16 NASA Approved Plants to Improve Your Air Quality

Improve the air quality of your home by having one or some of these 16 plants shown to improve air quality.
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Beautiful peace lily in a bathroom.

Houseplants are beautiful decorative elements, but some people find them a chore to keep alive, and don’t bother to keep them around.

However, indoor plants do much more than just look or smell pretty–many can actually improve the air quality of your home.

While all plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, they also act as natural humidifiers and can remove some harmful chemicals from the air around us.

While we already know that just having a plant around can boost our mood and productivity, and many people experience fewer headaches, mood swings, and even reduced allergies when they bring plants into their homes.

To figure out exactly why these plants are so beneficial, NASA performed a controlled experiment to see which plants were most effective at removing several common indoor air pollutants, including ammonia and VOCs like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, and xylene.

High levels of these chemicals can result in health problems that collectively make up the phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome.”

Benzene, a known carcinogen, can enter our environment through plastics, synthetic fibers, and resins. Formaldehyde is emitted by paints and varnishes.

We’ve assembled a list of some of the best air-filterers from the NASA study–these plants are surprisingly easy to care for indoors, and many produce beautiful flowers for you and your family to enjoy.

1. Flamingo Lily

The beautiful Anthurium andraeanum has a classic lily look and brilliant red or pink blooms. They like areas without drafts with lots of bright indirect sunlight. Water the lily regularly and thoroughly.

Flamingo Lilies will filter formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia out of your environments, but are toxic to pets, so keep them well out of reach when you can’t supervise your pets.

The beautiful Anthurium andraeanum has a classic lily look and brilliant red or pink blooms. They like areas without drafts with lots of bright indirect sunlight. Water the lily regularly and thoroughly.

2. Devil’s Ivy

The beautiful green spotted leaves of Devil’s Ivy, or Epipremnum aureum, filter out benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, and are toxic to pets, so keep the plant well out of reach of dogs and cats.

Devil’s Ivy likes indirect sunlight and needs to be kept moist–it is not a drought-resistant plant.

The beautiful green spotted leaves of Devil's Ivy, or Epipremnum aureum, filter out benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, and are toxic to pets, so keep the plant well out of reach of dogs and cats.

3. Chinese Evergreen

Aglaonema modestum has beautiful foliage and is one of the most durable houseplants you can own. It tolerates poor lighting, dry air, and even drought.

Chinese evergreens filter benzene and formaldehyde out of your environment, and are toxic to pets.

Aglaonema modestum has beautiful foliage and is one of the most durable houseplants you can own. It tolerates poor lighting, dry air, and even drought.

4. Broadleaf Lady Palm

The Broadleaf Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa, is a non-toxic plant, so it’s safe to have around pets. Keep the plant’s soil moist year-round, although never soggy. Direct sunlight can harm the leaves, so keep it in indirect sunlight.

The Broadleaf Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa, is a non-toxic plant, so it's safe to have around pets. Keep the plant's soil moist year-round, although never soggy. Direct sunlight can harm the leaves, so keep it in indirect sunlight.

5. Peace Lily

Beautiful peace lilies, or Spathiphyllum wallisii, are great air filterers, removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from your environment–every single chemical tested in the NASA study!

Peace lilies love medium to low light–if you want your lily to produce more flowers, place it in more light. Plants in low light will look more like a typical foliage plant. Just keep it out of reach of pets, as it’s toxic to cats and dogs.

Beautiful peace lilies, or Spathiphyllum wallisii, are great air filterers, removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from your environment--every single chemical tested in the NASA study!

6. Dracaena

The dragon tree, or Dracaena marginata, is a low-maintenance houseplant with striped narrow leaves. It can grow up to 10-15 feet in height with care and time. Be careful not to over-water, as this is the quickest way to kill your plant.

Dragon trees love moderate to bright indirect sunlight. You’ll know if your plant is getting too much light if brown spots appear on the leaves.

Dracaena filter out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene out of your environment. Like many other plants in this list, they are toxic to pets.

The dragon tree, or Dracaena marginata, is a low-maintenance houseplant with striped narrow leaves. It can grow up to 10-15 feet in height with care and time. Be careful not to over-water, as this is the quickest way to kill your plant.

7. Spider Plant

Spider plants, or Chlorophytum comosun, filter formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment. The arching leaves and small white flowers make this a great plant for hanging baskets.

Spider plants like partial sun and need to be kept moist during the spring and summer.

Spider plants, or Chlorophytum comosun, filter formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment. The arching leaves and small white flowers make this a great plant for hanging baskets.

8. Variegated Snake Plant

Also known as ‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue’ Sansevieria trafasciata ‘Laurentii’ is a succulent that has distinct long, pointed leaves that stand upright. It’s typically a rich green, but can have yellowed edges.

Snake plants filter out benzene, formaldehyde and tricholoethylene, and are toxic to pets. Like with other succulents, water snake plants sparingly. Allowing them to sit in water will rot the plant.

Also known as 'Mother-in-Law's Tongue' Sansevieria trafasciata 'Laurentii' is a succulent that has distinct long, pointed leaves that stand upright. It's typically a rich green, but can have yellowed edges.

9. Bamboo Palm

Chamadorea seifrizii can grow even in low light conditions, and require water only when the surface of their soil feel dry. Bamboo palms don’t like change, so keep them in the same place, as they will drop their leaves after being moved.

Bamboo palms filter formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment and are non-toxic to pets.

Chamadorea seifrizii can grow even in low light conditions, and require water only when the surface of their soil feel dry. Bamboo palms don't like change, so keep them in the same place, as they will drop their leaves after being moved.

10. Florist’s Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum morifolium loves bright light, which is great because they need it to grow and produce the showy blooms gardeners love. Just make sure to keep them away from artificial lights at night, as this will interrupt their flowering cycle.

Chrysanthemums filter benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia out of your environment, and are toxic to pets, so keep them out of reach!

Chrysanthemum morifolium loves bright light, which is great because they need it to grow and produce the showy blooms gardeners love. Just make sure to keep them away from artificial lights at night, as this will interrupt their flowering cycle.

11. Lilyturf

Liriope spicata filters formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia out of your environment, and is non-toxic to pets. The hardy perennials can reach a height of up to 45 cm, and have grass-like leaves.

Lilyturf are partial shade, but can tolerate full sunlight if you keep the soil nice and moist.

Liriope spicata filters formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia out of your environment, and is non-toxic to pets. The hardy perennials can reach a height of up to 45 cm, and have grass-like leaves.

12. Weeping Fig

Ficus benjamina loves bright light and lots of water, although it will need to dry out slightly between waterings. The plant is popular with growers, who may braid the trunks to give it a decorative look.

The weeping fig filters formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment, but is toxic to pets.

Ficus benjamina loves bright light and lots of water, although it will need to dry out slightly between waterings. The plant is popular with growers, who may braid the trunks to give it a decorative look.

13. Barberton Daisy

Barberton daisies, or Gerbera jamesonii, can flower at any time of the year when grown indoors, and each flower lasts up to 4-6 weeks. When the flower is spent, deadhead the plant to encourage new blooms.

Keep the soil moist at all times and make sure it gets plenty of direct sunlight. Barberton daisies filter out benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

Barberton daisies, or Gerbera jamesonii, can flower at any time of the year when grown indoors, and each flower lasts up to 4-6 weeks. When the flower is spent, deadhead the plant to encourage new blooms.

14. English Ivy

English Ivy, or Hedera helix, is known to filter benzene, formaldehyde, tricholorethylene, xylene, and toluene out of your environment, but is toxic to pets.

English ivy is a beautiful accent plant that looks great in a dish garden or as a hanging plant. It will only climb as high as you allow, and loves bright, but indirect sunlight.

English Ivy, or Hedera helix, is known to filter benzene, formaldehyde, tricholorethylene, xylene, and toluene out of your environment, but is toxic to pets.

15. Kimberley Queen Fern

Nephrolepis obliterata is a non-toxic fern that filters formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment.

The fern doesn’t shed and leave a mess, so it’s a great indoor plant. It loves bright indirect sunlight. The fronds will turn a pale green when your plant is thirsty.

Nephrolepis obliterata is a non-toxic fern that filters formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene out of your environment.

16. Moth Orchid

Moth Orchids, or Phalanopsis, are beautiful additions to any space, and they filter out xylene and toluene from your environment. Orchids are non-toxic to pets, so they are fairly safe to leave unsupervised.

Orchids are usually planted in bark, and must be allowed to dry out between waterings. They light bright, but indirect sunlight.

Moth Orchids, or Phalanopsis, are beautiful additions to any space, and they filter out xylene and toluene from your environment. Orchids are non-toxic to pets, so they are fairly safe to leave unsupervised.

Original source: NaturalLivingIdeas.com, used with permission.

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