20 Air-Purifying Plants for Your Home
These plants will spruce up your home and help to make your space—and you—healthier in a number of ways.
In 1989, a NASA study seemed to show that many indoor houseplants purify the air. Naturally, this drove up interest in these so-called air-purifying plants that were said to remove airborne toxins, dust, and germs. Since then, however, scientists have poked holes in the study. Although plants can clean the air, there isn’t enough research to determine how many plants are needed to be effective. In fact, one study showed you would need upwards of 90 plants to get the job done. Regardless, indoor plants are beneficial for a host of reasons.
“There are many health benefits from having indoor plants, from improved cognitive function and creativity to reduced stress,” says Plant Mom, aka Joyce Mast, a horticulturist with over 40 years of experience who is often referred to as the Julia Child of plant care. She elaborates by sharing what may be the most important reason of all: “Plants make people happy, and more people than ever are realizing that caring for them is bringing them joy.”
Not only can plants add color and beauty to our home, these living organisms are a way for us to interact with Mother Nature, even when we’re indoors. “Research has suggested that plants can bring happiness—humans’ need to connect to nature is deep and doing so provides for a healthy well-rounded lifestyle,” Mast says. “Caring for plants provides a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for many.” These are just a few of the surprising health benefits of gardening.
Whether you want clean air plants for small indoor spaces, plants that thrive in low light, or succulents, we’ve rounded up the best air-purifying plants. After you select one or two (or three!), follow these indoor plant tips to hone your green thumb in no time.
Spider plants, which also go by the monikers airplane plant, ribbon plant, and spider ivy, have long, slender lime green leaves and they make for a low-maintenance air-purifying plant. “This whimsical plant is one of the most adaptable houseplants we recommend for plant newbies—it’s nearly impossible to kill!” Mast says. “These just need to be watered moderately with a bit of spritzing and they prefer indirect light and can even tolerate low light conditions.” The striping on the leaves, in fact, will be more prominent with indirect lighting and it’s important to avoid direct light as it will scorch the leaves. Find out the best places to buy plants online.
Also known as Bella palm, tabletop palm, and neanthe Bella palm, parlor palm is a smaller palm that has long, shiny, skinny green leaves. “Its dark green fronds create a bushy, lush plant perfect for tabletops, desks, and shelves,” Mast says. This air-purifying plant is adaptable to different lighting conditions, though it does best in bright, filtered light, making it easy to care for and grow at home. If you have cats and dogs at home, you’ll be happy to hear this plant is pet-friendly, unlike these plants that are poisonous to dogs and these houseplants poisonous to cats.
Similar to the parlor palm, the bamboo palm, also known as the Reed Palm, is larger in size. Bamboo palms have lush dark green foliage and adapt to a variety of indoor environments. Mast says, “Unlike most palms, this beauty is able to thrive in low light making it a great choice for the home or office.” Don’t have a green thumb? Consider one of these easy-care holiday houseplants.
Sansevieria, better known as snake plant, standouts with its tall, spiky, upright leaves in various shades of green with yellowish-white outer edges. This air-purifying plant is a wonderful addition to any room of the house, especially in the bedroom. “It’s a great roommate as it creates oxygen mainly at night,” Mast says.
Snake plants are hardy and low-maintenance and if you’re new to owning houseplants, it’s a good one to start with. “It doesn’t require much water, especially in the winter, when it needs to be watered only once a month since it is native to the arid deserts of West Africa,” says Mast.
ZZ plant, a shortened version of its botanical name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is a sturdy and easy to care for air-purifying plant. ZZ plants have glossy, oval leaves with each stem producing a feather-like appearance. This plant is sturdy and low maintenance, “making it perfect for an office desk—and a forgetful plant owner,” says Mast. By the way—if you love fruit but don’t have the outdoor space to plant trees, learn how to grow indoor fruit trees.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia ‘Zenzi’
Zenzi is part of the same family as the ZZ plant but a lot smaller. If you have an area of your home that doesn’t receive much sunlight, this is a great plant to choose. “Its smaller cousin Zenzi [does] exceptionally well in very low light areas within your home,” Mast says. If you want to add some life to darker areas of your home, Zenzi is a perfect choice. Mast explains, “This plant is also ideal for a windowless office or bathroom where it will only receive a small amount of light from fluorescent lights.”
Aloe vera and other succulents are good air-cleaning plants as they are particularly adept at improving and purifying air by taking in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen, Mast says. “It can also be used to soothe burns and skin irritations,” she notes. Hedgehog aloe is a type of succulent that thrives with minimal attention and water but needs plenty of sunlight.
With large, dark green, oval-shaped leaves, rubber trees are considered low maintenance plants. “The rubber tree is very tolerant of neglect and can be grown by event with very little experience,” Mast says. It thrives in indirect, bright light and can tolerate a lower light area, though its leaf colors may not be as pronounced.
If you’re new to plant parenthood and are feeling a bit nervous about caring for indoor plants, the heartleaf philodendron is a beautiful vining plant to start with. It’s incredibly forgiving and will tolerate all kinds of neglect including low light, poor soil, and inconsistent watering, says Mast. As the name implies, it has heart-shaped leaves. This is an ideal plant if you want to spruce up an area of your home without extra work.
Looking for a plant for your bathroom? Consider a whimsical Boston fern. “Boston ferns love humidity so the bathroom is a perfect spot for this gorgeous fern,” says Mast who goes on to say regular weekly misting will keep your Boston fern vibrant. In return, it will help keep you healthy, too. Psst—grow these foolproof ferns in your shade garden.
This air-purifying, striking tropical plant has heart-shaped dark green leaves with silvery hues. It works in any room of your home provided it doesn’t receive direct sunlight. “The silver pothos plant is a fairly new variety that beloved for its full growth and unusual coloring,” Mast says. “It’s less vining than other pothos and grows fuller and cascades splendidly in a hanging planter or on a shelf where there is room for it to spread.”
An all-around simple to maintain and care for houseplant, Dracaena dorado has long, forest green foliage with yellow to lime stripes. “Its beauty makes it a delightful indoor plant—and what makes this plant even more appealing are its emerald green canes in varying heights,” Mast says.
Originating from Southern Mexico, monstera has a couple of monikers, include Swiss cheese plant or hurricane plant. Don’t let the fact that it’s a tropical plant put you off, monstera is adaptable and simple to care for. “A classic and easy choice, the monstera is fast growing and will develop long ribbons and holes, resembling Swiss cheese, giving it a distinct, graphic appearance,” says Mast.
Kimberly Queen Fern
With its chartreuse, long, feather-like fronds, the Kimberly queen fern thrives in a hanging basket. “This is a low maintenance choice. Just make sure to keep it out of the direct sunlight and keep its soil moist.” Another plus is that Kimberly queen ferns are natural humidifiers. They are a great choice if the air moisture is low in your home, explains Mast.
If you’re looking for an air-purifying houseplant that flowers, consider the graceful peace lily with its beautiful, white flowers and shiny green leaves. “They enjoy warm, humid conditions and are easily adaptable to many conditions,” Mast says. They even work in artificial light making them great additions to the home. Peace lilies can also adapt to artificial lighting found in offices.”
Money trees are considered beneficial in myriad ways, not only because they are known as air-purifying plants and said to be lucky, bringing money into your home. “It has been said this plant with large, glossy bright green leaves and a twisted trunk reduces stress, anxiety and may also help lessen sleeping disorders,” Mast says.
Calathea peacock is a beautiful plant with attractive colorful leaves that produce plenty of foliage. “The plant has a small ‘joint’ between the leaf and stem that allows it to close or raise its leaves at night and open them again in the morning light,” Mast says. Another reason this plant is a favorite is that “new leaves emerge from the center of the plant in a cone or trumpet shape as if announcing their arrival,” says Mast.
Maranta Red Prayer Plant
When you’re low on space, try a maranta red prayer plant. Also known as the herringbone plant, this is a slow-growing plant that adds a splash of color and is sized just right for window sills, mantles, or shelves. Better yet, it’s easy to care for. “Place it in a sunny spot, keep its soil damp, and mist its leaves once a week and it will flourish,” says Mast.
Date palm is tolerant to many conditions but prefers bright indirect light. Though it can handle morning sun from an eastern exposure, be sure to keep it out of harsh midday direct sunlight, as it may scorch its emerald green fronds, says Mast. The slow-growing palm is pet-friendly.
If you’re new to taking care of plants and/or have areas of your home that don’t get lots of direct or indirect sunlight, these plants with big patterned leaves are hardy and fit the bill. “Aglaonema are known for their tolerance for both moist and dry conditions. The fact that they will thrive in lower light makes them a perfect choice for spaces with less than ideal light conditions or for forgetful plant owners.”
- NASA.gov: “A Study of Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement”
- Water, Air, and Soil Pollution: “Removal of Benzene by the Indoor Plant/Substrate Microcosm and Implications for Air Quality”
- Joyce Mast, horticulturist