Indoor Plants for Better Air Quality


Kari Martin, Extension Master Gardener, Anoka County

Looking outside the window, a garden covered in a blanket of snow; missing the feel of warm dirt between your fingers? Never fear, here’s a chance to embark upon your newest hobby - indoor plants that help improve air quality. A study conducted by NASA released several recommended plants to help ensure your green thumb hasn’t developed a case of frostbite.

Let’s get to a know a few of them, starting with a beautiful staple of any home, the aloe vera. This plant has both aesthetic qualities as well as healing properties. Known by the ancient Egyptians as the plant of immortality, it is found depicted in pyramid motifs. Today it's primary benefit is a topical skin remedy, great for sunburn or other minor skin irritations. Part of the succulent family, it is a stem-less plant with large, fleshy, thick leaves and comes in variety of colors from green to grey tint. Popular varieties include aloe chinensis, with small white dots and aloe indica royal, with detailed spikes. This plant thrives best on the windowsill in a sunny spot, planted in sandy, well-drained soil. Allow the soil to completely dry before watering.

Next on our roster is a classic plant, English ivy (hedera helix), a beautiful vine from the family araliaceae. With green foliage, variations include variegated white. This vigorous grower responds well to variety of light conditions, producing best in moist, loamy soil. Some may recoil in fear as this ivy can spread like wildfire outdoors and some may even call it a dreaded weed. However, fear not, inside the plant has an amazing ability to remove mold spores and formaldehyde, a common ingredient in household cleaners.

A most valuable player is a plant that can flower in low light, the formidable peace lily (spathiphyllum wallisii). With dark green leaves and long lasting showy white flowers, this is a great plant for the novice planter. Flourishing in well-drained soil, kept moist and allowed to dry out between watering, it prefers filtered light and temperatures kept above 60 degrees F. This is a top contender for removing several pollutants from carbon monoxide to formaldehyde and benzene. The peace lily received its name as a symbol of the white flag raised to end a battle. Victorians popularized this plant after it was found by Gustav Wallis in the Columbian jungle in 1824.

Taking up the largest space, the powerhouse of purifying is the banana plant (musa oriana). With its large flat leaves arranged spiraling around a fleshy stem, this plant often considered a tree, is really an herb. Plant it in a good size planter with well-drained soil kept moist. As the plant grows, be careful to avoid letting it to get too cold. This amazing plant is the 4th largest produced fruit crop in the world.

None of the above whet your appetite to rush out and purchase your very own? Some other indoor plants for improving air quality are green spider plant, golden pothos, philodendron, mother-in-law’s tongue and bamboo palm.

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