How to Grow Your Own Fresh Air

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
How to Grow Your Own Fresh Air

In the late 1980s, NASA set about studying how plants can help filter toxins out of the air and replace it with fresh, clean oxygen. More recently, Kamal Meattle gave a TED Conference talk on how to use those plants to clean the polluted air of his hometown, New Delhi, India.

The topic has stayed on the forefront of people's minds because modern life can often be toxic. And it's not just car exhaust and smoke stack fumes. Carpet, paint, and even copy machines can give off something called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause many adverse health effects. To make matters worse, energy efficient homes trap that air inside. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that indoor air can be up to 10 times worse than what’s outside!
Fortunately, plants can help. The houseplants listed below are some of the best in filtering out common VOCs, like trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde. For a typical home, you'll need about 15 plants in 6 inch pots (or larger) to effectively clean the air in your home. Be sure to select a variety of the plants, as some are better at filtering certain chemicals than others.

1. Lady palm, Rhapis excelsa
2. Bamboo palm, Chamaedorea seifrizii
3. Rubber plant, Ficus robusta
4. Dracaena “Janet Craig,” Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”
5. English ivy, Hedera helix
6. Peace lily, Spathiphyllum sp.
7. Red-Edged Dracaena, Dracaena marginata
8. Snake Plant, Sansevieria trifasciata
9. Janet Craig dracaena,
Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig'
10. Warneck dracaena,
Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii'

As a side note, one of the plants NASA studied is an excellent humidifier. One six foot Areca Palm will put a quart of water into the air in a day. Dry winter air often contributes to sinus nfections and sore throats. Wouldn't it be nice to increase your home's humidity without having to fuss with a mechanical humidifier?