Houseplants improve air quality in the home by acting as botanical filters. As they pull air down into their roots for food, they cleanse it of toxins, contaminants and microbes, and release oxygen back into the air. Having a botanical filter in the bedroom provides fresh, clean air while you sleep. Placing a layer of gravel over the plant's soil prevents mould or fungal growth that irritate allergies.
NASA discovered that the peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is a heavyweight air purifier. It targets concentrations of formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It removes odours like cigarette smoke, gasoline and ink from the air, as well as off gassing from furniture and carpets. In 2007, the peace lily won the Desk Plant of the Year award according to the Peace Lily website. In addition to cleaning the air, the peace lily returns relatively large amounts of oxygen into the air. It is suited for the bedroom, as it prefers a warm and shady spot to thrive.
The Boston fern (Nephrolepis exalta) readily purifies bedroom air. There are many fern varieties, but the Boston is an old standby from Victorian times. It removes 1,863mcg of contaminants per hour from the air, nearly double that of the peace lily. It is also a vigorous plant but sheds. It thrives in ample sunlight and a slightly humid environment. Watch for greying leaves, as they indicate it is time to repot the fern into a larger pot, giving the root system room to spread.
These indoor trees are better known as ficus. One of the best known is the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina). The ficus is fussy about the sunlight and water. They remove formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from their environment. Purchase ficus cultivated for indoor use, as they are conditioned for lower light conditions.
If you are susceptible to pollen allergies, do not place flowering plants in the bedroom. If not, there are some beautiful flowers that lend cheery air purification to the bedroom. The brightly coloured gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum and peace lily are a few. Azaleas can even be brought indoors for a well-lit basement room. Some air-cleansing palms also produce flowers or tiny berries adding to your decor, such as the bamboo palm.
Plants, such as philodendron, ivy and aloe, provide air purification but can be toxic to people and animals. If you have children or pets, you should place these types of plants well out of their reach. Clean any fallen leaves before they can be consumed. Research any plant you bring into your home to find out if it is potentially toxic.
- Wolverton Environmental Services, Inc.; Frequently Asked Questions About Indoor Air Pollution; B.C. Wolverton; July 2010
- Peace Lily: Peace Lily
- Plant-Care.com; Boston Ferns - A Classic Houseplant Making a Comeback; 2011
- Mother Nature Network; 15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality; Joel Babbit, et. al.; 2011
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Ficus Production Guide; R.W. Henley, et. al.