NASA's Guide to Air-Filtering Indoor Plants

May 10, 2022 3 min read

NASA's Guide to Air-Filtering Indoor Plants

Do plants purify the air around you?

Houseplants aren’t just for decoration but can actually help purify the air in your home. A two-year study conducted by NASA in 1989 compiled a list of air filtering plants which contribute to living a less toxic life. In the study they found that indoor air pollution can be greatly mitigated by the introduction of these plants as they act as a natural air filter. They remove organic air pollutants such as: benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Why is air pollution bad for you?

Poor quality air can contribute to health problems in humans all over the world. These include lung and heart issues, coronary artery disease, emphysema, respiratory infections, stroke and cancer. Children and the elderly are particularly sensitive to air pollution. It can also be dangerous for pregnant women as it can contribute to birth defects. Air pollution is proven to also worsen present conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The list of plants below were determined to be the top 18 most effective at naturally filtering out indoor air pollutants.

 

English Ivy  

  • Needs little human assistance to grow
  • Evergreen climbing plant, typically grows in gardens, waste spaces and wild areas such as walls, fences and tree trunks
  • Has shiny green five-pointed leaves

Devil’s ivy, pothos plant (epopremnum aureum)

  • Needs little human assistance to grow
  • Popular houseplant in temperate regions as well as tropical and sub-tropical areas
  • Vining plant with heart-shaped green and yellow leaves

 

Peace lily (spathipyllum ‘mauna loa’)

  • Flowering house plant with glossy green oval pointy leaves
  • Moderate growers and thrive in spring when it’s still cool

 

Chinese evergreen (aglaonema modestum)

  • Tolerates low light conditions very well
  • Their leaves are oval, large, narrow and glossy on short stems
  • Bloom in spring or summer

Bamboo palm (chamaedore seifrizii)

  • Thrive in medium and low light conditions
  • Sensitive to over watering and under watering
  • Have green stems that look similar to bamboo but green leaves that are similar to palms

 

Variegated sanseviera ‘snake plant,’ (dracaena trifasciata ‘laurentii’)

  • Thrive in hot conditions
  • Vary in colour however have green banded leave with a yellow boarder
  • Very stiff sword like leaves that can grow up to eight feet tall

Heartleaf philodendron (philodendron cordatum)

  • Very easy to grow
  • Heart shaped, glossy leaves that emerge bronze then quickly turn green

 

Selloum philodendron, lacy tree philodendron (philodendron bipinnatifidum)

  • Fast and easy growing
  • Large glossy green leaves
  • Suit tropical, subtropical and warm climates

 

Elephant ear philodendron (philodendron domesticum)

  • Heart shaped arrowhead leaves from thick stems
  • Thrive in warm humid conditions (need plenty of sun)

Red-edged dracaena, marginata (dracaena marginata)

  • Long sword like red edged leaves
  • Easy to care for, draught-tolerant and almost indestructible
  • More suited to hot climates

Cornstalk dracaena (dracaena fragrans ‘massangeana’)

  • Slow growing
  • Needs bright to moderate filtered light indoors

 

Weeping fig (ficus benhamina)

  • Lush tropical looking tree plants with small green leaves
  • Like a warm area away from direct sunlight
  • Can reach 1.8m tall

 

Barberton daisy, gerbera daisy (gerbera jamesonii)

  • Flowering plants
  • Come in red, cream pink, yellow and orange
  • Thrives from sunlight 6hrs a day on a windowsill

 

Florist’s chrysanthemum, (chrysanthemum morifolium)

  • Need indoor sunlight
  • Come in every colour of the rainbow
  • Flowering plant

 

Aloe vera

  • Contains healing properties
  • Grows rapidly
  • Green think leaves that grow straight up from the base. Each leaf has a run of short thorns along each side, though these aren’t very sharp

 

Janet craig (dracaena deremensis)

  • Grows well in artificial lighting or indirect lighting
  • Green leaves (if yellow tips occur this may indicate over watering)
  • Doesn’t’ require much watering

 

Warneckii (dracaena deremensis)

  • Sword shape tough and stiff grey/green leaves with white, grey or green stripes
  • Matures to approximately 4 feet tall
  • Prefer full sun but can tolerate low light

 

Banana (musa Oriana)

  • Large delicate green leaves
  • Needs a lot of light and warm humid conditions
  • Can live up to 15 years

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the listed plants may be poisonous for cats or dogs so before introducing them into your home, make sure to research which ones may be the most suitable.

 

Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.

Additional resources

 

Barandy, K. (2021). In search of fresh air: NASA lists the indoor plants that will naturally clean your space. https://www.designboom.com/technology/nasa-clean-air-study-plants-natural-filter-06-13-2021/

Krans, B. (2017). Air pollution: what are we breathing and how is it bad for us?https://www.healthline.com/health-news/air-pollution-what-are-we-breathing-and-how-bad-is-it-for-us-102115#

Love the Garden. (n.d.). NASA guide to air filtering house plants.https://www.eldercarehomehealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/nasa-guide-to-indoor-plants.pdf

Wolverton, B. C., Johnson, A., Bounds, K. (2013). Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930073077

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