Caring for plants is, in and of itself, a great way to relax. When you include your kids in the activity, you help teach them nurturing skills.  This keeps them connected with the natural world. We’ve chosen four often-overlooked air scrubbing plants species that are easy to care for.  They brighten up a room and help create a peaceful, relaxing, and healthy home environment.

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Our Four Family-Friendly Favorites!

Air scrubbing plants

There’s more than one way to create a green home, and air scrubbing plants in your house that improve air quality serve double-duty. NASA joined forces with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America in 1989.  The purpose was to determine which air scrubbing plants species could filter toxins from and add oxygen to closed environments. Their findings gave us a new level of appreciation for houseplants, and brought to Earth a better understanding of the toxic chemicals in our homes:

  • Ammonia: Cleaning products, urine, fertilizers, hair dye.
  • Benzene: Adhesives, synthetic fibers, plastic, furniture polish, exhaust fumes, hair dye, cigarette smoke, paint, pesticides and insecticides.
  • Formaldehyde: Paper products, plywood and particleboard adhesives, synthetic fibers, and insulation.
  • Trichloroethylene: Aerosol lacquers, degreasers, dry cleaning and stain removal products, arts and crafts adhesives.
  • Xylene: forest fire smoke, petroleum products, adhesives, tobacco smoke, engine exhaust, paint thinner, rust preventatives.

These plants are our favorites among those found to help “scrub” the air in your home as you strive toward an environment with low-VOC products. They’re attractive, low-mess, low-maintenance, and with supervision, offer opportunities for your kids to get involved in their care and use.

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also called “devil’s ivy”, this trailing vine is incredibly easy to grow in low-light conditions, and it’s forgiving if you miss a weekly watering. It removes formaldehyde, xylene, trichloroethylene, and benzene from the air. Though this is one of the most ubiquitous houseplants in North America, don’t allow pets or small children to eat any part of the plant. We recommend putting it on the top of a tall cabinet or shelf. It’s perfectly safe to let your kids participate in making cuttings to give as gifts, or to create more foliage surface space to clean larger areas. This Instructables guide will show you how!

Care is very basic. Once a week, put the pot in a tray of water and let it soak for about 20 minutes, or just stop to empty a water glass onto the soil surface as you pass it by.

Florists’ Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

These cheerful plants are easy to grow in the garden, but if you give them plenty of sunlight and air circulation.  They will thrive indoors with minimal care. Like you, this plant (which is also called “pot mum”) needs plenty of sleep to stay healthy. Place it in a room that’s completely dark at night. Kids love to deadhead spent flowers, but you can truly engage them and blow their minds. Notice their amazed reactions when you serve up salads garnished with bright gold chrysanthemum petals from their very own plants, or let them help you make iced tea made from boiled blooms.

Florists’ chrysanthemums are air-scrubbing champions, removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene.

Aromatic plants

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Culinary herbs and those cherished for their scent don’t have to live outdoors. You may already know how easy it is to grow mint, lemon balm, basil, and chives in your kitchen windowsill.  With a little more effort, you can keep the most fragrant “outdoor” plants inside.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Dwarf English lavender varieties can grow in a warm, arid, sunny window with little care other than weekly watering. We recommend the highly-fragrant, tidy Thumbelina Leigh variety of Dwarf English lavender, which grows 6″ to 12″ tall and about 8″ to 12″ wide. Trim off a few flowering spikes to make potpourri, decorative sprig bundles, or pillow sachets.  Lavender’s scent is known for its relaxing and sleep-inducing properties. Lavender can be a challenge to grow from seed, but you and your kids can pick out a few starts at your local independent nursery.

Speaking of kids picking stuff—they love to strip the velvety flowers off the plant spikes, so be sure to let them help when you make lavender crafts!

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

We’ve never found an indoor-friendly houseplant with the same strong, sweet fragrance as gardenias. Also called “Cape jasmine”, gardenia flowers have long contributed to perfumes.  They are used in many Asian and Polynesian floral wreaths. A staple of Chinese medicine since the middle of the 10th century, gardenia is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial.  It is also a relaxing and stress-reducing aromatic.

Gardenias need six to eight hours of bright, warm sunshine to produce their pale, waxy blooms and glossy green leaves. Set the container in a shallow saucer of stones and water to increase the humidity around your gardenia plant. Don’t let the plant sit in standing water. Gardenias require weekly watering, but they need to drain completely. is a great site for learning to care for these compact potted shrubs.

Pick a few gardenia flowers and help your children make their own perfume or linen spray. This very short but sweet video will show you how, using nothing more than a lidded jar, flowers, and alcohol.

Your home is your “green” refuge

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You can’t control your environment when you’re out in the world, but you can create a sanctuary at home. At Headleveler, we’re dedicated to providing you and your family with the healthiest sleep possible. Our hypoallergenic pillows provide support and, like our favorite indoor air scrubbing plants, facilitate healthy breathing. Follow us on Twitter or bookmark our blog for expert healthy living and sound sleeping tips!