Growing Plants for Clean Air and More


plants-clean-air-735x2000One of our issues with living in small spaces is keeping our air clean. There are lots of chemicals, toxins and fumes in a typical motorhome, whether new or old. Formaldehyde, ammonia, methane, off-gassing from carpet, cabinets, wall panels or countertops as well as pollutants typical in traffic such as Diesel Particulate Matter, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides and other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are all hazards in a motorhome or recreational vehicle.

Never mind that most of us in any kind of RV are carrying around tanks of propane for cooking, heating and potentially refrigerators using gas for absorption cycles. There are a lot of potential health hazards, so keeping the air fresh and clean is key to good health on board an RV.

Plants that Cleanse the Air

English Ivy

This fast growing ivy (aren’t they all?) is an attractive, easily managed trailing plant that does well in either a pot or hanging basket. It is great at absorbing formaldehyde which is often emitted from cabinets, flooring, and chemicals used in cleaning. Although ivy does ok with low light, any variegation will be less pronounced and the plant may be more susceptible to pests.

Snake Plant

The snake plant has an upright, spiky habit, is easy to grow and not only does it absorb formaldehyde like the ivies, it also absorbs carbon dioxide and emits more oxygen than other plants. It does well in low light, so a bathroom might be a good spot for this natural air filter.

Golden Pothos for Air Cleaning over Diesel Engine

Golden Pothos for Air Cleaning over Diesel Engine

Golden Pothos

The golden pothos is special because it can absorb a host of other air pollutants, including carbon monoxide. We have two of these hanging directly over our engine hump in the rear of our diesel pusher, which is also directly next to the space where we work. They do well in low light and spend their watering days under the skylight in the shower stall.


This plant can not only absorb chemicals from the air, but it can serve as a canary in the coalmine – it can exhibit brown spots on the leaves if it’s overwhelmed by the amount of chemical toxins in the air. In addition, you can break open a leaf and use the gel of the aloe to treat burns, so it’s always a good idea to have an aloe around.

Rubber Plant

This plant doesn’t require direct light, so your options are increased when finding it a home on board your RV. Rubber plants emit extra oxygen in addition to relieving the environment of formaldehyde among others.

Aerogarden LED Indoor Garden

We enjoy fresh herbs from our hydroponic Aerogarden in which we re-grow green onions and maintain an herb garden with everything from basil to mint to rosemary. The plants thrive under the LED lights, and the bubbler in the base helps to circulate the water and provide needed oxygen to the roots of the plants. When we have an herb like rosemary that isn’t growing in water, we just set it on the surface and let it enjoy the extra light.

Other Plants to Enjoy on Board an RV

Air plants are happy with indirect light and don’t need regular watering, so they make easy houseplants to keep in small spaces. Cactus like more sun, but don’t need frequent watering so it’s a good option if you are forgetful.

There are a number of common household plants that work to remove specific toxins and chemicals from the air, but we’ve found that all plants, whether they be culinary herbs, cat grass or a blooming bulb in mid-winter, provide a boost to the spirit as well as a benefit to the air. What plants do you grow inside on your RV?

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