5 low-maintenance plants that can purify the air in your home, office

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

Harmful pollutants, which are not confined to outdoor spaces, can be found in homes and offices. However, plants can help to improve indoor air quality and clean the air that you and your family breathe.

As reported in a clean air study by NASA, plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals from indoor air.

Plant pot displayed in the window

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Plants absorb particles from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis.

Stephanie Huckestein, instructor of indoor plants at the Hahn Horticulture Garden of Virginia Tech, said plants remove pollutants from the air by absorbing gases through the pores on their leaves.

Many of the plants proven to clean the air can be grown indoors, even with limited sunshine. Huckestien said all plants need light to photosynthesize, but many are tolerant of lower light levels. Photosynthesis is the process through which plants use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into food.

1. Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

This is the perfect beginner plant because it doesn't require a lot of work or maintenance. The snake plant is number one for its ability to stay alive with little water, sun and humidity.

"As far as houseplants go I think that snake plants are among the most durable and forgiving that you could possibly grow," said Marc Hachadourian, the Director of the Nolen Greenhouses and Curator of the Orchid Collection at The New York Botanical Garden.

Sansevieria trifasciata leaf in natural light and shadow and selective focus.

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The most common type of snake plant, which is easily found in most gardening stores, is also known as mother-in-law’s tongue. The plant does not require grooming because it is a grows slowly. However, fertilizer can be used to stimulate faster plant growth.

"As far as houseplants go I think that snake plants are among the most durable and forgiving," Hachadourian said.

2. Spider Plant

If you have a bright, sunny room, the spider plant will easily grow in no time. The plant loves indirect light and doesn't require much attention.

"The Spider plant is very forgiving of varied conditions of care and is excellent starter plant for people worried about a fussy houseplant," Hachadourian said.

Wicker Chair and Table with Airplane Plant and Rug

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The plant is a very adaptable houseplant and is considered to be one of the easiest to grow because it can thrive in a wide variety of conditions. The spider plant is named after its spider-like features, also known as spiderettes, which dangle down from the plant.

It is easy taken care of because the plant prefers to dry out between watering times.

3. Garden Mum

As one of the top-performing air-purifying plants, it removes formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

This plant works well indoors, but according to Hachadourian, they are in flower in the home they require bright light during their bloom.

Flower in greenhouse

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Set the potted mums indoors near a window that receives bright, indirect sunlight all day.

It is time to water them when the top 1 inch of soil is dry.

However, it is best to plant mums outdoors after they bloom, because indoor conditions do not allow them to re-bloom after the initial flowers last three to four weeks. When planting mums outdoors, look for a spot that receives a few hours of sunlight in the early morning or evening.

4. Boston fern

Boston ferns are a little more high maintenance because they need a cool place with a high level of humidity and indirect light. However, experts say they are well worth the maintenance because of their air-purifying abilities.

Boston fern's remove more formaldehyde than any other plant. They also remove pollutants from car exhaust that might enter a home from an attached garage.

Boston fern sitting near window

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When growing a Boston fern indoors, it's a good idea to provide additional humidity for them, especially during winter. You can create higher humidity by running an air humidifier or by placing a tray with water and stones nearby.

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5. Peace lily

Peace lilies are a great indoor or office plant because of their beautiful flower. Blooms will be plentiful from peace lilies when there is more light. Make sure you can plant them in an area that gets direct sunlight.

If the plant starts to wilt, its roots show or it drinks up all of its water within a couple of days, re-plant it in a bigger pot. Keep in mind, these plants produce pollen and may make the space dirty, unlike some of the other plants featured here.

"One of the best choices for low light conditions in a home or office. The plant is very easy to grow providing you don’t let the plant dry out for too long," Hachadourian said.

If you would like your peace lily to bloom more, use an organic fertilizer. Peace lilies are very sensitive to chemical fertilizers.

Blooming white flowers spathiphyllum.

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"The good thing about this group of plants is while they need light for photosynthesis they will thrive in medium to low light conditions from indirect window sunlight and indoor lighting systems found in many office and work environments," said Dr. Gary Bachman, GRP, CPH extension/research professor of horticulture for Mississippi State University.

Indoor plants have also been shown to have positive psychological effects such as reducing feelings of fatigue and stress, Bachman said.

"Studies in hospitals have shown having plants in rooms have helped improve patient attitudes and [have helped patients to] recover faster. Also, plants in classrooms have contributed to increasing student alertness," Bachman said.

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