Planting a healthier office

apartment architecture business chair

Planting a healthier office

I am not talking here of a Jack and The Beanstalk type of scenario where you plant magic beans and in a short time have a brand-new, modern, and healthy office, although the concept is appealing. No, I am talking about using plants to purify the air of the working environment whether it be a commercial office, a home office like my own, or indeed the home. They all suffer from the same risk of airborne pollutants.

The road outside my home gets busier every year with increasing volumes of traffic and it is not even an A or B road. So I close the windows at the front of the house to reduce the traffic fumes and noise, and instead ventilate from the rear of the house. However, that does not save me entirely from the effects of pollution as there are other causes of pollution right under my nose: the chemical fumes given off by furniture, fabrics, carpets, and other synthetic products. The four main household toxins that are of concern are acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, which are known to be carcinogenic. Added to those are toxins given off by computer equipment, photocopiers, and the like.

The use of houseplants has in recent years been considered an effective way of decreasing the risk of cancers, asthma, allergies, and auto-immune diseases caused or made worse by these toxins. A general rule of thumb is one 10- to 12-inch potted plant for every 100 square feet of floor space can help to clean the air, removing up to 90 per cent of chemicals in the air within 24 hours.

Some of the best-recommended plants for filtering the air are:

  • African violet
  • Areca palm
  • Bamboo palm (acts as a natural humidifier)
  • Boston fern and Kimberly Queen fern
  • Chinese evergreen (emits high oxygen content)
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Dracaena
  • Dwarf date palm
  • English ivy
  • Ficus
  • Golden pothos
  • Jade or Money plant
  • Marginata or Dragon tree
  • Peace lily (also removes mould spores from the air so it is very good for bathrooms and other damp environments)
  • Philodendron
  • Rubber plant/tree (require less light than many other plants, but the leaves themselves can cause an allergic reaction)
  • Snake plant/Mother-in-law’s tongue (needs less light and water than most indoor plants)
  • Spider plant (NASA rates this highly for removing formaldehyde, carbon monoxide etc.)
  • Umbrella plant.

Some of these even I can manage to grow.

Plants with large foliage surfaces produce the most oxygen and reduce the toxic substances in the air by the largest amount.


Besides their air-purifying qualities, plants in general improve the atmosphere of any office by softening the hard, straight lines of modern furniture, and reducing dust levels in the workplace by up to 20 per cent. They also contribute to workers’ feelings of well-being, reducing stress and fatigue, lowering blood pressure, dry throats, headaches, and coughs.

So I shall keep on planting all over the house as well as my office.