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We all appreciate the work that plants do–the vibrancy they add to our rooms, porches, gardens, and more. Many people take for granted what plants actually do. Whether its a colorful, huge shell centerpiece giving your living room that comforting center, or a hanging garden contrasting brilliantly with your new paint, they can be as functional, as they are gorgeous.

A few years ago I went to visit my parents. I had not been over for several weeks, and when I stepped though the door my father informed me that she was “at it again with the living room.” My mother has always been a certified “plant-nut,” coming up with a new, beautiful arrangement every month or so. When I walked into the living room I saw her sitting on the couch petting the cat, and I immediately noticed her new arrangements and fell in awe of her eye for design.
“Do you notice how fresh it is in here?” She asked.
I breathed in the freshness, and she began telling me that she had strategically integrated plants around the room to help purify the air. Before the conversation with my mother, I was under the impression that all plants purified the air – I mean, they breathe carbon dioxide right? Well, as it happens, there is more to purifying than that.

After visiting my mother, I was intrigued about the idea of plants serving as living air purifiers, so I did some research.

I found out that NASA had conducted a clean air study in 1989, and it turns out there are myriad of pollutants that we breathe on a daily basis. Most people spend at least 90 percent of their time indoors, and toxins such as benzine, formaldehyde and ammonia are released by anything from upholstery to flooring products to disinfectants–not to mention the usual pollen, dust and other pollutants typically floating around indoors. With that said, here are six plants that will purify the air in your home:

Hedera helix: Otherwise known as “English Ivy,” this plant is found in many places, and is considered a scourge among some gardeners. However, this plant is proven to remove benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia.

Opuntia lindheimeri: Otherwise known as “Langua de vaca” or “Cow’s Tongue Prickly Pear,” this cactus is native to Arizona and works overtime to remove pollutants at night, as opposed to only during the day, as is the case with many other air-purifying plants.

Sansevieria trifasciata: A member of the Philodendron family otherwise known as the “Snake Plant,” or “Mother-in-Laws Tongue,” this plant is unusual because it relies on neglect in order to bloom, and is notorious for its reputation as a powerful remover of common air pollutants and typical household toxins.

Chlorophytum comosum: Otherwise known as “Bad Mother,” or, “Spider Plant,” this stringy plant also requires little to no care and is proven to remove toxins such as formaldehyde and xylene.

Epipremnum aureum: Otherwise known as “Pothos,” or “Devil’s Ivy,” this plant is native to French Polynesia, is independent and also removes toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Dracaena marginata: Otherwise known as “Red-edged Dracaena,” this tropical tree is native to Madagascar and is proven to remove common toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde, as well as the less common trichloroethylene. This tree can reach as high as five meters, but is much smaller when grown as a house plant.