Power of Potted Plants

Ordinary potted house plants can potentially make a significant contribution to reducing air pollution in homes and offices, according to new research led by the University of Birmingham in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

During a series of experiments monitoring common houseplants exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a common pollutant — researchers calculated that in some conditions, the plants could be able to reduce (nitrogen dioxide) NO2 by as much as 20 per cent.

The researchers tested three houseplants commonly found in UK homes, easy to maintain and not overly expensive to buy. They included Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) and fern arum (Zamioculcas zamiifolia).

Over a period of one hour, the team calculated that all the plants, regardless of species, were able to remove around half the (nitrogen dioxide) NO2 in the chamber. The performance of the plants was not dependent on the plants’ environment, for example whether it was in light or dark conditions, and whether the soil was wet or dry.

In a poorly ventilated small office with high levels of air pollution, they calculated that five houseplants would reduce (nitrogen dioxide) NO2 levels by around 20 per cent. In the larger space, the effect would be smaller — 3.5 per cent, though this effect would be increased by adding more plants.

In the next phase of the research, the team will be designing sophisticated tools for modelling air quality indoors encompassing a much wider range of variables.