Grow your own fresh air with house plants

Grow your own fresh air with house plants

When you buy a house plant you don’t just bring greenery into your home, you also bring in a breath of fresh air and health - thanks to research from outer space.
Pot-plants not only soften your space and spruce up your décor, many of the more popular species also purify the air.

Information on their pollution-fighting properties dates back to a 1989 study when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sent a team of scientists to outer space to study house plants. For so many common plants to not only survive but thrive since the days of the dinosaurs millions of years ago, the scientists reasoned they must have something special to offer. And that is exactly what the astronauts turned up in the NASA Clean Air study: many common house plants  are effective at removing chemicals linked to health effects such as  headaches and eye irritation.

They do this by acting as a natural “lung” to give more oxygen, with the following a few of the best “heavy breathers”:


This easy-to-grow house plant, also known as the spider plant (chlorophytum comosum) is a flowering perennial herb which is native to South Africa. Its big bonus is that it plays a part in removing formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound found in a range of household materials from paints to synthetic fibres, from the air around it.  It helps to absorb harmful substances like mould and other allergens so it is a good choice if you have dust allergies.

Keep your hen-and-chickens in full sun, and don’t over-water.


Also known as a gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii) this popular florist’s pick is reportedly another natural weapon against formaldehyde as well as toxins such as trichloroethylene and benzene, which are both often found in the home.  Benzene is found in varnishes, floor finishes and detergents. The gerbera breathes out oxygen at night in particular, which makes it well-suited in a baby’s room or bedroom.

Gerbera thrive in plenty of sun and sandy soil.


Thanks to the way it targets airborne faecal particles, this creeping vine (Hedera helix) is often used as a natural air purifier in a bathroom. It also is beneficial to asthma sufferers and has a positive effect on mould levels.

However, English ivy is not native to South Africa and is extremely invasive, particularly in the Western Cape and it is now listed as a NEMBA Category 3 invasion species. If you do have one in your home,  just make sure it is kept indoors in a pot rather than grown outside. 

The English ivy creeper is happy in cool, moist conditions.


Aloe vera is a South African wonder plant known for its soothing sap which makes a wonderful natural remedy for burns and cuts. However, what is less well known is that aloe vera also purifies the air of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene.
Grow aloe vera in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light and make sure you give it a good soak every now and then. However, it’s a succulent so does not like standing in water.


Mother-in-law’s tongue is also called the snake plant, due to the piercing shape and colour of its leaves, but despite its biting name (Sansevieria laurentii) it should be made to feel welcome.

It’s a good choice for the bathroom as it is happy with relatively low light and high humidity at the same time as helping filter out air pollutants.


The humble African violet is another active air-cleaner, which at the same time brightens up a room with its bright purple, red, white and pink flowers. The colour purple is also thought to be good for your health, as gazing at its rich purple flowers can help to stimulate adrenaline release, which in turn can increase the flow of oxygen to the brain which can help you to relax.
African violets grow well in artificial light, so are ideal for your office as well as home. They need just enough water to keep the soil moist, and prefer indirect sunlight.


As well as its intense floral aroma, lavender has a calming effect and therefore a lavender plant in your bedroom may help you sleep better.  Lavender loves a sunny spot and thrives indoor and outdoors.
You don’t need to stop at this list, there are many more helpful healers Not only do all plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, some also have side benefits in the micro-organisms found in their soil.

Dot these little miracle workers around your living space to beautify your home; your lungs will thank you for the chance to breathe in the fresh air!

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