In 1989 NASA conducted a study of houseplants that filter the air. Their purpose was to see what plants could help the space shuttle filter air and create oxygen in a symbiotic relationship with the astronauts since they have to bring with them all the air they will need to stay alive.
We spend a lot of time indoors, in our houses, which are not completely sealed but enough that many people have air purifiers on top of the HVAC systems we all have in our homes. The side benefit of this NASA study is that we can use the same reports to determine which are the best plants to have in our houses to help keep the air we breathe clean and full of oxygen.
Location of plants: Before you go out and buy your plants, you may want to figure out where they’ll go first. I might suggest that since much of our time at home is spent in our bedrooms it would be a good idea to put the plants there.
Here are the top 3 air filtering plants as far as I could tell based on the research.
The Living Room Plant
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens or Dypsis lutescens
“and purify the air. The Areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins.” – from arecapalm.net article
The Bedroom Plant
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant
“It improves indoor air quality by removing toxins such as nitrogen oxide and formaldehyde.” – from wikipedia article
The Specialist Plant
“It is also efficient at removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene” – from wikipedia article
In my research I came across another couple of plants that do a great job of creating oxygen and looks nice in your house.
Chrysanthemums, commonly called mums, are hardy plants that can grow nearly anywhere, from Canada to your indoors. This resilient flower is one of the best oxygen-producing plants, and adds a pop of color to your indoor display. Chrysanthemums will tolerate some shade, but the number and size of blooms will increase in sunlight. Water several times a week. Do not allow soil to dry out or become soggy. Apply a small amount of fertilizer once a month.
One of the more popular flowers, gerber daisies are also great at filtering toxic chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethlyne from the air. Their greatest secret is that, unlike many plants, they do most of their oxygen creating at night. So if you put Gerber daisies in your room while you sleep you are directly benefiting from the oxygen created by the flower at it’s peak production time.
Wikipedia has a great grid based on the NASA study that shows the Air Filtering plant next to what it filters out. It’s not complete but a good visual reference. (link)
Here is a PDF of the actual report done by NASA in 1989. Fascinating read if you have the time. (Click here for PDF)