Pollution control plants: myth or reality?

How can I achieve healthy indoor air? Can green plants make a difference?

In winter, we spend much more time inside the house. And since it’s cold outside, we generally open our windows little or not at all. As a result, the air we breathe inside is not renewed.

Contaminants and the nasty invisible volatiles

Air is essential to human life. So we expect the air we breathe to be clean, especially in our own homes. Unfortunately, our daily activities cause pollutants, including VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and electromagnetic waves, to be present in the air we breathe.


This graph shows the pollutants (in the circle in the middle) and their sources. . I present here the main pollutants, those we hear about the most, especially for their potential impact on health. Of course, we can’t eliminate all pollutants from our homes overnight, but we can easily adopt certain good practices, such as using natural cleaning products; baking soda and white vinegar are excellent allies for cleaning, and a simple oven can take care of many tasks that would otherwise be done in a microwave oven. Adding green plants to your décor can also be part of this list of best practices. How can you do it?

The role of plants

The opening of Florilège, Jardinerie urbaine, our boutique located in the St-Henri district of Montreal, is first and foremost a story of passions that Rosanna and I wanted to share: passion for nature, passion for the environment, passion for flowers, and of course, passion for plants. So for us, the very first role of a plant… is to bring happiness! 😀

However, it is interesting to know that plants can also play a role in the quality of the air in our homes.

Basically, the leaves absorb pollutants and micro-organisms, contained in the roots, and the enzymes present in the plant transform and degrade these pollutants into food for the plant. Thanks to this mechanism, combined with the effect of light, oxygen is released into the air through transpiration, and that’s it!

We must not underestimate our plants; they have an intelligence that allows them to go straight to the point and they have adapted incredibly well to their environment, over the course of evolution. The plant is always doing this decontamination process. However, for there to be a real impact on the air we breathe, one plant is not enough.

How effective is it?

According to an article published in Space for Life on the research work of Dr. Wolverton of NASA (a pioneer in research on the ability of plants to purify the air) and John R. Girman of the Environmental Protection Agency, it would take 680 plants to purify the atmosphere of a standard house of 139 m2. Yes!

The Associated Landscape Contractor of America (ALCA) recommends one plant for every 9.29 m2, or about 15 plants for a standard house.

This huge difference is based on the calculation of the volume of air to be treated. . In Wolverton’s experiments, each plant purifies on average 0.5 m3 of air. So, to get a good performance in a standard house of 340 m3 of air, we arrive at 680 plants. With the ALCA’s calculation, each plant would clean 23 m3 of air.

So what to think?

If all this data gives you (and us!) a headache, just remember that a few plants in the living room will not be enough to completely clean the air in your home (unless you have a miniature house!).

Remember also that each plant contributes to a better air quality. So you can’t go wrong!

We can also have fun optimizing the impact by choosing the right location for our plants. A few plants on the desk, near the computer, will undoubtedly help absorb the waves.

Choosing plants that clean up the air

Here is a list of plants that have proven to be effective in purification. The green boxes represent the rooms where the plants will be most useful. You can of course choose to place them in another room for aesthetic reasons or depending on the luminosity. Many houseplants need good light but not necessarily sunlight. Some plants are better suited to darker corners, such as Spathiphyllum, Rhododendron, Dracaena, Ficus, Pothos, Philodendron or Sanseveria. Crassula, and other succulents are also excellent for the office as they pick up wifi waves and only need a nice light without direct sunlight.

So what? Do we green the house or not?

To return to the title of our post, the myth is to think that a few plants are enough to clean the air of the whole house. The reality is that there are many contaminants in our homes; if plants can absorb some of them, it’s better than nothing!

Moreover, looking at beautiful green plants inside the house in the middle of winter is good for the morale… and it keeps you busy! ! It has been proven that the simple contact with a plant improves the well-being of humans. In an interview on Radio-Canada, Dr. François Reeves (cardiologist at the CHUM) declared that: “Several aspects of health (sociological, mental development, depressive disorders, conviviality between neighbors, crime rate) are invariably improved when people are in contact with green spaces.”

When it comes to the air quality in our homes, the foolproof, simple, and free solution is to open the windows for ten minutes or so, morning and night. Just remember to turn down the heat during this time and protect the plants that are more sensitive to the cold from the garlic current.

In conclusion, the calculation is simple: AIR IN THE MORNING AND EVENING + GREEN PLANTS = GOOD QUALITY AIR and guaranteed pleasure!


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