Houseplants are known to be pleasing to the eye and calming to the mind, but did you know they are also natural air purifiers?
Some of the most notable species known for their air purifying effects include:
But how do house plants actually purify the air in our homes?
How Plants Purify the Air
Houseplants improve air quality in two notable ways: increasing oxygen levels and absorbing toxic airborne compounds.
Oxygenating the Air
All plants intake carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen (O2). Gas exchange - respiration - typically peaks in the daylight hours and slows down at night as plants enter a state of rest. But some of the most popular air purifying plants - such as snake plants - experience peak gas exchange at night. These plants release oxygen throughout the night in a process called Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM): a cycle where plants photosynthesize during the day, but only open their stomata (tiny pores on leaves) to exchange gasses at night. These plants will capture CO2 and release O2 while you sleep! A few rare species are known to release oxygen over 24 hours, such as the Indian peepal tree or “sacred fig”. But for those of us who don’t have a bonsai peepal tree in our bedroom, some easy-care houseplant options that release oxygen at night include spider plants, pothos, and money trees.
Absorbing Airborne Toxins
With many of us spending limited time outside, the oxygen houseplants release is a huge benefit. But house plants provide an extra layer of health benefits in that they can actually assist in purifying the air in our homes. A very famous NASA study discovered that plants can purify the air by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde and benzene. VOCs are all too common in the average home today, present in the air from off-gassing of furniture, carpets, and personal items fresh out of the factory.
Air purifying house plants will actually absorb harmful airborne toxins through their stomata during gas exchange. The toxins then enter the plant’s tissues, to be secreted into the soil through the roots and broken down by soil microorganisms over time. Plants and their accompanying microorganisms are powerful bioremediators - the benefits of which you can enjoy right inside your home!
How to Care for Air Purifying Plants
How do you care for such helpful plants? Be sure to gently dust off their leaves with a soft paintbrush or microfiber cloth fairly regularly. Both photosynthesis and respiration are slowed by gathering dust, as the particles block out light and cover the stomata that intake harmful air pollutants. This simple step will not only increase the air purifying capability of your houseplants, but keep them healthier too! And as always, general plant health is very important for your house plants to be optimal air purifiers. Be sure to give your plants adequate nutrition and be aware of their specific light and water needs. If you care for your plants, they will surely care for you!