Plants

Fresh and Clean

The best air-filtering houseplants

As Australia swelters through a summer of record temps, you’ve probably spent a lot of time indoors with windows and doors closed and the air conditioning cranked up. This may be great for comfort, but it’s possibly been detrimental to your health.

Synthetic building materials and furniture can emit gasses that cause health symptoms that include itchy eyes, headaches, allergies, skin irritation, rashes, and drowsiness.

The good news is there is a simple and affordable solution – the humble houseplant! Like all plants, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. A 1989 study run by America’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) determined that a number of plants also eliminate significant amounts of common indoor air toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. According to the study, placing at least one of plant in every 10 square metres results in efficient natural air cleaning, with the level of effectiveness differing according to each plant.

NASA’S TOP AIR-CLEANING HOUSEPLANTS

  1. English Ivy, Hedera Helix
    Removes up to 90 per cent* of benzene from indoor air and looks lovely in hanging pots. To ensure your ivy thrives indoors, choose a spot with ample light, make sure the soil is properly drained and do not overwater. Fertilise it once a month during summer, autumn and spring for optimum growth.
  1. Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum
    Nearly as efficient as English Ivy, the Peace Lily is another great indoor plant, removing up to 80 per cent* of benzene from indoor air. Sporting beautiful white blooms when properly cared for, the Peace Lily makes an attractive addition to your home. Place your Peace Lily in low to medium light, but keep in mind that low light results in heavy foliage. A bit more light encourages blooms.
    Peace Lily
  1. Gerbera Daisy
    These beautiful blooms brighten up your décor and remove 50 per cent* of formaldehyde and 68 per cent* of benzene from the air. Beware, they don’t like overly hot conditions, so growing them during the Aussie summer can be tricky. Try to keep them at an indoor temperature of below 24 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, potted gerberas are inexpensive and easy to find, so can be frequently replaced. They are a great alternative to cut flowers for your home.
  1. Indoor Corn Plant, Dracaena Fragrans
    One of the most popular indoor plants – mainly because it’s hardy enough to tolerate even the blackest of thumbs. The Corn Plant removes up to 70 per cent* of formaldehyde from the air. It enjoys moist soil, medium humidity and filtered sunlight. Be sure to water it with fluoride-free water, as Corn Plants are sensitive to fluoride.
  1. Chrysanthemum
    Chrysanthemum can remove 61 per cent* of formaldehyde, 53 per cent of benzene and 41 per cent* of trichloroethylene from the air. Unfortunately, indoor potted Chrysanthemums have a relatively short life of six to eight weeks, although they are quite cheap and readily available, so are easy to replace. To maximise your Chrysanthemum’s lifespan, ensure it gets adequate light.
  1. Madagascar Dragon, Dracaena Marginata
    This lush and colourful foliage spruces up your home’s interior and removes up to 79 per cent* of benzene from the air. To help its leaves retain their beautiful colour, choose a spot with moderate to bright, indirect sunlight. Too much sun causes its leaves to burn; not enough sun results in leaves turning pale. Do not overwater or allow the pot to sit in water, and only use fluoride-free water at room temperature.
    Madagascar Dragon
  1. Devil’s Ivy, Golden Pothos
    If you’re a first-time gardener, this is the plant for you. It’s practically indestructible and removes up to 73 per cent* of benzene from the air. Devil’s Ivy is suitable almost anywhere in your home or office. It tolerates low to high sunlight. The only trick to keeping this beauty alive is to allow the soil to dry between watering.
  1. Warnecki , Dracaena Deremensis
    Choose a partially shaded spot for your Warnecki and keep the soil moist. It rewards you by removing up to 50 per cent of formaldehyde and 70 per cent of benzene from the air. As with most other Dracaena species use fluoride-free water.

*Results from NASA’s 1982 Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement