In the summer of 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America conducted a study on houseplants as a natural way to produce and purify the air in space stations. According to their findings, plants that required low light demonstrated a surprising potential for improving indoor air quality because they helped remove the build-up of pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (some of which—warning—are found in household supplies and furniture.) It stands to reason that we might consider living like those space-bound astronauts and populate our living space with more living plants. Here are some of the more powerful varieties to bring home:
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')
Perfect for homeowners who enjoy bouquets of flowers, but not the upkeep. This resilient tropical plant, recognizable for its pristine white blossoms, is pretty but incredibly powerful: It removes benzene (found in plastics and synthetic fibers), formaldehyde (in carpets and upholstery), trichloroethylene (in adhesives and paint removers), xylene, ammonia, and more.
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
This is one of the most popular houseplants because it is so easy to grow and maintain. As a tropical foliage plant, it's great for a budding (pun intended) gardener as it tolerates poor light, dry air, and drought. The best part: it's efficient at removing benzene and formaldehyde.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
This "spider-like" plant often potted in a hanging planter gets its name for its long, droopy leaves. It eliminates formaldehyde as well as xylene and toluene, the latter of which are both found in many household products.
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Also commonly known as "devil's ivy," this study plant has a subtle yellowish hue on its leaves. It especially eradicates carbon monoxide and benzene, making it suitable to entryways from the garage and garden.
Red-edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
This plant grows slim, ribbonlike stalks with red edges and can grow quite tall. Another powerful purifier, it eliminates benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')
A lush fern with featherlike fronds that thrives in humidity. While harder to care for than others, it proves to filter pollutants like formaldehyde plus xylene and toluene.
Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
While technically not a houseplant, these bright, colorful blossoms do more than just look pretty: Mums help eliminate harmful pollutants like formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and ammonia.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
This popular evergreen is recognizable for its verdant, trailing vines. It particularly excels at eliminating formaldehyde, which lurks in furniture and cabinets.
Feeling inspired? Watch how to start a family garden: