So it’s the winter season and my kids and I have been thinking about purchasing some new indoor plants to spruce-up the house. Of course instead of having another typical plant shopping trip, I begin thinking about how to make this experience adventurous and educational! This is when I remembered a past article, by Charlie Nardozzi, about a study conducted between NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA).
Research between NASA and ALCA was conducted to study the use of houseplants as a tool to solve indoor air pollution problems here on Earth. The study concluded that houseplants help purify the indoor air quality, and a list of the most effective plants was developed.
Besides creating a more humid environment during the dry winter months, certain houseplants have the ability to absorb air pollutants. The three air pollutants that are most commonly found in homes are formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide. These pollutants are released from cleaning agents, building materials, paints, and even photo copiers in offices. During warmer months, when the windows in homes and offices are often open, the natural air exchange reduces the concentration of pollutants. This time of year, with windows shut and houses buttoned up tight, pollutants can accumulate, sometimes leading to illness. This is where air-cleaning plants come in.
All houseplants release moisture into the air through a process called transpiration. However, NASA research has shown that certain houseplants are better than others at not only transpiring and creating a humid indoor winter environment, but at creating a healthier environment as well by removing indoor air pollutants.
Three of the top air-cleaning houseplants are Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta), and English Ivy (Hedera helix)which also happen to be easy to grow. However, if you don’t like the look of these three, there are many other plants such as Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia), and Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) which will provide similar benefits.
How Many Plants?
How many of these plants do you need to effectively clean the air? For a 100 to 150-square-foot room, you'll need two to three, full-sized, 12-inch-diameter potted plants to keep the air fresh. If you don't have room for that many, place your plants in special "breathing zones" in the home, such as by a desk or near your bed, where you can benefit from their close proximity.
Some of the top recommended plants by NASA and ALCA are found below and are readily available at most nurseries and garden centers. (as listed on cleanairgardening.com).
- Philodendron scandens, Heartleaf Philodendron
- Philodendron domesticum, Elephant Ear Philodendron
- Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana', Cornstalk Dracaena
- Hedera helix, English Ivy
- Chlorophytum comosum, Spider Plant
- Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig', Janet Craig Dracaena
- Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii', Warneck Dracaena
- Ficus benjamina, Weeping Fig
- Epipiremnum aureum, Golden Pothos
- Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa', Peace Lily
- Philodendron selloum, Selloum Philodendron
- Aglaonema modestum, Chinese Evergreen
- Chamaedorea sefritzii, Bamboo or Reed Palm
- Sansevieria trifasciata, Snake Plant
- Dracaena marginata , Red-Edged Dracaena
Activity - Building Your Indoor Air Garden
In the winter when it’s difficult to garden outdoors, and you’re searching for an indoor gardening activity to do with your children, I recommend seeking out and purchasing some NASA approved houseplants from the list of recommended varieties. Pot them in 12” sized containers, and have your children select the best locations in the home to place the plants. For more fun, you can make it a theme garden! We added a few plastic dinosaurs to our indoor air garden. This is a complete adventure from purchasing the plants, to planting, placing and decorating with a theme.