Aglaonema modestum, or the Chinese evergreen, is native to the tropical swamps and rainforests of southeastern Asia. Aglaonema modestum has lanced-shaped leaves that grow from a long stalk rising from a central point. In summer or early fall, mature plants produce an arum-shaped flower head comprising a white or yellow spathe with central stalked spadix, followed by red or orange berries.
Aglaonema modestum is suitable as a houseplant, and its tolerance of shade makes it good for low-light areas. Aglaonema modestum emits high oxygen content and purifies indoor air by removing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxins. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate skin if it comes in contact with the plant’s sap. The plant is highly toxic if ingested by humans, dogs, or cats.
Hedera helix, or English ivy, is a popular ornamental plant valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, provide excellent groundcover, and cover unsightly walls, sheds, and tree stumps. The evergreen, woody-stemmed plant is often seen trailing across yards and gardens, climbing walls, or as a decorative houseplant. Although the specimen here looks leggy, ivy can be very bushy if planted in mass. Hedera helix is considered invasive and grows aggressively once established.
Ivy helps filter indoor pollutants such as fecal particles and formaldehyde aerosols, helping to keep a house toxin free. It’s known for removing the chemical benzene, a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, pesticides, and the off-gasing of other synthetic materials. It is particularly effective against benzene found in oil-based paints, detergents, and plastic material. It is also said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies. Even so, Hedera helix can be toxic if ingested and its sap can irritate the skin.
Dracaena fragrans, or the cornstalk plant, is a flowering species native throughout tropical Africa, growing in upland regions at 600 to 2,250 meters (2,000–7,380 feet) altitude. Widely grown as a hedge plant, it is low-maintenance and does well in the shade. Indoors, it works well as a windowsill plant or as part of a mixed group, with its various leaf patterns complementing and overlapping one another. The white striped and variegated cultivars can brighten a shaded yard or dark corner.
Dracaena fragrans is said to be a good overall air purifier. It is known for removing trichloroethylene, a chemical found in many solvents, dry cleaning solutions, and refrigerants, as well as the carcinogen benzene. Dracaena fragrans is generally safe for humans, but if ingested it is very toxic for small animals such as dogs and cats.
Spathiphyllum wallisii, or the peace lily, is one of approximately 40 species in a genus of tropical evergreens. It grows wild in tropical regions of Central America, usually found in wet habitats. Spathiphyllum wallisii is an outstanding houseplant and is also common in tropical outdoor landscapes as groundcover or shade borders and accents.
Spathiphyllum species are known for removing benzene, a common household chemical and carcinogen; as well as trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents; and alcohols, acetone, and formaldehyde. They are also said to remove mold spores in the air, making them great for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. The plant is toxic to humans, cats, and dogs as most tissues contain calcium oxalates. Its sap is also a skin irritant.