Plant Power! 10 Plants to Detoxify your Home
Air pollution is no big secret and unless you live in the middle of nowhere, it is something that is likely to affect your life to some extent, fortunately there is a huge market for home air purifying plants that help you to care of your health at home.
Don’t worry! The good news for you is that naturally air purifying plants are widely available and inexpensive in China and you can add them to your home to provide yourself and your family with air that is much purer and free from harmful agents. During the late 1980’s, NASA began studying houseplants as a means of providing purer and cleaner air for space stations. What they learned is that there are many different houseplants that can help to purify the air. The plants filter out certain harmful compounds in the air and make it much healthier to breathe.
Here’s a list of our top ten favorites, which you can find at your local flower market, supermarket or often just being sold from the back of a bicycle cart on the street:
1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Believe it or not, the beautiful peace lily tops NASA’s list for removing all three of most common air pollutants — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also battle toluene and xylene really effectively. Its a plant that won’t give up without a fight and is very forgiving if you’re a terrible plant-parent. If it starts to look a little droopy, you’ll know its getting thirsty.
The Peace Lily blooms beautiful, tall, white flowers. However, the leaves are toxic if eaten in large quantities so you’re advised to keep them out of reach of curious pets and children.
2. Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
This plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Place one in your bathroom as it will thrive in low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants.
You may also want to put a couple of these sharp-leafed plants in your bedroom. Interestingly, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night (the opposite of the process most plants follow). Sharing your room with these plants could give you a slight oxygen boost while you sleep. Fun fact: these plants are also know as mother-in-law’s-tongue – I can’t imagine why as I’m sure like my mother-in-law, yours is a delight!
3. Chinese Evergeen (Aglaonema modestum)
This wonderful, hardy houseplant is perfect for those of you who don’t have particularly green thumbs. They thrive in low light areas and often grow in places where other plants struggle. Their habitat is usually tropical, so they grow well in humid conditions. Occasionally misting the leaves might be a good idea if the air in your home is particularly dry.
This plant can filter a variety of pollutants and toxins from the air over time. Even in the gloom, the Chinese Evergreen will produce bright red berries (do not, I repeat, do NOT eat the berries!) that will give a pop of color to your home.
4. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
As the Chinese proverb goes: “it is better food without meat than home without bamboo.” The bamboo palm comes at the top of the list of plants best for filtering out both benzene and trichloroethylene. Alternatively, place around furniture that could be off-gassing formaldehyde and it will work its air purifying magic. It hails originally from South and Central America, where it is sometimes know as the reed palm. Preferring shady, indirect light, the bamboo palm does best warmer temperatures and doesn’t take kindly to overwatering. If well looked after, your Bamboo Palm may even flower and produce small berries (What did I tell you about not eating the berries?!)
5. Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)
Heart Leaf Philodendron, despite being toxic when ingested, is a favorite among many of the International schools in Beijing I’ve visited due to it’s exceptional abilities to clean the air of VOC’s (or in rather scary plain English: Volatile Organic Compounds, which are hazardous pollutants to the likes of you and I). Philodendrons are also great at combatting formaldehyde from sources such as particleboard.
If you have young children or pets or are inclined to put things in your mouth that you shouldn’t, this might not be the right plant for you. On the plus side, these plants are exceptionally low maintenance and their heart shaped leaves look beautiful twisting around a pole or spilling out from a fancy pot.
6. Money Bonsai or Guiana Chestnut (Pachira aquatica)
Firstly, I must confess that although these trees are virtually kill proof, I accidentally murdered mine after abandoning it for 8 weeks while traveling through South East Asia. So make sure you have someone on hand to care of your leafy friends if you’re planning an extended trip. Indoor trees are special enough because trees rarely grow well inside, but the Money Bonsai is amazing as you can basically control how big or small you want it to grow by simply trimming it. Since their natural habitat includes wetlands and swamp, they like moist soil and indirect light – consider your bathroom as a good spot for this plant to thrive.
Growing and caring for Bonsai first appeared in China thousands of years ago.The Money Bonsai is also a symbol of good luck or fortune, which you can’t ever have enough of in my personal opinion! They are also great overall air purifiers for indoor spaces.
7. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
Originally from South Asia, this plant should be very easy to source all over China. The Rubber Plant has been proven to remove formaldehyde from the air. It has gorgeous waxy leaves, which grow in shades of dark green, orange, pink and burgundy. Bred for toughness, this plant will survive in less light than most plant of its size. This is a particularly good choice for areas with dim light and cool temperatures; in fact, if the plant gets less light while growing, the leaves will actually grow larger! However, they are known to be finicky when it comes to change, so be sure to pick a spot to place it and don’t move it. This is especially true when it comes to fluctuations in temperature or air flow.
8. Aloe Vera
This trusty succulent is an old houseplant favorite. Many people know already that it doubles as a soothing gel if you snap a leaf in half (don’t worry, it will regrow), but what you may not know is that it is a great indoor plant for improving air quality. Tests have shown that Aloe Vera helps to keep your home free from benzene which is commonly found in paint and certain chemical cleaners.
Although it is totally safe for humans, it is toxic for cats and dogs, so keep it out of reach of your precious little fluffers.
9. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
The common spider plant is resistant to even the most neglectful indoor gardeners. The abundance of leafy foliage and tiny white flowers are totally safe plants, even for pets. The spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.
These are great plants to regrow if you don’t want to break the bank on a bunch of plants that you might accidentally kill. Simply by cutting off one of the “spiders” and placing it in a pot with soil, you’ll have a brand new baby plant to take care of. They particularly like average indoor temperatures and bright indirect sunlight.
10. Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
Brighten your home, lift your spirits and clean your air with the gerber daisy. This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It’s also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. Add one to your laundry space or bedroom — presuming you can give it lots of light.
Gerberas (sometimes called gerber daisies) are suitable for the slightly more adept home gardener. They like well-drained soil, so be sure pots have drainage holes. You’re going to need to mist the leaves a couple times a week and make sure plants get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. If you care for your plant properly, the brightly colored cut blooms can last as long as two weeks.