Q: I’ve heard that it’s bad to have houseplants inside because they release carbon monoxide? Is this true and if so which houseplants should be avoided? Which ones are good?
A: Houseplants release carbon dioxide, not monoxide — that is a toxic gas. Houseplants are healthy for our indoor environment. Not only do they clean the air, but they’re relaxing to look and be around. NASA has researched the benefits of plants on air quality for about 20 years and found that common houseplants are natural air purifiers. While the original NASA research was aimed at finding ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations, the study is important for us on Earth. The following plants are documented as being especially good at improving indoor air quality:

Plants that Clean the Air:

  • Aloe Vera: formaldehyde.
  • Areca palm: all indoor air toxins.
  • Elephant Ear Philodendron: formaldehyde.
  • Lady palm: all indoor air toxins.
  • Bamboo or reed palm: benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.
  • Rubber plant: formaldehyde.
  • Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ (corn plant): benzene and cigarette smoke.
  • English ivy: benzene and formaldehyde.
  • Dwarf date palm: xylene (found in paints, solvents and adhesives).
  • Ficus (weeping fig): formaldehyde.
  • Boston fern: formaldehyde.
  • Peace lily: acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde.
  • Golden pothos: carbon monoxide, benzene and formaldehyde.
  • Kimberley Queen fern: formaldehyde.
  • Florist’s mums (Chrysanthemum): formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia.
  • Gerbera daisy: all indoor toxins.
  • Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata): xylene and trichloroethylene.
  • Red emerald philodendron: all indoor air toxins.
  • Parlor palm: all indoor air toxins.
  • Spider plant: carbon monoxide.
Beth Greer, aka Super Natural Mom®, is an award-winning journalist, green holistic health educator, healthy home expert and impassioned champion of toxin-free living. She’s also a radio talk show host, and trusted consumer advocate, who is leading a movement of awareness and responsibility about healthy homes, schools and work environments. Connect with Beth on Facebook and Twitter.