People who live in temperate climates spend much time inside during winter months. Airtight homes stay cozy and warm during freezing weather, but they also accumulate odors from cooking, oil heaters, pets and aerosol sprays such as hairspray. While fragrant candles may be one solution to combat odors, some have lead wicks that cause headaches. Air sprays replace bad odors with chemicals, and many of them state that they are only for use in ventilated rooms. Odor neutralizing plants, however, remove toxins and add oxygen to the air.
Size and Quantity
A two-year study by NASA indicates that larger plants in 6- to 8-inch containers do a better job of cleaning indoor air. Additionally, the average home of 1,800 square feet needs 15 to 18 large plants for effective cleansing. Odor-causing pollutants include tiny airborne particles, such as from frying food or the furnace burning oil.
Green Spider Plant
The green spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is a good choice for the beginning gardener. It grows best with filtered light and warm surroundings, such as an interior (non-drafty) room rather than an enclosed sunroom. Spider plants grow in hanging planters, which makes them ideal for small spaces.
Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) is best for homes that do not have young children, as they are poisonous if eaten. The green leaves are heart-shaped with streaks of yellow. One cultivar, Marble Queen, has white leaves streaked with yellow or green. Marble Queen may help to lighten a dark room while also neutralizing odors.
Grow fragrant geraniums (Pelargonium) in sunny locations, perhaps in planters on either side of sliding glass doors. The pleasant fragrance emanates from the foliage, making geraniums a good choice for winter homes. Transplant them to your garden after the last frost.
Neutralize odors with lovely peace lilies (Spathiphyllum Clevelandii). Large-leaf plants remove more toxins and odors than smaller ones. Peace lily leaves have a coarse texture and tolerate filtered light conditions. Although peace lilies may have an occasional problem with mites, they are not susceptible to disease, according to the University of Florida Extension.
Philodendron is another low-maintenance, beginner houseplant. Three varieties of philodendron–lacy tree, heartleaf and elephant's ear–were part of the NASA study. Some cultivars are toxic to children and pets. Philodendron rarely has any problems from disease or pests if it is grown indoors.
- University of Florida Extension; Indoor Air Quality in Florida: Houseplants to Fight Pollution; Virginia Peart; September 2003
- University of Minnesota Extension; Houseplants Help Clean Indoor Air; Deborah L. Brown; January 1999
- Texas A&M University Extension; Chlorophytum Comosom - Spider Plant; Michael A. Arnold; 2009
- University of Vermont; Epipremnum Aureum; Dr. Leonard Perry
- North Carolina State University; Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Epipremnum Aureum; Dr. Alice B. Russell; 1997
- Clemson University Extension; Philodendron; Karen Russ; March 1999
Diane Perez is a writer who contributes to various websites, specializing in gardening and business topics, and creates sales copy for private clients. Perez holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Miami.