Art of Living DIY Health

DIY: Purify your air with plants

By CG Lifestyles & People Editor Neal Patten

Photo by CGM Multimedia Editor Gracie Umana
Photo by CGM Multimedia Editor Gracie Umana


Research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has shown common house plants provide a number of benefits besides adding color to your space.  NASA’s studies conclude that rooms with plants have up to 50% less airborne microbes.  They also found that plants remove ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde – all toxins that originate from common household products – from the air.

The following eight plants are among the most effective for naturally purifying your air.


1. Areca Palm Tree / Butterfly Palm

A natural humidifier, it will keep your room moist in dry conditions.  Use one this winter to keep your room feeling fresh.

2. Lady Palm

This plant is equally as effective at keeping your room moist as the Areca but not that effective at removing formaldehyde.

3. Bamboo Palm

Ranked third in overall effectiveness at removing formaldehyde.  Be aware that they require more space and sunlight than your typical houseplant.

4. Boston Fern

Most effective at removing formaldehyde at a rate significantly higher than the other plants tested.  Also removes arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals from the soil in which it is planted.

5.  Rubber Plant

Provides moisture while suppressing air-based microorganisms.  Bacteria in this plant’s leaves break down air toxins for food.

6.  English Ivy

Studies show that up to 60 percent of airborne molds are removed from a room in the first six hours after introducing English Ivy.  A great solution for allergies!

7.  Aloe Vera

Another plant effective at removing formaldehyde.  Raw aloe can also be used to heal wounds, prevent infections, aid in digestion among other uses.

8.  Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

A good all-around toxin buster.  One perk is they grow in darker areas than other plants.


NASA suggests there should be a plant at least six inches tall for every 100 square feet of living space to ensure adequate purification.

While box stores such as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s undoubtedly could provide for all your gardening needs, you are unlikely to find the type of helpful expertise you could use at such markets.  Instead, shop at a local gardening store – the employees there are often trained to answer your questions.  Athens has several plant and garden stores that should meet all your needs: White’s Mill, Brennan’s Plants and Companion Plants.

Who knew plants were more than just decoration?