NASA’s 4 healthiest houseplants
The most important culprits when it comes to bad indoor air quality are a lack of oxygen, irritating substances and low humidity. These problems are exacerbated when a room is too well insulated. The four houseplants below increase humidity, produce large amounts of oxygen and purify the air from irritating substances. These are all qualities that NASA would gladly use in future long-distance space missions...
4. Bamboo palm
The bamboo palm, Chamaedorea seifrizii, is a plant that takes up a great deal of CO2 from the air and produces a lot of oxygen. Interestingly, this houseplant is also very good at breaking down formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a substance that causes irritation to the airways and the eyes. It is commonly used in carpets and furniture (chipboard) and is therefore ubiquitous around the home and at the office. Ideally, three bamboo palms per person are used, but when a room is well ventilated less will also do the trick.
The Sansevieria trifasciata is the bedroom plant par excellence as it is mainly active at night. It makes sure that also when sleeping you will get ample oxygen. The plant is very easy to maintain and according to NASA it also breaks down formaldehyde, but mainly benzene and trichloroethylene. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance that is found in exhaust fumes, which enter the house and stay around. Trichloroethylene mainly comes from printing and copying machines. It is also carcinogenic and irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.
Just like sansevieria Epipremnum aureum, also know as scindapsus, binds benzene in indoor air. The stomata in the leaves of the plant can also take up formaldehyde. And here the same rule applies as in bamboo palms: the more, the better. To break the monotony, you could bring some variation by bringing in some of the other plants in this list. However, before you to give scindapsus a place in your home, consider that dogs and cats eating from it may experience gastro-intestinal problems.
Gerbera jamesonii is the absolute number one in air purification. NASA awarded it the best score both in binding capacity for trichloroethylene and for benzene. Of course this concerns the pot plant, not the cut flower. In contrast with the other plants in this list, the gerbera lends a bit of colour to your interior. Due to its being so small it is easily placed in larger quantities. Looking for even more variation? Then you could add ivy, arum or chrysanthemums to the list, which also contribute to an optimum indoor air quality.
- Wolverton, B. C., How to Grow Fresh Air. New York: Penguin Books, 1996
- Wolverton, B. C. and J. D. Wolverton, Plants and soil microorganisms: removal of formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the indoor environment. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences 38(2), 11-15, 1993.