“Air-Scrubbing” Houseplants to Improve Air Quality

November?    We have to face it, “Early Fall” is really gone when November arrives:  most gardeners have finished fall planting of Bulbs and Perennials for color next year (though the hardy Daffodils are content to be planted right up to Thanksgiving!), the last Fruits and Vegetables have been harvested, and Perennials have  been “put to bed” with layers of fresh mulching.  (but seed heads have been left as a treat for the winter birds!)  So – what now for the garden?

After re-capping garden successes and making plans for next season, it is time to address your indoor garden – your Houseplants! Houseplants not only add color and life to our home décor, as part of their photosynthetic process they add oxygen to the air and actually “scrub” the air by removing chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

A thorough study done by NASA and the Association of Landscape Contractors of America found that many indoor plants can vastly improve air quality in sealed spaces. NASA has compiled the following list of tropical foliage plants useful in absorbing CO2, benzene, formaldehyde and other common gases given off by man-made products.  Both benzene and formaldehyde are commonly released by newer carpets and furniture, and we give off Carbon dioxide as a part of most life processes.  And the hard-working houseplants convert this CO2 to Oxygen through photosynthesis!

Most of the plants on this list are low-light adaptive plants and their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize efficiently under relatively low light conditions, which in turn allows them to efficiently process gasses in the air.

In an 8’x10’ room, with average ceilings, 8 of the plants on the list below can produce a complete exchange of Oxygen in 24 hours.  And, 15 to 18 plants from this list, planted in 6-8” diameter containers, in an average 1800 sq ft home can substantially improve the air quality.


1.   Heartleaf Philodendron, (Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’)
2.  Elephant Ear Philodendron, (Philodendron domesticum)
3.  Cornstalk Dracaena, (Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’)
4.  Spider Plant, Green, (Chlorophytum comosum)
5.  Janet Craig dracaena, (Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’)
6.  Warneck dracaena, (Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’)
7.  Ficus or Weeping Fig,  (Ficus benjamina)
8.  Golden Pothos, (Epipremnum aureum)
9. Spathiphyllum, Peace Lily, (Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’)
10. Selloum Philodendron, (Philodendron selloum)
11. Chinese Evergreen, (Aglaonema modestum)
12. Bamboo Palm, (Chamaedorea seifritzii)
13. Snake Plant, (Sansevieria trifasciata)
14. Red-edged dracaena,  (Dracaena marginata)
15. Chrysanthemum, blooming (Chyrsanthemum indicum)
16. Gerbera or Transvaal Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

For more Houseplant information and a list of effective air-scrubbing plants, drop by one of Grange Co-op’s garden centers.  Fresh supplies of Houseplants arrive mid-November and early December.


Information taken from the NASA report Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, September 1989, by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Anne Johnson, and Keith Bounds, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, John C. Stennis Space Center, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000.)