homes (and all interior environments for that matter) than merely providing beauty in the décor.  They contribute to balancing internal humidity and cleansing the air we breathe.

The top twelve air purifiers

‘Janet Craig’

‘Janet Craig’

Here is a list of houseplants that have been found to play an important role in removing air borne pollutants:

  1. English Ivy   (Hedera helix)
  2. Spider plant  (Chlorophytum comosum)
  3. Peace Lily  (Spathiphyllum)
  4. Pothos  (Epipiremnum)
  5. Bamboo Palm  (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
  6. Philodendron  (Philodendron scandens)
  7. Selloum  (Philodendron selloum)
  8. Dracaena  (Dracaena marginata)
  9. Corn plant  (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’)
  10. Janet Craig  (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’)
  11. Snake plant  (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  12. Weeping Fig  (Ficus benjamina)

Helpful tips to know

  • Studies by NASA have generated the recommendation that you use one 6-8” houseplant per every 100 square feet of living space.  Think about it.  This is probably more than you currently have in your home and it is time to add some.
  • Houseplants need dusting just like any other “accessory” in your home.  When you allow dust to accumulate on the leaves of your plants, they cannot do the work they are meant to do in helping to purify the air.  So, be sure to regularly clean the leaves of dust and debris from your plants.
Fall beauty

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Enjoy your home in every way possible.  Use houseplants to add beauty and nature to your space.  At the same time reap the benefits of what nature allows them to do for the air. Houseplants such as these top twelve are what can be called “natural clean air machines”.  You, your home and all your interior environments deserve to be healthy spaces – start now to clean up your air!

Happy Fall!!!

***A special thank you to Townside Gardens Nursery in Roanoke, VA for providing the plant photos! ***

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Becky Balzer

About Becky Balzer

Becky Balzer is a horticulturist with a great passion for anything green. As a young girl she grew up on the family farm nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The farm consisted of 27 acres and numerous pasturelands for harvesting hay as well as pasturing cattle. One of 13 children Becky could not wait to leave the farming life and endless chores behind. Ironically, while attending college she realized her career path pointed in the direction from which she came- nature. Becky graduated from VA Tech with a B.S. in Horticulture and a minor in Vocational Education in 1979. She has continued her education over the years with classes at both the University of VA and Mary Baldwin College. Her work has taken her through many areas of gardening with Floriculture being her real passion. Today she enjoys working at Townside Gardens in Roanoke, VA as well as speaking to groups and organizations about gardening. She also creates beautiful designs for weddings and other formal occasions. Becky says, “Nature is calming and peaceful. There are so many things you learn from nature that are beneficial for your psyche. Nature makes you realize that it is the simple things in life that mean the most.” Mother to three, grandmother to two, Becky takes real joy in knowing her love of nature has been passed down through the generations. You can contact Becky through email:

15 thoughts on “

    • Yes, I know you do. You also love fresh flowers as well! I am so glad you liked this post. It is quite the eye opener. My David and I calculated out the number of plants we would need in our home to meet NASA’s standards (of course using the 6-8″ rule) and we fall miserably short. Of course, moving to Chicago from Charlotte I was forced to leave all my plants behind that I have had for years- now I am starting over. Keep reading…

  1. I am excited, I have 4 of these type of plants my home. Does it matter the size of the plant? Three of mine are trees, one is over 8 feet tall.

    • Becky and I talked about this. I will let her answer your question herself. M.A., isn’t this an eye opener? We ALL must care enough about the quality of the air we breathe to incorporate these “natural clean air machines” in our interior environments! Anyone out there reading this comment, get yourself some houseplants!!!

    • One large houseplant (6-8 feet) would be sufficient for a 10′ X 10′ room. MA you are well on your way to having purified air in your house!

  2. Yikes, my house has failed this task! Perhaps I should add some indoor plants to my Lowe’s list for the weekend. I also think adding some more indoor plants could help fight away the “winter blues”.

    • How true it is that indoor plants can help cure winter blues.
      Most of these plants listed can take fairly low light but if you feel you are not getting enough light try adding a additional lighting by placing a grow light near the plants. Not only will it help the plants grow it may also help us avoid the winter blues.

  3. Thanks, Becky, for this information! We’ll be moving within the year, and I can refer to this when we get to the new house. I’ve got some of these plants now, and hope they can move with us!! But I will now what to add. Great post!

    • Susan, I know this is directed to Becky but, I always feel the need to put my two cents in I guess! When I moved to Chicago one of my biggest sorrows was the beautiful plants I had to leave behind. Moving companies are not allowed to have their trucks transport plants such as my houseplants across state lines due to bugs and pests also crossing state lines. So, some of my plants that I had grown from a mere cutting and still had years later I had to leave behind. Fortunately, I was able to give them wonderful foster homes! Try to find a way to transport your plants yourself from VA to NC. Speaking of bugs and pests, this reminds me of what happened recently on a trip to Richmond,VA I took with my daughter, Sammi. While at my niece, Marli’s house we found a stink bug in the car that we had driven from Roanoke, VA. Marli and my nieces, Sarah and Christy were adamant that we make sure we took the stink bug back to Roanoke as they are not found in the Richmond area. So, to keep Richmond from being populated with stink bugs (even though I pointed out there was no mate handy for it to create baby stinks) we carried it back to the valley. Too funny!

  4. I love this post! Having house plants definitely brings the outside in and helps with those winter blues. I also like that plants provide functioning decoration. I like having things in my home that have meaning or purpose, not just stuff. I can’t wait to get some more plants on the list!

  5. Thank you, Becky, for sharing the helpful, healthy info on houseplants. Reminded me of the tall ficus benjamina wedding present that Eddie Carter gave Dave and me. We loved that plant and it grew in our home for many many years until stricken by disease. Good to know that we have several other purifying plants in our home. Now are there any plants to clear stinky air caused by two stinky dogs and humans?

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