Did you know that your beautiful house plant can pull double duty? Many of the plants we use every day in our homes and offices can actually purify your indoor air. The ability of a houseplant to clean the quality of the air is now accepted scientifically. “Sick Building Syndrome” is attributed to the poor ventilation in energy efficient, tightly sealed homes and buildings. It is not due to microorganisms. Dr. Tony Pickering of the Wythenshawe Hospital near Manchester, England has studied this syndrome extensively. He found that naturally ventilated buildings with high levels of microorganisms had minimal symptoms while mechanically ventilated buildings with low levels of microorganisms had the highest levels of symptoms.

After much research related to my Mother’s allergy and health issues surrounding a chemical called formaldehyde, I discovered a book called “How to Grow Fresh Air” by Dr. B.C. Wolverton. It is a very interesting and informative book that discusses how 50 different houseplants can purify the indoor air. I highly recommend it!

Dr. Wolverton recommends the Boston Fern as the most helpful plant in absorbing chemical vapors (VOC’s which stands for Volatile Organic Chemicals), such as formaldehydes. The Areca Palm, Lady Palm and the Bamboo Palm all rate high to help absorb chemical vapors in our homes. It is recommended that you have at least two plants per 100 square feet.

Plants will filter out toxins and carbon monoxide as well. The plants’ leaves absorb these organic chemicals and destroy them by a process called “metabolic breakdown”. The chemicals are metabolized and converted into tissue products such as organic acids, sugars, and amino acids.

Below is a list of the 50 more powerful plants that help rid the air of VOCs.  The higher up on the list indicates the most effective for eliminating toxins in the home.  Now we have one more reason to fill our homes with these beautiful plants.  Note: these may or may not be safe for pets. Please check with your local Humane Society for their up-to-date list.


  • Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  • Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Bamboo Palm (Chmaedorea seifrizii)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)
  • Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
  • Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans “Massangeana”)
  • Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Kimberley Queen (Nephrolepis obliterata)
  • Florist’s Mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  • Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
  • Dracaena “Warneckei” (Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”)
  • Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
  • Red Emerald Philodendron (Philodendron erubescens)
  • Syngonium (Syngonium podophyllum)
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia “Exotica Compacta”)
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
  • Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla)
  • Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
  • Lacy Tree Philodendron (Philodendron selloum)
  • Heart-Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia Camilla)
  • Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum or Philodendron tuxla)
  • Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
  • King of Hearts (Homalomena wallisii)
  • Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura “Kerchoveana”)
  • Dwarf Banana (Musa cavendishii)
  • Christmas and Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
  • Schlumbergera rhipsalidopsis
  • Oakleaf Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia “Ellen Danika”)
  • Lily Turf (Liriope spicata)
  • Dendrobium Orchid (Dendrobium sp.)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum “Vittatum”)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema crispum “Silver Queen”)
  • Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum)
  • Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum)
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
  • Dwarf Azalea (Rhododendron simsii “Compacta”)
  • Peacock Plant (Calathea makoyana)
  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
  • Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)
  • Urn Plant (Aechmea fasciata)
  • Tulip (Tulipa gesneriana)
  • Moth Orchid (Phalenopsis sp.)
  • Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)