Professional Practice

Applying Ecological Design: Indoor Plants

productive plants page detail
Residential living wall design and installation / Vertical Landscape Architects

People in industrialized countries can spend up 90 percent of their time indoors, increasing their exposure to indoor air pollution. Indoor plants can dramatically improve human productivity and health, and effectively eliminate a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that come from adhesives, furnishings, clothing, and solvents. Indoor plant systems range from common house plants to more complex indoor-outdoor vertical walls.

Humans have a biophilic response to plants. Research has explored how exposure to plants, or even images of plants, indoors and outdoors can improve productivity and create a sense of well-being.

Indoor plant benefits include:

  • Improved indoor air quality: With the right plants, indoor plants can reduce up to 87 percent of common household air pollutants.
  • Improved health: Up to ten percent reduction of rates of asthma, headaches, and respiratory problems.
  • Increased human productivity: Productivity rates can increased by 20 percent in environments with superior air quality.
  • Reduced energy usage: Energy usage can be reduced by 15 percent because less air circulation is required with indoor plants.

Sources: Using Plants to Clean Indoor Air and Reconnecting with Nature through Biophilic Design, The Dirt, American Society of Landscape Architects


LEED for Homes, U.S. Green Building Council

Green Plants for Green Building

American Society of Horticultural Science


Best Air-filtering Houseplants According to NASA, Treehugger

Indoor Air Quality,

Top Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality, Clean Air Gardening

Nature in the Space: Indoor Nature Connections, Terrapin Bright Green


Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design,” Timothy Beatley, Island Press, 2016

"How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office," B.C. Wolverton. Penguin, 1998

"Managing Indoor Air Quality, Fourth Edition," Barney Burroughs and Shirley Hansen. Fairmont Press, 2008

"The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Gardening Know-How for Keeping (Not Killing) More Than 160 Indoor Plants," Barbara Pleasant. Storey Publishing, LLC, 2005

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants,” Igor Josifovic, Judith de Graaff, Callwey Verlag, 2016

Government Resources

The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Indoor Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Indoor Residential Green Wall
Vertical Landscape Architects





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