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15 Best Air Cleaning Plants: Do Plants Clean Air?

Beautiful indoor plants can help improve your indoor air quality.

Since houses have become more energy-efficient, they also trap more pollutants due to poor ventilation. Your indoor air can actually be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

There are many ways you can improve your indoor air quality. One natural way involves houseplants. Plus, they can do so without power or fuel.

Let’s check out the 15 best air purifying plants. This is based on hours of research into expert advice and scientific studies, so you can be sure these plants will help.

Key Takeaways

  • Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air due to poor ventilation.
  • Houseplants can help improve indoor air quality by absorbing harmful toxins.
  • NASA research found that certain plants are effective at removing pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia.
  • Some of the best air-purifying plants include peace lily, bamboo palm, and spider plant.

Do Plants Really Clean the Air?

Do Plants Really Clean the Air? Icon

NASA has done extensive research for decades regarding cleaning the air in space stations. They’ve found that certain plants absorb carbon dioxide, a common pollutant produced by humans.

Plants are also effective at absorbing certain other toxins (1).

Some harmful toxins plants can remove include:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Ammonia.

Experts say that plants make effective natural air purifiers, especially big, leafy plants. However, not everyone is as convinced of the effectiveness of houseplants.

It’s important to remember that NASA did its studies in closed space stations. As such, the effect you experience in your home will be different.

What’s more, newer studies done in 2009 seemed to prove this fact. They showed that the effectiveness of air cleaning plants changed significantly when moved from a controlled space to an open room.

However, researchers say that simply airing out your home will have a greater effect on the air quality than a plant (2).

Benefits of Indoor Plants

Benefits of Indoor Plants Icon

Despite inconclusive research regarding the effectiveness of air-cleaning plants, there are still plenty of benefits to gain from indoor plants.

Below, we’ve listed some of the top benefits houseplants bring to your home:

  • Fresh oxygen: As we breathe in oxygen, we produce carbon dioxide that is released back into the air. Plants will turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen through photosynthesis. However, only some plants (like orchids and succulents) will do this at night (3).
  • Creates cleaner air: NASA found that plant leaves and roots remove toxic vapors. It further showed that low levels of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide were removed by plant leaves alone (4).
  • Increases humidity: This may or may not be beneficial depending on your climate. However, plants evaporate small amounts of moisture through their leaves via transpiration. This leads to slightly higher humidity levels indoors where the houseplants are located. A study conducted in Norway showed that indoor plants decreased dry skin, sore throats, coughs, and colds (5).
  • Improves mood: Indoor plants work as natural antidepressants to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood and productivity (6).

Best Air Cleaning Plants for the Home

Best Air Cleaning Plants for the Home Icon

There’s no doubt that having a few green plants in your home is beneficial. However, if you want to make a difference, you’ll need the best air cleaning plants.

After thorough research, we found the most effective houseplants and how to care for them. Here’s a quick list of the best plants and which harmful toxins they remove from the air:

Plant Benzene Formaldehyde Trichloroethylene Xylene and toluene Ammonia Edible?
Peace lily Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Florist’s chrysanthemum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Bamboo palm Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
English Ivy Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Variegated snake plant Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Red-edged dracaena Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Barberton daisy Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Green spider plant No Yes No Yes No Yes
Cornstalk dracaena Yes Yes Yes No No No
Aloe vera Yes Yes No No No No
Weeping fig No Yes No Yes No No
Chinese evergreen Yes Yes No No No No
Heartleaf philodendron No Yes No No No No
Selloum philodendron No Yes No No No No
Elephant ear philodendron No Yes No No No No

1. Peace Lily

Peace Lily

  • Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Moderate to bright indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Water occasionally.

Peace lilies are some of the most beautiful flowers to grow indoors. This plant is native to the forest floor, so if you want success in keeping these indoors, you’ll have to mimic those conditions.

Keeping them in bright, indirect light with moist soil is the key to getting those beautiful flowers to grow. Peace lilies can remove the following toxins:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.
  • Ammonia.


Despite the peaceful name, all parts of peace lilies contain calcium oxalate, which can cause respiratory and stomach irritation if ingested. You should keep peace lilies far away from children and pets (7).

2. Florist’s Chrysanthemum

Florist’s Chrysanthemum

  • Botanical Name: Chrysanthemum morifolium.
  • Sunlight Needs: Full sun.
  • Water Needs: Medium watering.

Florist’s chrysanthemums are beautiful perennials with compact flowers. The plant is native to China, where it’s commonly used in anxiety-treating medicine. You should feed the plant several times during the growing season to create the best bloom.

Florist’s chrysanthemums can remove a large number of toxins from the air. These include:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.
  • Ammonia.

Toxic Warning

Despite being used in Chinese medicine, this plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses (8).

3. Bamboo Palm

Bamboo Palm

  • Botanical Name: Chamaedorea seifrizii.
  • Sunlight Needs: Partial sun exposure, bright indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Water occasionally.

Bamboo palms bring lots of color and warmth to any room. This tropical-looking plant is excellent for a bohemian interior.

Thanks to the luscious leaves, the bamboo palm will remove several toxins, which include:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Benzene.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.

Bamboo palms are non-toxic and perfectly safe to plant in a family home with pets.

4. English Ivy

English Ivy

  • Botanical Name: Hedera helix.
  • Sunlight Needs: Six to eight hours of indirect light.
  • Water Needs: 1 inch of water per week.

The English ivy is a non-native perennial vine commonly used in landscaping and ground cover. The plant produces fruits that birds feed on. This is also how the plant reproduces when the birds disperse the seeds.

You’ll often find this plant growing on buildings and structures. However, you should keep it from growing on other trees as the vines will suffocate the branches (9).

English ivies are known to remove the following toxins:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.

Keep In Mind

English ivies are toxic to cats and dogs, so avoid this plant if you have pets.

5. Variegated Snake Plant

Variegated Snake Plant

  • Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata.
  • Sunlight Needs: Part shade.
  • Water Needs: Water regularly.

Variegated snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is an easy-to-grow houseplant. It tolerates different environments but prefers warm and sunny locations.

NASA found that variegated snake plants will remove the following toxins:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Benzene.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.


This plant is toxic for pets and should be kept out of reach.

6. Red-Edged Dracaena

Red-Edged Dracaena

  • Botanical Name: Dracaena marginata.
  • Sunlight Needs: Bright indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Minimal water.

Red-edged dracaena, also known as dragon tree, is a unique-looking houseplant. The narrow, slender stems lead to stiff, sword-like green and red leaves. When grown outdoors, it will bloom with tiny, fragrant white flowers and produce yellow-orange berries.

Red-edged dracaena plants will remove some toxins, such as:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Benzene.
  • Trichloroethylene.
  • Xylene and toluene.

Toxic To Pets

This plant is highly toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause vomiting, hypersalivation, and anorexia (10).

7. Barberton Daisy

Barberton Daisy

  • Botanical Name: Gerbera jamesonii.
  • Sunlight Needs: Full sun.
  • Water Needs: Moderate watering.

Barberton daisies are often seen in florist shops thanks to the large flowers in different colors. This plant can be tricky to grow indoors since it requires full sun exposure to bloom. The leaves are very unique-looking, covered in white, silky hairs.

This plant effectively removes the following toxins from the air:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Trichloroethylene.

Barberton daisies are non-toxic plants; they don’t pose any risk to pets or children.

8. Green Spider Plant

Green Spider Plant

  • Botanical Name: Chlorophytum elatum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Water regularly.

Green spider plants are generally easy to grow and are the perfect addition to indoor decor with long, thin leaves. There are many varieties of spider plants, but the green spider plant has unique cream and green colored leaves.

In NASA’s studies, it concluded that the green spider plant was capable of removing:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Xylene.

This plant is also an excellent addition to a family home with furry friends since it’s non-toxic to pets.

9. Cornstalk Dracaena

Cornstalk Dracaena

  • Botanical Name: Dracaena fragrans.
  • Sunlight Needs: Filtered sun.
  • Water Needs: Minimal water.

Cornstalk dracaena plants get their name from their corn-like leaves. Most famous for its palm-look and grand size — reaching 45 feet when mature — this plant is also capable of removing toxins. NASA found that the cornstalk dracaena will remove toxins such as:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Trichloroethylene.

Toxic Warning

Cornstalk dracaena is highly toxic to dogs and cats.

10. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

  • Botanical Name: Aloe vera.
  • Sunlight Needs: Bright light.
  • Water Needs: Water regularly.

Aloe vera is a succulent used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant. You’re likely familiar with aloe vera moisturizers and ointments.

Succulents require dry conditions. Although they should be watered infrequently, when watered, the soil should be well soaked. You can plant aloe vera in cactus soil for the best results.

Aloe vera is commonly known to remove these toxins from the air:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.

Toxic To Certain Animals

Despite its healing effects, aloe vera is very toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

11. Weeping Fig

Weeping Fig

  • Botanical Name: Ficus Benjamina.
  • Sunlight Needs: Bright indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Water regularly.

Weeping fig plants, also known as ficus trees, grow large and broad dark green leaves. It’s native to tropical and subtropical environments where it grows as large trees. However, weeping figs are also trendy indoor plants, often used in offices.

A unique trait of weeping figs is a braided stem that’s easily done as the plant grows. It’s very efficient at removing toxins such as:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Xylene and toluene.


Weeping figs are highly toxic to dogs, cats, and horses (11).

12. Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen

  • Botanical Name: Aglaonema modestum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Partial exposure.
  • Water Needs: Water moderately.

Chinese evergreen is a dark-green, leafy plant native to tropical environments, such as swamps and rainforests. This plant does prefer warmer and more humid environments, so you should keep it at temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chinese evergreen is known to remove the following:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.

Poisonous Crystals

All parts of Chinese evergreen contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate the stomach and skin. Keep out of the reach of children and pets (12).

13. Heartleaf Philodendron

Heartleaf Philodendron

  • Botanical Name: Philodendron cordatum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Indirect light.
  • Water Needs: Moderately.

Heartleaf philodendron is a small houseplant with pretty heart-shaped leaves. It’s a climbing or trailing plant, often used in hanging pots.

Philodendron cordatum is known to remove formaldehyde from the air.


Heartleaf philodendrons are toxic to cats and dogs, and they should be kept out of reach.

14. Selloum Philodendron

Selloum Philodendron

  • Botanical Name: Philodendron bipinnatifidum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Part shade.
  • Water Needs: Water regularly.

Also known as the tree philodendron, selloum philodendron is a split-leaf plant with a semi-woody shrub.

When in bloom, this plant will produce small apetalous white flowers. However, this is rarely seen on indoor plants. Similarly to the heartleaf philodendron, this plant will remove formaldehyde from the air.


The selloum philodendron is toxic to cats and dogs, so keep it out of reach.

15. Elephant Ear Philodendron

Elephant Ear Philodendron

  • Botanical Name: Philodendron domesticum.
  • Sunlight Needs: Low-light.
  • Water Needs: Water moderately.

Elephant ear philodendrons are climbing variegated plants that can grow on buildings and trees without causing harm. They have giant elephant ear-like green leaves with cream patches dispersed throughout the leaf.

Lots of pot space is the key to a large and beautiful domesticum. It requires lots of room for its roots to grow tall and fast. Elephant ear philodendron will remove formaldehyde from the air.


This plant should be kept far away from cats, dogs, and other pets as it’s toxic.

Air Cleaning FAQs

Air Cleaning FAQs Icon

How Many Plants Does It Take to Purify the Air in a Room?

According to NASA, it takes one plant per 100 square feet to clean the air of a room effectively. Therefore, if you want to improve the air in your living room of 200 square feet, place two plants for the best results.

Is It Safe to Have Plants in the Bedroom?

It’s perfectly safe to have plants in your bedroom. In fact, by choosing the right kind of plants, you could improve your sleep. Certain species of plants, such as orchids and succulents, produce oxygen during the night.

Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during the day, but during the night, the process switches, and plants absorb oxygen. However, this is only in small amounts and isn’t harmful.

Best Plants If You Have Pets?

If you have pets, it’s crucial to be careful what kind of houseplants you choose, as many species are toxic. Some cats and dogs can be quite curious and might give a plant a little taste test. If you have any toxic plants in your home, look out for vomiting or any change in behavior.

Here are a few plants that are safe around pets:

  • Green spider plant: Safe for dogs as well as cats.
  • Bamboo palm: Safe for dogs, cats, and horses.
  • Barberton daisy: Non-toxic for dogs, cats, and horses.

How Do Plants Remove Toxins from the Air?

Plants remove toxins from the air by absorbing them through the pores of their leaves. Studies have further shown that microorganisms in potted plants’ soil also help purify the air (13).

What Is the Easiest Plant to Grow Indoors?

From our list above, philodendrons and spider plants are some of the easiest plants to grow indoors. Plants that require direct sunlight or bright indirect light can be trickier to grow, especially in closed rooms.

What Plants are Good for Mental Health?

Most plants are good for mental health because they are calming, help to regulate the air quality, and help you sleep better. They remove toxins like benzene and formaldehyde from the atmosphere, which leaves you feeling better hydrated.

Can You Have Too Many Plants In a Room?

You can have too many plants in a room. They increase the humidity inside your home, which encourages mold and other breathing difficulties. Plants produce moisture, which may not be ideal for your local environment.

Other Ways to Clean Indoor Air

Other Ways to Clean Indoor Air Icon

Apart from houseplants, there are many other ways to clean indoor air.

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Increase ventilation: Working a fan, AC unit, or even opening a few windows can help to bring some fresh air into your home.
  • Install an air purifier: Houseplants can’t do all the work, so investing in an air purifier is recommended. These devices will pull air through several filters, cleaning it and then emitting the clean air back into the room. Air purifiers effectively remove what plants can’t, such as dust, mites, mold spores, and other airborne pollutants.
  • Clean regularly: Removing dust, mites, dirt, and other pollutants regularly can improve the environment.
  • Use the right vacuum: Vacuums effectively remove allergens and dust. However, the wrong vacuum can do more harm. A vacuum with a lousy filter will release small amounts of fine dust back into the air. So choose HEPA-filtered vacuums that trap even the tiniest particles.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in many common household cleaners, as well as other chemicals. Try to steer clear of these whenever possible. Instead, use natural cleaners such as vinegar and baking soda, which work well for most cleaning jobs.
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About the Author

Matthew Sullivan

Matthew Sullivan is a technical writer with over 15 years of hands-on experience in the realm of HVAC, humidity, air purification, and mold prevention. With a background rooted in mechanical engineering, Matthew seamlessly blends the intricate world of technicalities with the everyday challenges that homeowners and businesses face. His vast expertise has led him to collaborate with leading HVAC manufacturers, consult on cutting-edge air purification systems, and become a sought-after voice on mold mitigation.