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How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  344 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
How pure is the air you breathe?Plants are the lungs of the earth: they produce the oxygen that makes life possible, add precious moisture, and filter toxins. Houseplants can perform these essential functions in your home or office with the same efficiency as a rainforest in our biosphere.

In research designed to create a breathable environment for a NASA lunar habitat, not
Paperback, 144 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1996)
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Rating details
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Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"How to Grow Fresh Air" is a nonfiction book about plants' ability to remove common office and household toxins from our indoor air. The book had two parts: 31 pages on how plants purify the air and what the research said about which plants are best at removing common air pollutants; and 100 pages with details about the 50 house plants.

The first part discussed indoor air pollution and the health problems caused by it (with a chart showing what sources--like carpeting, paint, and plywood--gave wh
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ecology-diy
The premise: Plants have beneficial properties for indoor environments. They circulate and humidify air through transpiration. They add oxygen (and sequester carbon, yay!). Certain plants have sweet bacteria on their roots that sucks air down into the soil and detoxes it of scary chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, and ammonia. They release phytochemicals that kill molds and microbes. Awesome!

Now let's write a vacuous picture book that dedicates two thirds of its pages to fairly usele
Jul 09, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to improve the air quality of an indoor space
Down-to-earth information, nice colour photos of the plants they list, and from my experience so far (I've tried growing two plants mentioned in the book), nice information about what conditions each plant is suited to.

After reading this book I started recognising quite a few of the plants the book lists in people's gardens.

I also found the description of what the author is doing in his own home inspiring.

I first heard about this book after watching a TED talk video called "How to grow your o
Apr 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Experienced Gardners
Shelves: diy-and-green
Just took this book back to the library. Although it was interesting, and well photographed, I wanted it to give me a plan for growing my own little "air purifier." This book would be a handy reference for someone who is already familiar with growing indooor plants, but for someone like me (who is not in anyway a green thumb) the book wasn't very helpful.
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, growing
OK SO everything in your house / apartment / office off-gases horrible things (including formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene) and since interior air doesn't circulate that well, poisonous air tends to accumulate. Then you breathe it and it can make you sick (headaches, eye pain, cancer, whatever). Plants can purify the air because they are so magical and science is cool. On one hand, I'm not sure if the science behind some of these ideas is totally pure but I do agree with the general th ...more
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I was inspired to seek out this book by an infographic I've seen floating around the Internet. How to Grow Fresh Air by B.C. Wolverton is a fine compendium of knowledge about plants and how to use them to purify and humidify the air.

The book is very short and to the point. It starts with a theoretical introduction explaining the problem of indoor air pollution (the SBS - sick building syndrome), how plants act as lungs of the earth and how they can be harnessed to combat SBS.

This is followed by
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! It is a little on the dry side, but packed with great information. I like the format, first explaining the background behind why indoor air pollution can be an issue and what causes it, then how plants can combat it, and finally devoting a full page to each of the 50 plants they studied that do a good job counteracting the pollutant.

It was a nice surprise to know we already have several of them in our house! None of the real superhero ones in terms of combating pollutants, but still
Nov 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Everyone who picks up this book will want to have plants in their home or office. Great reference for many of the houseplants I already inherited from my mother and mother-in-law, care instructions for 50 plants included. The author worked for NASA in developing interiors for space travelers. Basically, we need plants and since many houseplants are tropical in origin they need us to survive northern climates. Plants take in many pollutants through their leaves transporting them to their root sys ...more
May 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: houseplant owners
This was an interesting take on a houseplant book.
It took various plants, many not usual 'houseplants,' and rated them according to their ability to remove chemical vapors, the ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation, and transpiration rate.
The Areca and Lady Palms tied as the top two best over all, while the beautiful Moth Orchid and the cute Kalanchoe received the lowest over-all ratings.
Don't know what any of these plants are? Read the book.
Erik Mallinson
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: air breathers
This book is the best plant book ever. BC Wolverton makes a top 50 "best air quality" list of all the plants he's researched in his years at NASA. The book reads from the best to worst, each plant being judged on the same criteria. At the beginning of the book are a few short chapters with additional information - eg. what plants remove the most formaldehyde (found in garbage bags, carpet, and paper towels).
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-green
addendums needed for this book:
1 "and how to keep your cat from eating them"
2 "what to do if your cat has eaten your Madagascar palm - late night visits to the vet - and notes on prevention"

I had forgotten why I had cut back on house plants, saw this book, read it and got inspired to repopulate my house with greenery. Then I remembered the dark history of Cosmo vs. my plants - the arms race - sharp plants - plants placed high upon pedestals - Cosmo tends to win.
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Although this is more of a reference book I wanted to share it on goodreads because I think it's so useful. It discusses houseplants that will filter the air in your home. Our homes are full of lots of chemicals--toxic and otherwise--and specific plants are useful for filtering specific chemicals. This is a wonderful way to "clean up" our homes (and make them look nice too).

BTW, HomeDepot had several of the plants they recommended, at about half the price of my local nursery.
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wolverton was involved in studies done by NASA to find ways to keep air within a space ship breathable. This book explains how plants can be used to remove toxins from the air. It has a guide that rates plants according to their ability to freshen air, their ease of care, and some other characteristics.

Interesting and well informed. His research is methodical. It did motivate me to populate my house with plants!
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of my all time favorite books and is one of my favorite books to give as a gift. I've lost count as to how many times I've given this as a gift. I first discovered this book on the bookshelf at a friend's mom's house. I find that it is easy to read and along with wonderful pictures extremely informative. It’s a great gift for any house plant lover or for someone who is just starting their house plant collection.
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
I wish there was more info in the book overall - it gives a good basic intro to the plants and how to care for them, but leaves me still not sure about some things, like hydroplanting, (can't remember the word for soil free water planting with special rocks?) which I had never heard of previously. Good starting point to expanding the TED talk on growing your own fresh air I think.
Ann Kucera
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feng-shui
An excellent reference for indoor plants. How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B. C. Wolverton discusses indoor air pollution, how houseplants purify the air and gives a ranking of 50 common houseplants in order of their ability to detoxify air, add humidity, and resistance to disease. The book also gives a fast overveiw of ideal growing conditions.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting. What houseplant pulls what toxins out of the air in your home or office? Answers here.

Seeing this in the book department of Outpost Natural Foods today reminded me of its value. I bought three copies of this book over the years because I lent each copy. Each borrower liked it so much that they kept it.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Didn't have as much info on how to take care of the plants once you have them on hand. At least I found out that the Gerbera daisies I like are good for air quality. I really like that flower. I have a Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, and a philodendron though.
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've taken this one out of the library a few times, too. Nice photos and it itemizes which pollutants different plants are good at eliminating from the air; goes into detail on requirements for growth and care.
Michael Tarpinian
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indoor, air, quality, house, plants
Very helpful guide to indoor houseplants. Running a print shop, I am concerned about indoor air quality. Great guide for selecting plants that are useful, small, and easy to care for.

Now I just have to keep the plants alive.
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book has a great explanation about the top 50 plants that can clean your air; and most of them are easily found at most garden stores ... and usually are easy to care for, except for some having susceptibility to mites.
susie Marie
Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
yes, nasa has trailers where they are trying to figure out which plants won't kill us all when we're hanging out star trek style. if you worry about exposures from your computer this book has several plant recommendations.

bottom line: palms=good air purifiers.
Apr 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
This is such a neat book! I recently became interested in using plant in the home to purify the air and this book was so helpful in providing an education on the topic. The information is informative, yet concise. It also includes a look at 50 individual plants and their performance in the home.
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
The book has good information, but does not discuss toxicity to pets. Organization could have been a bit better.

Basically, I am sticking with whatever plants I can find easily at a garden store or big box home store.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it liked it
useful, short, and lots of good pictures. just the thing to light my fire and get me to get some houseplants and some gardening done. plus, less formaldehyde in the house is always a good thing.
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Helpful, accessible, and a solution! An easy one at that.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Hooray for houseplants!
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Worth it for the list of plants. The science section at the beginning of the book is a bit wordy but illuminating nonetheless.
Liz Neves
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great info on plants that filter VOCs and other air pollutants from the home. Really nice photos including close-up shots of the plants.
How plants can help cut down on the toxins in your home.
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