15 Best Air Purifying Plants for Cleaner Indoor Air

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Categories Air Purification
Beautiful indoor plants that can help improve your indoor air quality.

Having houseplants was popular several years ago. Now, though, they’re starting to make a comeback. This is not only because they add a splash of color to the interior, but plants are also very beneficial.

You see, since houses have become more energy-efficient, they also trap more pollutants due to poor ventilation.

There are many ways you can better your indoor air. But what about doing so while also adding something decorative? Houseplants have shown that they’re effective at improving our air, without the need for power or fuel. So what are the best air cleaning plants? Let’s find out.


Do Plants Really Clean the Air?

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

Another interesting finding in NASA’s studies was that plants are also effective at absorbing certain other toxins (1).

Some of the harmful toxins plants can remove include:

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

Experts say that plants make effective natural air purifiers, adding that the bigger and “leafier” plants are more effective. 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.

Overall, 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

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 then released back into the air. Plants, on the other hand, will turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen through photosynthesis. However, only some plants (like orchids and succulents) will do this during the night as well (3).
  • Creates cleaner air: What NASA found in its studies showed that both 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 a benefit depending on your climate. However, plants evaporate small amounts of moisture through their leaves via a process called 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, dry 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

There’s no doubt that having a few green plants in your home is beneficial. However, if you really 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:

PlantBenzeneFormaldehydeTrichloroethyleneXylene and tolueneAmmoniaEdible?
Peace lilyYesYesYesYesYesNo
Florist’s chrysanthemumYesYesYesYesYesNo
Bamboo palmYesYesYesYesNoYes
English IvyYesYesYesYesNoNo
Variegated snake plantYesYesYesYesNoNo
Red-edged dracaenaYesYesYesYesNoNo
Barberton daisyYesYesYesNoNoYes
Green spider plantNoYesNoYesNoYes
Cornstalk dracaenaYesYesYesNoNoNo
Aloe veraYesYesNoNoNoNo
Weeping figNoYesNoYesNoNo
Chinese evergreenYesYesNoNoNoNo
Heartleaf philodendronNoYesNoNoNoNo
Selloum philodendronNoYesNoNoNoNo
Elephant ear philodendronNoYesNoNoNoNo

1. 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. They have large leaves and big white flowers that resemble white peace flags, hence the name. 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 are an excellent plant to keep indoors; they can remove the following toxins:

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

Poisonous

Despite the peaceful name, all parts of peace lilies contain calcium oxalate. This substance can cause respiratory and stomach irritation if ingested. Peace lilies should be kept far away from children and pets (7).

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2. 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. To create the best bloom, the plant should be fed several times during the growing season.

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

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

Toxic

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

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3. 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. These palms are popular for their tall growth, reaching anywhere between 4 and 12 feet high. Bamboo palms are easy to grow and care for as long as you start with a healthy plant with dark green leaves.

Thanks to the luscious leaves, the bamboo palm will remove a number of 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.

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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 seeds are dispersed by the birds.

A unique thing about English ivy is its ability to grow vertically as well. You’ll often find this plant growing on buildings and structures. However, it should be kept 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.

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5. 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. In its natural habitat of western Africa, this plant can grow up to 4 feet tall. Indoors, however, it tends to stay at 2 feet.

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

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

Poisonous

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

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6. 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 very 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.

Indoors, flowers and berries are less likely and it also tends to stay below 6 feet in height. Red-edged dracaena plants will remove a number of toxins, such as:

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

Toxic

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

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7. Barberton Daisy

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

Barberton daisies are often seen in florists shops thanks to the large flowers that come 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.

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8. 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.

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9. 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. Very popular, especially in Europe, they’ve been a part of most households since the mid-1800s. However, cornstalk dracaena didn’t become popular in the US until the early 20th century.

Most popular 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

Cornstalk dracaena is highly toxic to dogs and cats.

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10. Aloe Vera

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

Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant. You’re likely familiar with aloe vera moisturizers and ointments. What many don’t know, though, is that aloe vera actually is a type of succulent.

Succulents require dry conditions. Although they should be watered infrequently, when watered, the soil should be well soaked (11). 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

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

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11. 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 very popular 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.

Toxic

Weeping figs are highly toxic to dogs, cats and horses (12).

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12. 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. It grows to about 24 inches in height, so it makes a very nice houseplant. This plant does prefer warmer and more humid environments, so it should be kept at temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chinese evergreen is known to remove the following:

  • Benzene.
  • Formaldehyde.

Poisonous

All parts of Chinese evergreen contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause irritation to the stomach and skin. Keep out of the reach of children and pets (13).

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13. 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, so it’s often used in hanging pots. Caring for this plant is relatively easy; it doesn’t require much water and the soil should be allowed to dry slightly before watering again.

Philodendron cordatum is known to remove formaldehyde from the air.

Toxic

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

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14. 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 semi-woody shrub. Unlike other philodendrons, selloum doesn’t climb or trail. It is, however, a fairly large houseplant, growing up to 15 feet in height with a 15 feet spread.

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.

Toxic

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

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15. 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 as well as trees without causing harm. They have large elephant ear-like green leaves with cream patches dispersed throughout the leaf. These plants are commonly used on decorative totems, as they grow and climb easily.

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.

Toxic

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

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Air Cleaning FAQs

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 effectively clean the air of a room. Therefore, if you want to improve the air in your living room of 200 square feet, place two plants for 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.

When people say it’s harmful to have plants in the bedroom, they could be confusing carbon dioxide (CO2) with carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is highly toxic, whereas carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of humans. It can be harmful, but only at high levels.

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 do 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 the soil of potted plants also help to purify the air (14).

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.

Other Ways to Clean Indoor Air

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 of 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 are effective at removing 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 are effective at quickly removing allergens and dust. However, the wrong vacuum can do more harm. A vacuum with a bad filter will release small amounts of fine dust back into the air. So we recommend you choose a HEPA-filtered vacuum that will trap even the smallest particles.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals: 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.

Green Fingers

Having houseplants is not only a good way to be creative, but also an excellent way to improve your indoor air.

Plants have been shown to remove a significant amount of toxins such as VOCs, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene. They do so by absorbing toxins through small pores in the leaves.

You can choose any type of plant that you wish. However, there are certain species that are proven to be more effective. You could try a few different species around your home — just be sure they’re safe for your pets.

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About the Author

Matthew Sullivan

As a writer with keen interests in DIY and HVAC, Matthew has always found great pleasure in taking things apart and learning how to put them back together.
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