House plants are not just a good interiors look though - they actually have real benefits. The most notable study was done in 1989 by NASA. When the air inside the space stations was becoming toxic one of the things that NASA wanted to do was find any plants that could absorb chemicals from the air. They did an extensive look into 16 common house plants and looked into the effects of the house plants on levels of three chemicals. These were formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene; all of which are found in our homes and are considered possible carcinogens and teratogens (an agent or factor which causes malformation of an embryo). There’s even a name for the process: phytoremediation.
I have picked a couple of plants to focus on (both care and benefits) from the above study.
Mother in Laws Tongue
These are part of the Agave family and originate from West Africa. They are known to remove all three of the aforementioned chemicals as well as another chemical called xylene. They differ from most other houseplants as they produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide at night. We think they make a great plant for a bedside table due to these qualities. They like a semi sunny spot but will also tolerate shade. To keep this one thriving make sure that the soil is allowed to completely dry out between waterings. You can feed it once a month too.
From South Africa, these have managed to shake off their 1970s image recently and rightly so! Not only are these guys super easy to keep but they have been proven to remove formaldehyde and xylene from the atmosphere. They will tolerate most light conditions and will put up with most conditions - like to be in moist soil but do allow to dry a little in between waterings. When they are happy they will shoot out an extra stem with flowers that rapidly turn into babies.
Suits most places in the house - especially if they can cascade down a piece of furniture. Once the babies appear - break one off, leave it in a glass of water for 7-10 days and roots will appear - ready for planting.
Many people know Aloe Vera to be a great little pharmacy for the bathroom windowsill. The gel inside the leaves is great for helping to heal burns and cuts. Aloe Vera is also a great plant to improve your indoor air quality. It is easy to grow and absorbs benzene which is commonly found in paint and certain chemical cleaners. It likes a sunny spot and a good drink but allow it to dry out between watering to prevent root rot.
A study in 2009 by Georgia University concluded that asparagus ferns (densiflorus - sister to plumosus) had one of the highest rates of absorption of five known VOCs (including benzene and toluene octane, trichloroethylene, alpha-pinene). So not only are these plants utterly gorgeous to look at but they are super healthy to have in the house as well. These are actually not ferns but a member of the asparagus family (just don't dip them in your eggs!). They like a semi shaded spot with moist but well drained soil. When the leaves go yellow it can be a sign of under-watering or too much sun.