Air-Purifying House Plants

air-purifying houseplants
Note: I don't have a degree in horticulture, and I don't consider my thumb very green. So no guarantees on the accuracy or science of this information. Simply excited about this latest beginner endeavor.

Some people take lots of pictures of their pets--their Instagram feed is all their cat or dog. (You know who I'm talking about; maybe it's you ;) Well, I'm not much of a pet-person. But boy do I love me some plants! Leaves and greenery and grassy fields and bamboo shoots and trees. It helps that my favorite color is green, plus I just love the life and spiritual growth these represent.

So, today, I introduce you to the newest additions to our family--our air-purifying houseplants--through lots of pictures. We probably spend a little too much time doting on (of course I mean caring for) these plants. Is that weird? Don't answer that.

air-cleansing houseplant in the bedroom
air-filtering houseplants

Why We Bought "Air-Cleansing" Plants

This was a rough winter for us. Between the four of us we had strep throat (for all of us), multiple ear infections, the flu, and bronchitis in addition to typical colds. When it was finally Spring and we were still getting freezing weather and colds, I was ready to pack up our bags and head back south.

We live in a 1,000 sq. ft., 2-bedroom that feels a little tight in the winter. I love it, but Daniel is convinced these close quarters in the winter (and lack of fresh air) don't allow us to fully recover from sickness. Shortly after he mentioned this again, I ran into Bonnie's post on air-purifying plants on her blog Going Home to Roost. I knew we were long overdue for adding fresh life to our home, and this was just the motivation I needed to finally make it happen.

Back in 1989, NASA shared the specifics of the power these sprouts hold against indoor air pollution. The part that caught our attention: It takes just a 6-inch plant to filter a 100 sq. ft. space of many common household pollutants (think benzene, formaldahyde and other toxins I know nothing about). That means we needed ten 6-inch plants (or an equivalent combination of smaller and larger) to potentially cleanse all of these common impurities from our entire apartment.

And with the top air-filtering plants, much of this cleansing happens in a short 24-hour period. That's about 3 days faster than Brylee's recovery time for her multi-day flu!

Even if these plants don't directly cure a cold or the flu, we were ready to experience the benefits of fresher air in our small living space. Plus, have I mentioned I'm obsessed with these green leaves?

air-filtering houseplant as dining table centerpiece
adding air-purifying plants throughout the home

What Houseplants We Bought

Find a list of air-purifying plants here (with toxicity info for pets). Following are what we bought. (The last one might be a dracaena, but I don't know.)

Gerber Daisy // gerbera
Palm "Neanthe Bella" // chamaedorea elegans

Dracaena "Lemon Surprise" // dracaena deremensis
Dracaena Marginata
one unknown, possibly not air-filtering

air-purifying palm in the bedroom
houseplant naturally filters kids' room or nursery
air-purifying plants in kitchen and dining area

Where We Put the Plants in Our Apartment

We decided we'd start with one in each main living area. Here's what we ended up with...

Living Room

We put a plant (the "unkown" one) on our bookshelf. There are two other shelves we could potentially add a small plant, but wanted to wait until Ian is a little older and not so fascinated with digging in the dirt.


We have a gerbera on our kitchen counter, then we keep a bowl of fruit on our kitchen island. I know fruit doesn't have the same air-cleansing powers, but it still represents an important aspect of life and healthiness that we can easily add to our home. Eventually, I'd love to add a little herb garden, maybe hanging on a wall. We have a marginata waiting to be planted in a pot that currently resides on our island next to our fruit bowl.


We have a dracaena as our dining table centerpiece. (With a pot I love that was passed on from friends.) When the marginata (in the kitchen) is potted, that will likely be added to the dining area floor near the window. It will become a larger tree-like plant and needs lots of space.


Ian and Brylee have a smaller dracaena on the bookshelf in their room, and I have a palm (my favorite!) on my dresser/nightstand. We also have poppy seeds Brylee is working on sprouting, but that's more for fun. (Although poppies are a good air-purifying choice, too.)


We don't have plants in the bathroom, but I'd like a couple smaller ones that can easily be moved out for sunshine. Succulents look so fun and are supposed to be pretty low maintenance.

air-purifying marginata plant and bowl of fresh fruit
care for air-purifying plants

How We (attempt to) Care for Our Houseplants

It's a simple water, sunshine, repeat, then occasionally prune and fertilize. We started with reading each plant's care instruction card. They all had slightly different care, so we simplify by caring for them all pretty much the same. (I hope my cousin's not reading this; he actually does have a horticultural degree.)


Our plants' instructions basically said to keep ground moist, but don't allow it to become too saturated nor let the roots become soggy (not sure how I'm supposed to figure that out). We've been watering them a little a couple times a week. The top bit of soil is allowed to become a bit dry before we water again. These plants originated in humid climates, so we have a water bottle that we can spritz their leaves for added moisture, too.


None of these need all-day or direct sun. One plant needed 4-6 hours indirect light, and that was the most out of all of them. (Their original habitat is under larger trees and plants, so they're "used" to low light.) (Daniel says these plants originated in a lab so none of that applies.) We wonder if they get enough sun, so we periodically collect them all on small stools and dining chairs by the dining room window. (This window has full sunlight in the evening.) Maybe we're going overboard? They seem happy.


Occasionally a leaf is discolored or showing other signs of dying. We clip and toss these. If the whole plant is looking droopy, then that's a good indicator we need to do something different with the watering, sunshine, or fertilizing. (That poor Gerbera keeps looking droopy and bouncing back to life.)


Each of these plants' care instructions had varying frequencies to fertilize, anywhere from monthly up to every six months. A couple say to fertilize more frequently in the spring and summer, then less in the winter. The soil we used when we potted them was fertilized, so we haven't re-fertilized yet.



Did you catch these links?

top 10 air-filtering plants on going home to roost
list of air-filtering plants with pet toxicity info on wikipedia
search for plants to match your decor at exotic angel plants
nasa's '89 study on indoor plants
book of 50 plants to purify home or office

linked up with: little natural cottage // creative christian momma // growing home // deep roots at home