I'd published this post earlier naming it as the #1 air cleaning houseplant, since this is the plant that's cited at the top of most lists and the famous TED Talk. The problem is, according to Dr. Wolverton's studies, this plant isn't at the top of the list for either filtering of chemicals nor for transpiration rate. I believe the reason it's at the top of so many lists is because it's so danged easy to grow, and a beautiful houseplant that's growing like a weed is ultimately going to be a better air cleaner than a fussy houseplant that doesn't want to grow at all. So I'll lead with this post again, but we'll give it its real ranking number from the revised list, which is #24.
The first plant I bought at K-mart was a Golden Pothos. It was $6.99 but thanks to a rare confluence of events with their Shop Your Way rewards program, I managed to get it for a whopping eighteen cents.
The scientific name is Epipremnum aureum (or Scindapsus aureus or one of 23 other names, depending on who you ask). Now the botanists among you may be wondering why it's called "Pothos" but under the genus Epipremnum instead of the genus Pothos. And that's because it used to be classified under that genus, but is no longer. And now you know.
Some people call this the "Money Plant" and thus get it confused with the "Money Tree Plant" (Pachira aquatica). That's a great houseplant too, but not quite the same.
I put this first in the list because it's the one that comes up over and over again in the NASA report. It was one of the best all-around performers, removing 73% of benzene from a sealed experimental chamber in a 24-hour period (the fifth-best on the list) and 9.2% of Trichloroethylene (7th on the list). This plant was featured in a TED Talk by Kamal Meattle as one of the three essential plants for cleaning the air.
According to Dr. Wolverton, this plant originated in the Solomon Islands. It's native to Pacific regions like Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, and India. It's actually a highly invasive species, meaning that given the right conditions in a tropical jungle, it'll grow and grow and grow. In fact, when the species has been introduced in places where it's not indigenous like Sri Lanka, it's been known to cause severe ecological disruption. This is probably why it's also been given names like "Devil's Ivy" and "Australian Native Monstera" (from the latin monstrum, probably referring to the unusual appearance of leaves).
Of course, the very hardiness that makes the plant so invasive in the tropics is what makes it one of the most beloved houseplants here at home. If you're like my wife and your picture is on plants' post office walls as the #1 most wanted killer of plants, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to grow the Golden Pothos.
The plant itself is lovely. It has heart-shaped leaves that are green and speckled with yellow (ergo, the "aureum" or "gold" in its name).
As for ideal growing conditions, think of the jungle--it grows best when it's not exposed to direct sunlight but in an area of your home or office that has access to bright but indirect light. Let the soil dry out between waterings.
With very little care, your Golden Pothos will grow and grow and grow, limited only by the amount of sunlight you have and the size of your flower pot. And the more green you see, the more that plant will be pumping out clean oxygen for you and removing ickiness like benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air.
One very important thing to note is that you should keep this plant out of the reach of cats, dogs, and children because of the presence of raphides (calcium oxalate) which can cause some nasty toxic reactions if swallowed. Raphides are actually tiny, microscopic needle-shaped crystals that botanists believe is a defense mechanism, like pricks on a cactus. To be safe, when pruning the leaves use gloves (the plant liquids can cause irritation), and absolutely do NOT ingest leaves or let animals or children do so.
If you're looking for a golden pothos, you can most likely find one at a local shop like K-mart, Walmart, Home Depot, or a garden store. If you're rather get one online, you can try this product on Amazon or look for one on eBay.
Some care tips:
1) Temperature: Keep between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Never let it drop below 50 degrees.
2) Sunlight: It likes partial shade or shade.
3) Care and feeding: Let the soil dry completely between waterings. Feed weekly from March to August.