Indoor Air Pollution & Plants

Indoor Air Pollution & Plants

Houseplants bring more than just beauty and decor into your living space; they bring clean air too. Everyday house-hold items such as paint and carpet can unknowingly increase the amount of air pollution in your home. In 1989 NASA conducted a study on plants and indoor air quality.
The study found that synthetic building materials and furnishings inside of buildings put off pollutants into the air that could create potential health problems for the people occupying those buildings also known as “sick building syndrome”.

This is alarming considering that most people, between home and work, spend most of their lives indoors.  The health issues associated with “sick building syndrome” are headaches, asthma, allergies, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat. NASA found that certain plants could improve indoor air quality such as:

  • Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
  • Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens).

Turns out that the roots of the plants and the microorganisms surrounding them was the area where most of the removing of chemicals occurred.  The former NASA scientist who worked on this study named Bill Wolverton claims that there is a correlation between surface area of the plant and rate of air purification. So, the larger the plant the better. One amazing thing that all these plants have in common is how easy they are to care for.

Another similar study was conducted by a researcher named Kamal Meattle from New Delhi, India. The air pollution was so poor where Kamal lived that his lung capacity had dropped to 70% and his doctor told him it was killing him. His study focused on three common house plants: Golden Pothos, Areca Palm, and Sansevieria (Snake Plant). His claim is that these three plants are all you need to grow all the fresh air you need. In 2009 he did a Ted Talk on the subject entitled, “How to grow fresh air”.




(Watch it here, it’s less than 4 minutes!)


He filled his office building of 300 workers with 1,200 plants and found that not only did health issues decrease but human productivity increased. This shows what a strong influence plants have on people’s mood and energy levels.

The following plants are staples in our greenhouse inventory and are just a few examples of excellent air purifiers.

Golden Pothos is a beautiful trailing vine that thrives in bright indirect light but will tolerate low light and low water. At Tallahassee Nurseries we carry Pothos in several varieties such as Marble Queen, Golden, Jade, Silver Satin, and Neon.  Harsh, direct sunlight should be avoided as it will sunburn the leaves of the plant.

Sansevieria is a tough plant that thrives on neglect. A go-to for people who say they can’t keep plants alive. As long as you don’t overwater this plant, it’s nearly indestructible. We always have a variety of sizes and colors in stock in the greenhouse.

Spider plants prefer a little bit brighter indirect light than the previous two but are still very low-maintenance. Spider plants look great in hanging baskets and will often send out long stems with white flowers at the end. Another cool thing that will often be on these stems are baby spider plants or “pups”. The pups will grow roots while still attached to the mother plant and can then be easily removed and potted into soil. We keep these hanging baskets in stock in the greenhouse.

Peace Lily is a plant that everyone knows and loves. Lovely white flowers or “bracts” bloom in the spring time and can last several months. Once the blooms fade you are left with beautiful, glossy foliage until the next spring. Peace Lilies prefer medium indirect light and you’ll know when they need water when their leaves begin to wilt. We always carry Peace Lilies in an array of sizes.

Areca Palm is high on NASA’s list for best air purifiers. It’s feather-like fronds can instantly add a tropical feel to any brightly lit room. Areca Palm likes to have its roots tight in their pot so avoid unnecessary repotting.

These five examples are just a snapshot into the world of plants that can help diminish indoor air pollution. An array of plant species and plant sizes will insure an optimal level of air purification. Improving your indoor air quality has never been easier with the selection and help of your friends here Tallahassee Nurseries!

This article was written by Savannah Atwell, employee at Tallahassee Nurseries using information published by the University of Florida.