Succulent Houseplants for Clean Air

Our homes and offices are filled with noxious polluted air.  The solution is succulent houseplants for clean air. Some specific succulents and other houseplants have been proven to very efficiently clean the indoor air of toxins.

In this video Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano explains how house plants, including succulents, can contribute to a much healthier living environment. She points out which plants are the best for removing specific pollutants. She also describes the best way to pot your succulents to clean the air most efficiently.  (See our Plant Air Purifier Comparison Chart.)

Houseplants create a beautiful environment in our homes. They can also contribute to a healthier living environment. Now as we’ve had more and more technological advances in energy efficiency we’ve saved energy but we’ve also trapped gases inside our homes. These include volatile chemicals given off by building materials, adhesives, paints, carpets and many other common household items. Many healthcare professionals consider these chemical pollutants to be one of the greatest threats to our health.

Now extensive research has been done on alleviating these chemicals and house plants provide the answer for us. NASA conducted extensive research along with researcher Dr. Wolverton and together they found that house plants can remove formaldehyde, benzene and many other noxious gases from our environment. This research has led businesses to incorporate plants in their interior spaces to alleviate what’s often called sick building syndrome. Now we could do the same thing in our homes by simply growing more house plants.

NASA recommends using one plant for every 100 square feet and it’s a great idea to concentrate these in areas where we spend the most time. At work that might be around your desk and at home in your bedroom. Now fortunately many of the plants that work to clean our air are also very commonly found in greenhouses and nurseries.

Succulent Houseplants for Clean Air

Among the top plants at scrubbing pollutants from the air are the palms like this Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans). There are many different kinds of palms. They all come from tropical environments and they do require moderate light levels and a moist environment. We want to make sure to keep them well watered and actually misting the upper area of the plant will help combat some of the problems that happen when it gets dry such as spider mites.

Now both of our commonly used ficus plants are also great at cleaning air. These include the Rubber Tree (or Rubber Plant, Ficus robusta) and the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina). These plants are a little bit more tolerant easier to grow indoors and in fact the rubber tree can tolerate lower light levels so it’s a great option in those darker rooms while the weeping fig requires a lot of light.

The Dracaenas are a big group of houseplants and these are also wonderful air scrubbers. This is the Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) has this red edge on the foliage. Here’s a little bit smaller version. Another very common dracaena indoors is the Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans) and typically we find this one with the yellowish variegation in the leaves. This is a small plant but you can see as it grows it develops this nice woody trunk which adds a lot of interest. And Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis) is another Dracaena. It’s a smaller version here. This one’s also very very common and all these are excellent at cleaning air.

Now many of our vining plants used as houseplants are incredibly easy to grow. They also have a great amount of foliage which contributes to this cleansing property. Some of the common ones are the pathos both the solid green and the variegated. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are well known for their ability to clean air as well as philodendron and also even English ivy (Hedera helix). And again the great benefit of a lot of these plants are their ease at growth and they’re relatively free of pest problems.

Another highly vegetated plant the Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), great amounts of foliage, this actually rated number one at removing formaldehyde from the air during those studies conducted by NASA and Dr. Wolverton. This again will need a little bit of a misting it likes that moisture environment but an excellent plant to consider if you’re trying to improve indoor air quality.

Now one thing we don’t want to forget is color. We’ve looked at a lot of foliage plants but we can also add flowers to the indoor environment. A very common commonly used plant for that is the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) which creates these white space little hooded flower and it also has beautiful deep green shiny foliage. So a lot of aesthetic qualities to this plant and again good at cleaning air.

Now just behind the Boston fern at removing formaldehyde was the Gerber Daisy and the Florist Mom or Pot Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium). These were second to the Boston fern and provide wonderful color to the indoor environment. Now the Pot Mom provides about six weeks of bloom and it’s typically used as just periodic color and it’s replaced frequently. This Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)  I dug out of our garden outside. It’s a little bit weathered from being outdoors but the great thing is if you grow them outside in the summer you can dig them up and pot them and then grow them indoors over the winter and they’ll continue to flower all winter long. So don’t forget about adding a little color as you’re selecting your clean air plants.

Now one of the things that Dr. Wolverton found is that the more air that’s allowed to circulate around the roots of the plant the more pollutants those plants can remove from the atmosphere and the reason for this is an association of microbes on the plant roots. Now a great way to increase the amount of air that reaches those roots is to use a self watering container such as this. And these typically have a substrate that’s made of small clay particles or even stone and what this does is the stone particles and the clay particles have larger pore spaces and so more air is allowed to get in there around the roots and contribute to that air cleaning property.

The bottom of the pot has a reservoir where we add the water and then it moves up through these wicks into the substrate to feed the plant. Another great benefit of using a self-watering container is that it maintains a relatively even moisture environment for our plants and supports healthier growth.

Now regardless of which plants you use all of these will contribute to a healthy indoor environment but you want to make sure you match them to the conditions in your home. Consider temperature and also lighting conditions and she make your plant selection and think about diversity. The greater diversity of plants the more pollutants will be cleaned from the air.

Oklahoma State University Extension

At first this may seem like just a basic video but there is a lot of great information and tips included. Houseplants, including succulents, are a great way to cleanse indoor air of pollution. These plants will also add color and contribute to your well-being.

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