Breathe in, breathe out. Ahhh … Nothing like a breath of fresh air. You might have read about some plants being able to improve air quality by removing toxins simply by being, and now you want to know why and which plants to buy. Well… Keep reading!
When researching air-purifying plants myself, I found that information was scattered in smaller chunks all around the internet, so I decided to make it easier for everyone, by gathering the houseplants with air-purifying qualities in one big list, along with a bit of scientific resources on the topic.
Ready to check out the complete list of the best indoor air purifying plants for your home? then continue below.
Plant #1: Rubber Tree, Ficus Elastica
Also known as: Rubber Fig, Rubber Plant, Rubber Bush
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
Looking for a low maintenance plant with the potential to grow big? Look no further. The Rubber Tree is generally one of the easiest indoor plants to take care of (The Rubber Tree ‘Variegata’ is however a bit more sensitive), and can thrive in a low light environment. This plant tends to grow straight up and can, in nature, grow up to 10 metres tall.
The Rubber Tree can tolerate drought to some extent, and you’ll feel it in the leaves when it needs a good soak, as they lose their elasticity. Do remember to clean the leaves with a wet cloth to remove the layer of dust that inevitably will come.
Plant #2: Pygmy Date Palm, Phoenix roebelenii
Also known as: Dwarf Date Palm, Miniature Date Palm, Robellini
Toxins removed: Xylene
If you ask me, Palm trees are generally underestimated as indoor plants. Any plant that can add a bit of color and volume vertically, is a gem, and the Palm trees are excellent at that. The Pygmy Date Palm is ideal for your home if you have a bright spot with indirect sunlight. The soil should be kept moist but not soaking, and you generally do not need to prune it, making it an easy to care for indoor plant.
The Dwarf Dae Palm was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #3: Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
The secret to growing any indoor plant with succes, is to imitate its natural environment as much as possible. One of the plants I personally find the most difficult to achieve that with, is ferns. Now Ferns are nothing but amazing. The delicate and finely sculptured leaves make them an absolute gem in any modern home, but they do not like direct sun or drying out the slightest.
If you do not live somewhere in the world where the climate fits the fern, the best place to keep it is in a bathroom, with a window. You can be sure, that a bathroom with a window is on my wishlist for a future home.
The Boston Fern was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #4: Kimberly Queen Fern, Nephrolepis obliterata
Also known as: Sword Fern,
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene
The Kimbery Queen fern, or Sword Fern as it’s also called because of the shape of the leaves, is a beautiful evergreen plant native to Australia and New Guinea. As mentioned above with the Boston Fern, the Ferns generally need a high level of moisture, making it a tricky plant to grow for many not living in the right climate. The solution can be to keep it in a bathroom with a window, or adding a humidifier to the room, but once the climate is right, you’ll find that this fern is easy to keep green and healthy looking.
The Kimberly Queen Fern was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #5: Pothos, Epipremnum aureum
Also known as: Golden Pothos, Devil’s Ivy
Toxins removed: Benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, formaldehyde
Golden Pothos has become one of the very popular indoor plants, thanks to its gorgeous foliage and easiness to care for. The Pothos plant is a climber, and therefore you’ll find this one growing in hanging baskets or surfaces it can attach itself to. Given the space, it can grow incredibly long vines, allowing you to really greenify a room vertically with a few handy hacks on the walls. Another benefit of the Pothos is the fact that it’s easy to propagate, making it the when learning to grow and keep it, as well as for making green gifts for friends and family.
The Pothos plant was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #6: Flamingo Lily, Anthurium andraeanum
Also known as: Anthurium, Flamingo Flower
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene, xylene
The Flamingo Lily was part of the original NASA study, but is not a part of what I might refer to as the new wave of old houseplant. The current plant trends revolve around the naturalistic, minimalistic or sculpturally interesting, and the Flamingo Lily can look somewhat artificial with its intense red, yellow and green colors. Never the less, the plant is celebrated amongst many elders for bringing in a splash of color, and generally being easy to care for.
The Flamingo Lily was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #7: English Ivy, Hedera helix
Also known as: Common Ivy, European Ivy, Ivy
Toxins removed: Benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene
The Ivy plant might be the one plant on this list you’ve seen more outside than inside. It’s a classic plant found in gardens as it offers green foliage all year round, grows a lot and requires little maintenance. It can however be considered invasive when growing outsides. Keeping an Ivy indoors mean you can control the growth simply from the size of the pot, and you’ll get all the perks of the beautiful vines and leaves. Keep the soil to the slightly dry side as Ivy’s don’t like too much moist, and provide it bright and indirect sunlight.
The English Ivy was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #8: Snake Plant, Dracaena trifasciata
Also known as: Mother-in-law’s tongue
Toxins removed: Benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene
The Snake Plant is a true blast from the past. Over recent years, it’s gone through a bit of a revitalization from being “that boring looking plant your grandmother had in the 60’s”, to being an evergreen and minimalistic indoor plant, perfect for the modern interior design.
There’s a reason the Snake Plant was popular back then. It’s a sturdy as h*ll plant, that can survive in low light, dried out soil and bad indoor climate (Picture yourself a Mad Men kind of environment, with all smoking going on indoors). At the same time it’s incredibly versatile and can also thrive in bright light areas. All in all, the Snake Plant is an extremely low maintenance plant that will look good even when you don’t work hard for it. What’s not to like?
The Variegated Snake Plant was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #9: Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum
Also known as: Airplane Plant, Spider Ivy, Ribbon Plant
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide
The Spider Plant is another great example of a hanging plant that will work perfect when decorating vertically. It’s known for being very easy to care for (perfect for plant newbies), and you almost cannot find a houseplant easier to propagate as the plant babies literally hang off the mother plant. The Spider Plant is, in our opinion, a plant that can easily end up looking dull, but give it the right pot and surroundings and it’ll provide an evergreen sparkle to the space.
The Spider Plant was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #10: Aloe Vera
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
Along with the Snake Plant, the Aloe Vera is also somewhat of an older acquaintance that has regained popularity as the indoor houseplant trend has risen. Most of us will know and recognize this plant because of the the endless amount of Aloe Vera products available, and many will without a doubt have had older familiy members growing them in the windows. The Aloe Vera is generally a low maintenance plant that is super easy to propagate, and where the evergreen and minimalistic look was once deemed to be ‘boring’, it’s today celebrated for the exact same qualities.
Plant #11: Broadleaf Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsa
Also known as: Bamboo Palm
Toxins removed: Ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene
Opposite of the English Ivy which you’ll most likely have seen more outside than inside, the Broadleaf Lady Palm is a plant you will never have seen outdoors, as it’s not known in the wild. The plant comes from cultivated groups native to China and Taiwan and spread from East to the West over centuries. The Broadleaf Lady Palm is known for being a low maintenance plant, making it as popular in office spaces as the Weeping Fig.
The Broadleaf Lady Palm was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #12: Dracaena (Red edged and Cornstalk)
Toxins removed: Benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide
The Dracaena is another great example of a plant that requires minimal care, and in return offers green leaves all year round. As with the Spider plant, you want to combine it with a pot that will add elegance or intrigue, as the plant in itself can easily look dull if not placed in the right surroundings – no offense, Dracaena. The plant is great for adding a bit of volume and height to a room, as it grows on visible stems.
The two Dracaena varieties, Red Edged and Cornstalk, were part of the original NASA study.
Plant #13: Ficus Tree, Ficus Benjamina
Also known as: Benjamin Fig, Ficus, Weeping Fig
Toxins removed: Trichloroethylene, benzene, formaldehyde
Nothing says ‘office space’ quite as well as the Ficus Benjamina or “Weeping Fig” does it, and there’s a reason why this green plant has been a plant stable in offices around the world – because it’s really easy to maintain and doesn’t require a lot to look good. Along with Aloe Vera, Snake Plant and others, the Ficus Tree has been a well known indoor plant for decades, and in recent years it has become increasingly popular for its evergreen appearance. It’s part of the Ficus family with other very popular varieties such as Fiddle Leaf Fig and Rubber Fig.
The Ficus Tree was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #14: Chinese Evergreen, Aglaonema
Toxins removed: Benzene, formaldehyde
If you’re new to indoor plants and want something that won’t be the slightest bit challenging, the Chinese Evergreen is a good place to start. This plant has amazing patterned leaves, giving it value as a decorative item in itself and not just a green plant. They are popular for low light office spaces, so we’re talking about a low maintenance plant.
The Chinese Evergreen was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #15: Crispy Wave, Japanese Asplenium nidus Fern
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
The Crispy Wave Fern impresses with its rippled leaves, offering a lush green appearance all year round. To keep your Crispy Wave plant happy, you’ll need to offer an even moisture level and place it in indirect light. It can be really tricky to achieve the right climate indoors, so depending on your location in the world, your best bet might be the bathroom as long as there’s a window.
The Crispy Wave Fern was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #16: Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum
Toxins removed: Benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide.
The Peace Lily is truly a trooper. Only rarely will you find such a sturdy plant that can forgive some of the harshest treatment. For that reason, it’s a really popular office plant, but it can add elegance and beautiful green foliage to any private household as well. They grow best in shaded areas, and can grow impressively large if allowed. You’ll often find this plant blossoming, adding gorgeous white flowers. If you know someone with a Peace Lily, it will be easy as ever to propagate it –simply cut of one of the babies growing around the edges of the mother plant and place them in a new pot on their own.
The Peace Lily was part of the original NASA study.
Plant #17: Philodendron
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
The Philodendron is a genus with hundres of exciting species, many of which have become popular household plants. A few examples could be Philodendron Xanadu, Pink Princess (absolutely stunning, do Google if you haven’t seen it!), Congo Rojo and Glosorium – our own personal favorite.
As with a lot of the tropical plants, the Philodendron are often sensitive to sunlight, and your best bet is to place them in a place with bright and indirect sunlight. Keep the soil moist and give the leaves a good clean with a damp cloth every now and then. A layer of dust will prevent the plant from doing its thing, basically.
Plant #18: Areca Palm, Dypsis lutescens
Also known as: Golden Cane Palm, Butterfly Palm, Yellow Palm
Toxins removed: xylene, toluene
We adore the Areca Palm, as it’s such an instant beautifier to any space thanks to its green and upright lush foliage. Luckily, the plant is very easy to care for, and common enough to be easy to find both online and in plant stores. Keep the Areca Palm looking healthy by spraying the foliage with water approx. once a week – either with a sprayer or in the shower. It requires bright and indirect light as too much sun will scorch the leaves.
Plant #19: Asparagus Fern, Asparagus setaceus
Toxins removed: Alpha-Pinene
The Asparagus fern might very well be our favorite amongs the ferns (Even though it’s technically not a fern at all, only by name and looks). The light and feathery foliage makes this plant quite unique, and at the same time also what makes it incredibly sensitive to drought. Keeping it happy and healthy requires a higher level of attention, and ideally you’d want to give this a good mist daily and make sure it never dries out – adding a pebble tray can help avoiding this.
Plant #20: Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida
Also known as: Wandering Jew, Walking Jew, Purple Secretia, Purple Queen
Toxins removed: Benzene, TCE, toluene, terpene
There’s something amazing about the colorful plants, and although the green plant trend is definitely still going strong, you’ll also see quite a lot of plantfluencers who are adding vibrant plants to the mix for contrast. One of the plants that can add a bit of contrast to a green portfolio, is the Purple Heart plant. Because it’s a trailing plant it’s great to use in hanging planters, and extremely easy to propagate. You’ll ideally place it where it’s slightly protected, as the branches can easily break. Give it lots of bright light to keep the vibrant purple color, but protected from the sun in the warmest hours of the day.
Plant #21: Variegated Wax Plant, Hoya
Toxins removed: Octane
The Hoya genus consists of hundreds of species, and you will find that many of them are such stellar houseplants being low maintenance and green all year round. The Hoya plants are vines and therefore usually need to grow on something, but you can also utilize the vertical space in your house and simply let it hang from a pot.
Plant #22: Kentia Palm, Howea forsteriana
Also known as: Paradise Palm, Sentry Palm, Thatch Palm
Toxins removed: formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide
The beautiful Kentia Palm is known for it’s sturdiness and beautiful foliage. It’s another great example of a medium-sized indoor plant that can really brighten up a room with it’s green abundance of leaves. Keep your Kentia Palm in a bright spot with indirect sun. It can tolerate less light, but just won’t reward you with as much foliage growth. Misting the palm once a week or so will help it keep a set of healthy looking leaves, that can otherwise turn brown if the air is too dry.
Plant #23: Monstera Deliciosa
Also known as: Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera
Toxins removed: Formaldehyde
It’s amazing that what you might consider a jungle plant growing on surfaces made it from the wilderness to, what can sometimes seems like, every single household around the world. For anyone interested in indoor plants, you will without a doubt have seen a Monstera Deliciosa online or in a friends home.
People are drawn to it for its big sculptural leaves, but will be surprised to see how big it can actually get. On some strange level, you can compare the Monstera Deliciosa to the cute puppy that grows into … well, something you didn’t quite expect. For that reason, many owners will also discard their plant once it gets to a certain size and is in need of support.
If you have the space however, the Monstera can be an amazing piece of green art, and won’t require much from you in terms of general maintenance.
Do air purifying plants actually work?
In 1989 NASA published a study called “Clean Air Study“. They tested 12 different plants, known as “NASA plants”, for their ability to clean the air and remove toxins. The results from this study have been widely distributed across lifestyle publications as the unquestionable truth, but other more critical media and experts are advocating for a more nuanced look at the study.
One of them is National Geographic, whom in 2019 published an article where they claim, that indoor plants with the ability to clean the air is a myth.
I will recommend you to read the article by National Geographic on the topic.
Some plants do remove toxins and thereby have air-cleaning qualities, but for anyone to believe that having house plants will “clean the air” could be utopia, as more nuanced science shows that a normal household would need an unrealistic amount of plants, to achieve “clean air”. Never the less, having one or more plants with air purifying qualities surely never hurts, and I for sure will keep adding to my plant collection.
Did I miss a plant on the list? be sure to let me know by leaving a comment below.