By: Liz Baessler
It makes sense that indoor plants should improve air quality. After all, plants convert the carbon dioxide we breathe out into the oxygen we breathe in. It goes way beyond that, though. NASA (which has a pretty good reason to care about air quality in enclosed spaces) has conducted a study on how plants improve air quality. The study focuses on 19 plants that thrive indoors in low light and actively remove pollutants from the air. Way at the top of that list of plants is the peace lily. Keep reading to learn more about using peace lily plants for air purification.
Peace Lilies and Pollution
The NASA study focuses on common air pollutants that tend to be given off by manmade materials. These are chemicals that become trapped in the air in enclosed spaces and can be bad for your health if breathed in too much.
- One of these chemicals is Benzene, which can be naturally given off by gasoline, paint, rubber, tobacco smoke, detergent, and a variety of synthetic fibers.
- Another is Trichloroethylene, which can be found in paint, lacquer, glue, and varnish. In other words, it’s commonly given off by furniture.
Peace lilies have been found to be very good at removing these two chemicals from the air. They absorb the pollutants from the air through their leaves, then send them to their roots, where they’re broken down by microbes in the soil. So this makes using peace lily plants for air purification in the home a definite plus.
Do peace lilies help with air quality in any other ways? Yes, they do. In addition to help with air pollutants in the home, they also give off a lot of moisture in the air.
Getting clean air with peace lilies can be even more effective if a lot of the pot’s topsoil is exposed to the air. Pollutants can be absorbed straight into the soil and broken down this way. Trim away the lowest leaves on your peace lily to allow lots of direct contact between the soil and the air.
If you want to get clean air with peace lilies, simply add these plants to your home.
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20 best air purifying plants for the home
These gorgeous species will help to filter out toxic chemicals
Some scientists have suggested that choosing the right air purifying plants for your home can help detoxify the air in your living spaces, meaning your houseplants not only look lovely but work a little harder to clean the air you breathe in.
NASA's Clean Air Study found that there are a number of air purifying plants that can detoxify your home from the airborne toxins, dusts and germs that can be found in a variety of household products, materials and furniture.
A follow-up study in 2019 confirmed that, to make a substantial difference to the air quality inside your home, you would need a large number of house plants working together to clean the air – up to 93. But, with houseplants becoming an interior design trend that looks like it's here to stay, we might as well choose one that will go some of the way to improve the air we breathe, if not all of it.
To give your home a healthy breath of fresh air, here's our list of the best air purifying plants and where to keep them…
1. Barberton Daisy
As well as injecting a cheerful burst of red, yellow, orange or pink into your home, the Barberton daisy is an effective cleanser of the toxins formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene, found in a range of household materials from paints to synthetic fibres.
Care advice: Place the plant in a room with plenty of natural light and keep the soil moist but well-drained.
2. English Ivy
This easy-growing perennial vine is particularly effective at reducing airborne faecal particles which makes it the perfect air purifying plant for your bathroom or en suite. In addition, studies have shown that the ivy can also help combat mould levels in the home.
Care advice: Provide your English ivy with generous watering and four hours of direct sunlight a day, and it will return the love to you with clean, detoxified air.
3. Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law's Tongue
With this plant in your bedroom, you're in for a great night's sleep. Also known as Mother-in-Law's Tongue, this yellow-tipped succulent releases oxygen at night, helping you to breathe better while sleeping. It is one of the best plants for filtering the air of formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.
Care advice: Be mindful not to overwater, as the roots are prone to rot in moist soil.
Brighten up your kitchen or living room with a chrysanthemum. These pretty blooms help to filter out a host of toxins including ammonia and benzene, which is often found in plastics, detergents, and glue.
Care advice: This plant loves sunlight, so place it in a spot near a sunbathed window.
5. Spider Plant
For those of you who are houseplant newbies, the resilient spider plant is the perfect choice. It will quietly battle toxins including carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the printing and rubber industries. If you have pets, this is one of the few houseplants that is non-toxic to animals.
Care advice: You can also repot the tiny 'spiderettes' and grow a whole family of plants that will pretty much take care of themselves. and you.
6. Aloe Vera
A healing aloe plant is a lovely addition to your kitchen windowsill, as it loves a sunny spot. While being on hand to soothe any kitchen burns, this succulent will be purifying the air of formaldehyde and benzene, found in varnishes, floor finishes, and detergents.
Care advice: This plant will thrive in a sunny location.
7. Broad Lady Palm
This is one of the few plants that can help reduce levels of ammonia that can be found in a range of cleaning products. They are expensive to buy fully-grown so you might want to shop around for a smaller one or start from seed.
Care advice: Humidity-loving, this plant will be very happy in your bathroom.
8. Red-edged Dracaena or Dragon Tree
Trichloroethylene and xylene are amongst the pollutants fought by this spiky, slow-growing plant. The leaves have a bright red trim which add a flash of colour to your home.
Care advice: This plant has the potential to grow to 8ft, so keep it in a room with high ceilings and reasonable sunlight.
9. Weeping Fig
Popular houseplants since the Victorian times, weeping figs can help to tackle levels of formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.
Care advice: They are fairly fussy plants that don't like change. Keep your weeping fig in bright, indirect light away from drafts, and it will be a trusty purifier for many years to come.
10. Chinese Evergreen
This tropical plant is proven to be an effective cleanser of formaldehyde and benzene, found in detergents and cosmetics.
Care advice: The Chinese evergreen enjoys low-lit and humid conditions, so will thrive in your bathroom. If you choose to keep the plant somewhere else, remember to mist the leaves occasionally to prevent browning.
11. Devil's Ivy or Pothos
Famed for its large, waxy leaves, the Devil's Ivy is perfect for keeping the air in your home clean. If you're not very good with taking care of plants, this one is brilliant to consider as it works well in most light conditions.
Care advice: While the Devil's Ivy will thrive anywhere, they prefer brighter spots in the home. They also love moisture, so make brilliant bathroom plants. Water weekly or whenever the soil feels dry.
12. Kentia Palm
The beautiful Kentia Palm — also known as the Thatch Palm — is a species of flowering plant that comes from the palm family Arecaceae. Perfect for those who live in flats, they are incredibly resilient, elegant and air-purifying.
Care advice: The Kentia Palm prefers bright, indirect light but will tolerate shade. To avoid overwatering, make sure you leave the top soil to go dry first. If it isn't getting enough water, you will notice the tips of the leaves turning brown.
13. Rubber plants (Ficus elastica)
This hardy low-maintenance houseplant is one of the most popular, thanks to its striking look. A natural humidifier, a previous study found that it had been recommended by NASA as one of the best for cleansing the air. Perfect for brightening up a desk or windowsill.
Care advice: Easy to care for, a rubber plant can grow well on low levels of light. It's worth knowing that it's toxic to dogs and cats, so be extra careful if you have one close to your pets.
14. Pineapple Plant
A type of Bromeliad, Pineapple Plants create quite the statement in the home. With dramatic foliage and large leaves, these are known for purifying the air and removing harmful toxins. Ideal if you're looking to add a touch of the exotic to your interiors.
Care advice: Pineapple Plants love warm, sunny conditions so they're best kept close to sunlight or in a conservatory. They don't need a lot of water, so wait until the soil has dried out before watering, and then water the leaves and soil.
15. The Flamingo Lily
Perfect for adding a pop of colour to your room, the Flamingo Lily is a great air purifying plant for beginners and city-dwellers. As well as having salmon-red, heart-shaped leaves, it's excellent at purifying the air.
Care advice: Keep your Flamingo Lily close to bright areas, but away from direct sunlight. To ensure it thrives, water yours once or twice a week. They also work particularly well in humid areas, such as the bathroom or kitchen.
16. Kimberly Queen Fern
With a shapely form and gracefully arching fronds, the Kimberly Queen Fern is perfect for the not-so-green-fingered as they don't require much care. Considered one of the most effective indoor air purifiers, they do exceedingly well when placed in low light areas.
Care advice: Keep them in a bright area and ensure you water them every five to seven days. During the heat of the summer, they may need watering more often.
17. Bamboo Palm
Perfect for low light conditions, the Bamboo Palm makes the perfect focal point in any living area. Its graceful, arching leaves make great all-around air cleaners, specifically famed for removing formaldehyde from the air.
Care advice: Water regularly through the growing season, but it's advised you let the surface of the soil dry out slightly before re-watering.
This popular houseplant, which originates from forests in Africa, is one of the most effective houseplants in air purification. As well as keeping the air indoors fresh, it looks particularly striking when placed on a coffee table.
Care advice: These plants require less water than other plants, so keep them hydrated by misting the leaves with water. Make sure the water stays moist but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
19. Peace Lily
A long-time favourite for houseplant lovers, the Peace Lily is one of the top air purifying plants as it can help filter out certain harmful compounds. If you do plan on adding this one to your plant collection, it's worth knowing that it is poisonous to cats and dogs.
Care advice: Peace lilies can tolerate short periods of dry soil, but their leaves will start to brown if neglected for too long. To keep it thriving, place it in bright, indirect light and keep the soil consistently moist.
20. Scarlet Star Bromeliad
With leathery leaves and a pop of colour, the Scarlet Star Bromeliad is a beautiful houseplant that is incredibly long-lasting. As well as helping to clean up the air in your home, these flowering plants love humid environments and are great when placed in the bathroom.
Care advice: Ensure this plant is always well watered, but never soggy. Place your plant in a location with moderate to bright light year-round, avoiding direct sunlight.
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Plants for cleaner air
Multiple studies have proven certain plants are able to absorb polluting, organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene through their leaves and roots. That absorbing purifies the air around the plant.
A NASA study even highlighted several plants that excelled in cleaning the air around them. If you're looking to breathe easier, but don't want to purchase an air purifier , opt for one of these plants for their ability to improve indoor air quality.
Peace lilies are a good choice for homes without much direct sunlight.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
Named for the white blooms reminiscent of a surrender flag, these budding beauties remove formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air around them. Peace lilies can grow up to 16 inches tall and don't need direct sunlight, but they do require regular watering.
English ivy can reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter in your home.
English ivy (Hedera helix)
According to NASA's study, English ivy is a fantastic plant to grow indoors if you're looking for air-filtering ability.
English ivy absorbs formaldehyde, found in some household cleaners and can reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter. However, it should be kept out of the reach of any pets, as it can be poisonous if ingested.
Gerbera daisies add color and pack an air-cleaning punch.
Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
This bright and colorful flower packs a pollutant-absorbing punch, filtering out trichloroethylene and benzene, chemical compounds found in cleaners and solvents. Gerbera daisies do need plenty of direct sunlight, so keep your plant in a well-lit area and be sure to water frequently.
The Arecaceae are a botanical family of perennial climbers, shrubs, acaules, and trees commonly known as palm trees. Palms are extremely popular and it’s easy to see why. This leafy plant can be grown anywhere in the house in indirect sunlight. Palm is also the best air purifying indoor plants. Palms specifically target and remove formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide. Water enough to keep the soil moist and let it dry a little between watering in winter. NASA plants.
13 of the Best Plants for Air Quality
Breathe out the bad, breathe in the good.
These 13 best plants for air quality are especially effective at cutting down on toxins and pollutants indoors, so get growin’!
1. Peace Lily: Peace Lilies tend to be on the smaller side, making them perfect accents for those corners of your home that need a little extra life — but they still pack a punch in terms of air quality! They help remove chemicals including ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (nothing that hard to pronounce should be lingering in the air you breathe) from your home, though it’s worth noting that they do have a noticeable floral scent. Steer clear if you’re not into a flowery smell! These flowers thrive indoors in medium sunlight, and only need to be watered once a week.
2. English Ivy: English Ivy will look good pretty much anywhere you put it, and it can remove harmful pollutants, too. Say goodbye to benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene! Need another reason to bring some into your home? Studies have shown that English Ivy helps reduce mold! Like other types of ivy, it needs plenty of bright light, so put it in an especially sunny part of your home.
3. Ficus/Weeping Fig: Even if you’re not super concerned about the air quality in your home, you might consider picking up a ficus. These plants are low-maintenance, requiring little more than bright, indirect light. Beginner gardeners, fear not: you’re actually supposed to let the soil dry out between waterings of a ficus. As an added bonus, these plants are effective at filtering out common indoor air pollutants.
4. Bamboo Palm: Handy for removing chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde from the air, bamboo palm makes a great houseplant, since it grows best in part sun or shade and requires only an occasional watering. We bet you can find a place in your home for one of these!
5. Chinese Evergreen: If you’re in the market for something that looks a little different than your garden variety (get it?) plant, you may just fall in love with the Chinese Evergreen. Its red and green marbled leaves are pretty and unique, and like the other plant life on this list, they help maintain healthy air quality indoors. They also can be easily overwatered, so you won’t need to spend too much time taking care of them. Pet parents, beware! If you have furry friends at home, you may want to skip this one, as Chinese Evergreen can be toxic to animals.
6. Gerber Daisies: They’re more than just for show! Beyond just being cute, Gerber Daisies can also take benzene from the air. These are an especially good fit for you if you like to keep your house on the toastier side, as they thrive in temperatures 75ºF or higher.
7. Boston Fern: Boston Fern likes to work under very specific conditions: in a cool, humid location with indirect light. Once those conditions are satisfied, though, you’re in business, and your Boston Fern can put a significant dent in formaldehyde and xylene.
8. Dracaena: Among the 40 variations of Dracaena plants out there — all of which are marked with long, wide leaves lined with white cream, or red — you’re bound to find one that suits your fancy. Don’t start searching for the perfect Dracaena right away if you’re a pet owner, though. These houseplants are dangerous for dogs and cats. They also need even less water than other houseplants, and should do well with just a light mist any time the top soil dries out.
9. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue/Snake Plant: Snake Plants are known as one of the very best options available for absorbing toxins like formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, benzene, xylene, and trichloroethylene. And while these plants prefer to have plenty of bright light, they can survive for long periods of time in low light, so they’re a great starter plant for anyone trying to figure out how best to hone a green thumb indoors. Keep away from pets!
10. Pot Mum: According to NASA research, pot mums are effective at removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air. As a fun added bonus, you can re-plant these pretties outside for a pop of color in the garden! They do require a little more TLC than other house plants, since you’ll need to water them regularly. Keep them where they can get plenty of air circulation, and in a low-humidity environment.
11. Aloe Vera: You’ve probably heard of aloe previously as it relates to health and skin care, and this plant really is a win win. When it’s not working to remove formaldehyde from the air, it can become a beneficial part of your natural wellness routine. The leaves of an aloe vera plant contain a clear, vitamin-rich liquid that can heal wounds, counter inflammation, and help skin conditions like psoriasis. Simply place these plants in indirect or artificial light, and water them deeply but infrequently, and you should be set to go.
12. Spider Plant: Pop a spider plant in a sunny spot in your home and breathe deep, because these greens are great for air purification. Spider plants like to dry out between waterings, so water them well, but don’t let them get too soggy.
13. Golden Pothos: No plant experience? No problem. Golden Pothos are especially hardy, so you’re going to have a tough time killing one… which means you have plenty of clean air in your future. As long as they get light water, they’ll flourish — and they’ll survive in almost any environment in your home!
A quick animal-loving reminder: we’ve flagged several plants that are toxic to pets, but if you do have fur babies at home, it never hurts to double check that new greenery is safe for animals before you bring it into your space!
Air purifying plants: 20 of the best for your home
WATCH: Looking for some indoor plants that will thrive on neglect? Watch the video below.
Looking to reduce toxins in your home? It's often the germs and toxins that you can't see that are the most harmful, but alas these air cleaning plants will help you remove toxins and improve air quality.
Here is a round-up of the best air purifying indoor plants using NASA's Clean Air Study that will add a touch of colour and clean air to your home.
1. Devil’s Ivy or pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Otherwise known as pothos or golden pothos, devil's ivy is an easy to grow indoor houseplant that will fight off common household toxins. It adds instant colour to any room with cascading tendrils and grows well in water, pots and hanging baskets. The heartleaf philodendron has also been said to be harder to kill than to keep alive!
Toxins removed: xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
2. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii)
Dwarf or Pygmy palms are the babies of the palm family. They are relatively easy to grow in partial shade, growing up to six to 10 feet with their fronds reaching six foot too!
Toxins removed: formaldehyde and xylene.
3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Also known as a spathiphyllum, peace lilies are an easy and undemanding plant to look after. Their glossy green leaves make the perfect addition to any room especially those spots with low light. Keep them happy with a weekly water and fertilise with a slow-release fertiliser in spring to promote growth and those glorious white flowers.
Toxins removed: benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene
The heart-shaped philodendron is a luscious addition to indoor spaces. Philo’s are relatively easy to look after they just need moderate water and bright, indirect sunlight.
Toxins removed: formaldehyde.
5. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants are the perfect choice for newbies and those with a bad track record when it comes to plants. They thrive in indirect sunlight and survive in just about any condition (they’ve been known to survive in temperatures as low as 2 degrees). Spider plants also send out shoots of baby spider plants called spiderettes.
Toxins removed: formaldehyde and xylene.
6. Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Chrysanthemums otherwise known as disbuds or mums are not only a great addition to a floral arrangement but they look great in your home and are known as one of the best air purifiers around. They are among the more difficult air purifiers to grow but the payoff is beautiful colourful blooms. They enjoy good air flow, bright indirect sunlight and watering with warm water only, making sure that they are allowed to dry fully in between drinks.
Toxins removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene
7. Rubber plants (Ficus elastic)
These burgundy evergreen trees originated from India, they’re a very hardy plant that love bright, filtered light and weekly watering in summer and fortnightly watering in winter. Rubber plants can grow in a small pot or be encouraged to grow into a large indoor tree in pots or straight in the ground.
Toxins removed: xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.
8. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata v. Bostoniesis)
This easy-to-grow fern is known for its sword-shaped fronds which makes it perfect for a hanging basket or pedestal. The Boston Fern thrives in humid environments and requires consistent moisture. Keep them happy with regular misting, moist soil and position them in indirect sunlight near windows, balconies and patios. In winter cut the fronds back by around 2-inches to help regenerate and grow in the warmer months.
Toxins removed: formaldehyde and xylene.
9. Areca palms (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
Areca palms are great for bigger spaces. They are a powerhouse when it comes to eliminating toxins and they are even non-toxic to both dogs and cats. Look after them with lots of water (a couple of times a week) during summer but not as much in winter.
Toxins removed: benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene
10. Pineapple Plant
A recent study by NASA revealed that pineapple plants can actually put an end to snoring. Whilst they don’t remove any toxins from the air NASA claims that “pineapple plants produce oxygen and boost air quality at night which could improve sleep quality and cut out those snores.” These plants are very hardy and survive with very little water but be careful they are no match for frost they hate the cold.
11. Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena Deremensis)
Go big or go home! Dracaena’s can grow up to 15-foot tall, making them perfect for filling voids and big spaces. These guys love indirect sunlight but under no circumstances should be placed in direct sunlight. Water them once a week in the warmer months but be careful too much water can cause root decay.
Toxins removed: xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde
Plants that need less watering
Let's face it, keeping anything alive is a time-consuming responsibility. Sometimes watering your plants will simply slip your mind. Not to worry.
If you forget to water your plants for a few days or take a vacation, these plants will forgive you. They can withstand a few days, even a week in some cases, with no harm done.
Spider plants don't need frequent watering.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
The sprawling spider plant is rarely thirsty. In fact, it can go a week or more without H2O, thanks to its tubelike roots that store nutrients. Still, if you see the leaf tips begin to turn brown, it's time to give it a drink.
The best way to store and display a spider plant is in a hanging basket or a tall planter, so the long leaves can dangle over the side. When it comes to light, the spider plant prefers indirect light, not too bright and not in complete shade.
Thick and waxy leaves help ZZ plants conserve water.
ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
This tongue-twister of a plant is nearly indestructible. It can tolerate plenty of different lighting conditions and go without water for long periods of time. Its bright green leaves are thick and waxy to help conserve water. Overwatering could be this plant's biggest enemy.
It's also important to keep the leaves free of dust, so an occasional wipe with a damp cloth or paper towel will go a long way in keeping your ZZ plant healthy. Perfect for interior spaces, and it's a great plant for travelers.
Succulents require little watering.
Succulent family (Echeveria)
Succulents are mega-popular in interior design these days, accenting desks, kitchens and everywhere in between. While they do require a decent amount of natural light (most prefer full, direct sun), plants in the succulent family don't need much water at all.
Like the ZZ plant, there's more risk in overwatering than underwatering. Succulents come in dozens of varieties with a wide array of beautiful colors, shapes and sizes.
Even if your thumb isn't the greenest, these indoor-friendly plants will thrive in your home's climate, maybe even improve it and look good, all at the same time.