Plants as a Cure – Here’s the Top Ten Air Cleaning Ones!

In light of the Japanese radiation leak situation, I’ve been seeing some news shows demonstrating how to seal yourself in a room to protect yourself against radiation particles. The downside is that they say after three hours, you have to open up the room to get some fresh air. I thought, what if you put some natural oxygen-makers in there with you? Fresh houseplants are good for both a healthier home and a well-feng-shuied one. (For gosh sakes, please don’t seal yourself in a room with some synthetic “plug-in,” synthetic oil burner or candle, or other chemical compound fragrance to breathe – lungs don’t like it one bit!)

Interior plants are great assets to a home for two reasons:

#1 They literally eat up indoor air pollution and re-oxygenate the air.
#2 They soften the feel of the room – creating a more inviting, “yin” condition…especially if you have corners protruding into a space (typically called a poison arrow or “sha chi”)

I’m not an authority on nuclear power plant pollution by any means, but I thought I’d take the time to give you all my ideas for the best typical house plants that not only warm and soften up a space, but help undo any typical interior air pollution that comes from off-gassing materials inside the home. (If you’ve got any “new home smell,” you’ve got indoor air pollution.) This might be helpful for those that need to rebuild after this disaster, or even those who are building or remodeling right now.

According to Organic Gardening magazine, the top ten air cleaning plants are:

(And being the landscape architect that I am, I have added the official botanical name as well)


1. Areca Palm – Chrysalidocarpus lutescens


2. Reed Palm – (I’m guessing here at what plant they are talking about – Rhapis Excelsa or Rhapis humilis, usually called “lady palm” perhaps? That’s why the latin names are so important!)


3. Dwarf Date Palm – Phoenix roebelenii


4. Boston Fern – Nephrolepis exaltata (Bostoniensis)


5. Pothos – Epipremnum aureum


6. English Ivy – Hedra helix


7. Australian Sword Fern – Nephrolepis exhalta or Nephrolepis cordifolia


8. Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum (there are many varieties: “Mauna Loa” & “St. Mary” are a couple)


9. Rubber Plant – Ficus elastica


10. Weeping Fig – Ficus benjamina


Another “healthy-choice” tip for your plants if they get dusty, or need any type of pest removal is:

#1 to wash leaves with a mild detergent solution (1 teaspoon detergent per quart of water)
#2 dip cotton swabs in rubbing alcohol and remove pests
#3 in a spray bottle, mix 2 tsp. Vegetable oil, 1/8 tsp. dishwashing detergent, and 8 oz. warm water. Shake and spray.


  • Debbye March 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Hi, Karen,
    Thanks for these tips for fresher air… Are any of the plants listed toxic to children or pets?

    • Karen March 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

      You might want to do your own research on this…sometimes people have sensitivities to the “milk” of the ficus and others don’t for example. This list is safe for mainstream people and pets – that is for those who don’t try to eat them or rub them all over their skin!

  • kathleen Kopp April 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    It’s important to note that many lilies are poisonous to cats and can be lethal if ingested.

  • Stephan Wolff September 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Excellent work over again!! Thank you.

  • plug plants December 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I am now not positive where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend a while finding out more or working out more. Thank you for wonderful information I was on the lookout for this information for my mission.

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