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Best plants for improving indoor air quality

This ficus is pruned yearly to fit inside
This ficus is pruned yearly to fit inside

Sharing your home with houseplants has many advantages, such as renewed energy, a brighter outlook and most important, the indoor air purification they provide. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is partially alleviated with the use of interior plants and their ability to remove many of the toxins polluting indoor air quality.

As one might imagine, the larger the leaves, the more toxins they can remove. Clear the air in your home by adding Ficus elastica and Ficus lyrata houseplants to your indoor décor. Variations of the rubber tree and the fiddle leaf fig can match any décor and are among the most attractive air filters available.

Ficus elastica 'Variegata' normally grows to 6 to 8 feet when used as an interior plant, although older plants with room for growth may reach 12 feet. In their natural habitat outside this plant may reach 40 feet. The mottled green and white leaves branch oppositely from the stem, while the traditional rubber tree displays red veins and has a reddish tint to its large, glossy leaves.

Ficus lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig, offers wavy green leaves shaped somewhat like a fiddle. It is also among the best plants for cleaning indoor air. A slow growing plant, the fiddle leaf Ficus may be shaped as a tree by allowing growth and removing bottom leaves or kept short and compact by trimming the top of the stem. Outdoors this specimen produces edible fruit, however, indoors its' use is only ornamental.


Though adaptable to most indoor conditions, Ficus houseplants prefer a bright and diffused light situation away from drafts. Direct sunlight may burn the leaves. Location is best unchanged, as lower leaves may drop if the plant is moved.

Plant in a well-draining houseplant soil and repot as needed, usually every other year. Keep soil moist and feed three times yearly with a high nitrogen houseplant fertilizer, in spring, mid-summer and early autumn. Plants should be allowed to go dormant in late fall and winter. Limit watering and stop feeding during these months.

Add a large leafed, attractive Ficus to your indoor space for a cheerful pickup and improved air quality in the home.


"The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual", Barbara Pleasant, 2005

"Interior Plantscapes: Installation, Maintenance and Management", George H. Manaker, 1997

EPA Indoor Air Facts:

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