The Best Cheap Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
I don't have much of a green thumb. In fact, I've managed to kill every house plant I've ever owned — even things as basic as cactus and bamboo. But it's not for lack of trying. We currently have four plants in our home, all still living (or eking by) after owning them for the past year. However, I imagine that sometime soon I will again have to invest in another plant.
Because my house seems to be a plant death trap, it's necessary that I buy plants that are on the cheaper side. I've also been intrigued by plants that improve the air quality of my home. After doing some research I've put together this set of the best plants that will improve your indoor air quality — all while on a budget. (See also: 6 Mosquito-Repellent Plants With a Dual Purpose)
Plants That Improve Air Quality: The Research
There are two great sources to learn about plants that improve indoor air quality: The NASA Clear Air Study (PDF), and a TED talk by Kamal Meattle entitled "How to Grow Fresh Air." If you'd rather see a condensed version than read through the study or watch the video, Wikipedia has a great chart that lists air-filtering plants.
In short, the research examines how various pollutants — including formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, ammonia, and benzene — are filtered by indoor house plants. (Don't think these are in your home's air? Sadly, they are released by things as common as ink, foam, and plastic bags.) It turns out that in a fairly short span of time, plants can make a dramatic difference in your air quality. Meattle recommends as many as four plants per person (depending on the plant), but I think that one is better than none.
Best Plants for Indoor Air Quality
Based on these studies, I selected the plants that either Meattle listed in his talk or those plants that filtered four or five pollutants summarized by the Air Filtering Plants list mentioned above. I've then ranked them by price as found using Google's Shopping tool to determine the best cheap plants for the best indoor air quality.
1. Mother-in-Law's Tongue / Snake Plant
Mother-in-Law's Tongue is recommended by Meattle and the NASA study. Depending on the size of the plant and the number of stems, Mother-in-Law's Tongue will cost you anywhere from $15 for a basic plant to $70 at Sam's Club for a snake plant with 50 stems. It filters formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and benzene. It's recommended that you put it in the bedroom, as it converts CO2 into oxygen at night.
2. Golden Pothos / Devil's Ivy / Money Plant (Epipremnum Aureum)
Golden Pothos or Devil's Ivy is recommended by Meattle and NASA and can be easily purchased at Home Depot and Walmart (I've even seen it at Ikea) for starting around $15. It filters formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and benzene.
3. Pot Mum or Florist's Chrysanthemum
The Pot Mum is not readily available as a potted plant online, but it's very frugal if you're up for a little bit of work. For under $5 you can buy seeds and grow your own. (I didn’t rank it as the top frugal choice because of the extra work required to grow it.) The Chysanthemum flowers nicely and removes formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, ammonia, and benzene from the air.
4. Peace Lily
Peace Lilies are beautiful plants and can be purchased for between $35-$50 depending on the plant's size. Like the Pot Mum, it filters formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, ammonia, and benzene.
5. Red-Edged Dracaena
Recommended by NASA, the red-edged dracaena is found in many retail stores and online starting at around $35. This plant filters formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and benzene.
6. Areca Palm
Meattle suggests this plant (but it wasn't included in the NASA study) because of its oxygen-making qualities. It filters xylene and toluene. It's a much larger plant than the others (and looks great in the living room), and it starts at around $45 per plant.
Personally, I would mix up the flowering plants (the Peace Lily and Pot Mum) with the non-flowering plants for the most variety, but I like that Meattle suggests just three plants (the Areca Palm, Mother-in-Law's Tongue, and Money Plant). The real question — which is hardest to kill for a non-gardener like me?
Do you have plants in your home specifically to improve air quality? Do they seem to help?