Indoor Plants as Natural Air Filters

I grew up surrounded with green. My mom had the Green Thumb, which unfortunately has not been passed on.  She had a beautiful garden and although we kept switching homes, the plants were a staple.  Which is why I can still cringe when I see plastic ornamentals inside a home. I just still think that nothing could pass off for the real thing. It doesn’t help that I married a walking (and talking!) plant encyclopedia.  My husband can tell you the name, genus and species of every plant and tree you see and can go on for hours.  Ask any friend who’s had the privilege or bad luck of getting stuck with him in a road trip for 16 hours.

Now I’m stuck in a building and most people wonder how in nature’s name I could keep plants thriving inside without a balcony and the sun. But if I had my way I’d transform my home into a tropical forest. There’s something delightful about going inside a home filled with plants. The air’s a little bouncier, and you can actually breathe easy. And since you spend most of your time indoors, it helps to have a breath of fresh air especially when you live right smack in the middle of smoke city. In fact, indoor plants not only produce oxygen, they also absorb benzene, formaldehyde,  xylene, toluene and trichlor.

NASA made a study on the best indoor plant filters. I have come up with my own list, adapting it to the availability of plants here and our tropical climate.  These are VERY easy to have.  Indoor plants originate from dense shades in tropical forests. The reason why they make good air filters is that they have a very high rate of photosynthesis (that’s why they don’t need as much sun.)

Plant Benefits (according to NASAand Wolverton) My comments
Benzene Formaldehyde Tricho
Peace Lily




These are the easiest to take care of. They don’t need much sun and in fact thrive beautifully indoors.  You also get a pretty white flower thatreminds you to om your way to peace.
Chinese Evergreens X X These plants you can actually see everywhere as they are the office and mall favorite.  They are sturdy and also do well indoors. I am not too fond of the plant though. They don’t look pretty J but you can buy small ones to keep on a desk.
Bamboo Palm X This ornamental I really love. They have nice pretty stalks that look like red bamboo and you can keep them for months. They also grow tall. I have had Bamboo palms inside my house growing for more than a year.
Mother in Law’s Tongue X For wives who would like their mother in law always in the house, this is the plant for you. Kidding.  The name says it all, this plant just won’t wilt! It could go on forever. Though I have relegated these plants to the bathrooms (no meaningful reason, really) as they don’t need so much sun and could stay up and erect for months even if you forget to water them. (This plant is also known as Espada in the vernacular.)
Draceana (Fortune Plant) X X Some people love this because it supposedly brings good fortune.  I tried my luck and have these plants at our shop all the time.We bring this plant outdoors once a week. I try to water it twice a week.  But I’ve seen this plant thrive so long without sun exposure.
Ficus X Quite elegant and can grow quite tall. I haven’t been very successful at keeping it for so long. I think it needs some sun. It is also sensitive to drafts. After a few months the top branches wilt.  The little leaves always fall off too so you need to always sweep.
Rubber Plant X A strong indoor plant that tolerates drought. The leaves look shiny and sturdy almost like plastic.
Fern X I like how this plant looks but it is not as strong as the other plants. I think it’s because this plant likes humidity and you should be misting it when it gets too dry or hot. Could last a few months without a lot of sun.
Areca Palm No one pays much attention to this palm as it is quite very common. But I love this plant and have had the palm for more than a year.  It looks pretty indoors as they grow to a good size. I usually buy 2 or 3 (P100 each) and have them put in one big pot.
Spider Plant


Rhapis (also known as Five Fingers or Lady Palm)

This is the easiest to keep. You can neglect it and still it will thrive.  These are those common plants you see with the long thin leaves that have a white stripe in the middle.


This one is very easy to keep.  I have had Rhapis stay indoors for months without much problem.  They call it Rapis in the vernacular.  The leaves of these look like a fan or an opened palm.


You supposedly need 1 plant for every 1 square meter of floor space.

Spider Plant
MIL Tongue
Fortune Plant

You need not keep these plants near the window all the time nor do they need direct sun.  Bi-weekly by the window with some filtered sun does the trick.  I also water only once or twice a week.

Peace Lily

I buy my plants from the Bulacan Gardens, Guiguinto, Bulacan.  It’s quite easy to find. Just take the exit that says Guiguinto and you’re apt to see gardens on one side of the road. It takes me about 1 hour 1/2 (from Makati) but it’s definitely worth the time and the gas.   The prices are 1/3 what you would pay for them in other markets/gardens. You can get small plants for about P50-75 a piece and tall palms at P100.  The more special ones (like an enormous Peace Lily or a Bamboo Palm) could go only as high as P250-500. Go with P2000 and you’ll have enough plants to fill an apartment or small home.  Note that they won’t have a clue if you just tell them names.  You need to research before you go there so you know how the plants should look like. They make up names for their plants too. Another garden market is the Manila Seedling Bank but there’s not much variety for ornamental houseplants and the prices are not as low.

There’s also a wonderful book How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office.  The book tells you about contaminants and toxins in your indoor environment and how plants remove these from the air.  It also tells you what plants to buy and how to take care of them.


  1. Jo UyGongco / thewingedpalate

    I’m so happy I found your blog. Been looking for indoor plants fit for our climate. I too try to green my thumb to feeble results but I’m not giving up. Will try to grow your recommended plants. Thank you

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