Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Indoor plants are much more important to our homes than simply providing aesthetic value. Due to the recent indoor plant trend in interior design, we have all come to understand the benefits of house plants for their air purifying abilities. But did you know that this is actually proven by NASA?
In 1989 NASA completed a Clean Air Study whereby they compiled a list of common indoor plants that not only absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen but they also eliminated significant amounts of toxins including Benzene, Formaldehyde and Trichloroethylene. Subsequent lists were published in both 1993 and 1996 by the same scientists independent of NASA. NASA suggested at least 1 house plant per 9 square meters in an indoor space to provide sufficient air cleaning (roughly 2 per average sized bedroom).
When considering house plants, Australian Natives are often overlooked in favour of the more common, trendy house plants like Fiddle Leaf Fig, Mother In Law Tongue or Devil's Ivy. Below are some of the Australian Native Plants that made the Clean Air lists:
Nephrolepsis Obliterata (Kimberley Queen Fern or Sword Fern)
Native to Northeastern Australia, the Sword Fern is one of the easiest ferns to grow indoors. It is tolerant of both low light and high light areas but will require more water in high light. It is easy to divide to form new plants. Nephrolepsis Obliterata can filter out Formaldehyde, Tuolene and Xylene from your home.
Ficus Benjamina (Weeping Fig)
Often used as a Bonsai plant, Ficus Benjamina is one of the world's most popular house plants. Native to Australia and South East Asia it is often found growing on rocks. It can grow quite large if allowed to so can make a lovely indoor tree feature in a large room. It requires a bright room and regular watering to keep the soil moistened.
Weeping Fig filters out Formaldehyde, Tuolene and Xylene but is toxic if eaten so keep away from pets.
Unique to Eastern and South Eastern Australia, Dendrobium Orchids do not require the demands in heat and humidity of most other orchid varieties. Their root systems remain small and so they should be grown in a small pot. Flowering in Spring they can make a superb design feature. Dendrobiums remove Tuolene and Xylene from the air.
Shefflera Actinophylla (Umbrella Tree)
This tropical plant, native to Australia and the Pacific Islands, has been one of the most popular indoor plants for a long time. It is available in traditional and dwarf varieties as well as a variegated form. It performs well in bright, indirect light and with regular watering. The Umbrella Tree removes most chemical vapor from the air.
And some that weren't included in the study but are insanely beautiful (while still removing C02 and releasing oxygen):
Brachychiton Rupestris (Bottle Tree)
This Queensland native is a stylish statement for any space. The root forms a thickened bottle shaped trunk which becomes more pronounced as it ages. The Bottle Tree tolerates cramped conditions making it an excellent Bonsai specimen. It is drought tolerant as it holds water in it's 'bottle' trunk so can handle a moderate degree of neglect.
Backhousia Citriodora (Lemon Myrtle)
Lemon Myrtle is a rainforest tree which is native to Queensland. It is a very useful plant to have in the garden but can also be grown in a pot, indoors. Lemon Myrtle leaves have a beautiful aroma that is released when they are warmed in the sun. Indigenous Australians have used the leaves for cooking and medicinal purposes. They can be dried like bay leaves and used in cooking or to make tea. The aroma not only repels bugs and mosquitoes, it is used to relieve headaches and has sedative properties to aid in sleep.
Macrozamia Communis is native across the East Coast of Australia. They are very slow growing plants and will grow to the size of the container that they are potted in. The plant has sharp edges and the leaves have spiny tips so care needs to be taken when handling but they make a striking interior design feature.