Houseplants offer an organic appeal and bring a pop of color to otherwise neutral design schemes. But placing greenery throughout your home might go beyond enhancing the aesthetic.
We know plants and trees supply the earth with oxygen, which helps us breathe. While experts aren't totally aligned on the issue, an oft-cited NASA clean air study found that certain air-purifying indoor plants can provide similar benefits inside your home.
Besides releasing oxygen, some shrubs might also remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. So, what are the best plants for clean air? Read on for the top picks, plus care tips and design ideas.
What Are the Best Plants for Clean Air?
Whether you're a bonafide homebody or like to get out of the house as much as possible, you probably spend at least half your time at home. That's why it's crucial for your humble abode to be comfortable, visually pleasing and healthy.
Maintaining a clean space and allowing fresh air inside are likely the most effective ways to keep VOCs and indoor allergens at a minimum. Having said that, incorporating a few of the best indoor plants for air purification certainly doesn't hurt. The following 16 trees, shrubs and flora might help you breathe easy.
1. English Ivy
English ivy (Hedera helix) is thought to be one of the best plants for clean air. With lobed leaves and ambitious vines, this classic climber works well in hanging pots, on floating shelves and atop fireplace mantles. As a perennial, English ivy is also pretty low-maintenance, as long as you keep the soil moist.
2. Snake Plant
Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) have thick, dense, grass-like blades with striking yellow-green outlines. Sometimes called mother-in-law's tongue, this hardy succulent is among the best air-filtering plants.
Reaching up to two meters tall, you can place a large snake plant on the floor or a smaller one on a credenza to accent your bedroom, living room or hallway. Not only do they thrive on neglect, but it's actually best if you forget to water it for the most part.
Read our profile, A Connecticut Craftsman That Lets Outside In, to see how design enthusiast and blogger Jessica Brigham incorporated snake plants and ivy in her home.
3. Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree
Growing at least 15 feet when planted outdoors, fiddle-leaf figs (Ficus lyrata) are ideal for homes with tall ceilings. They offer a grand appearance by showcasing the height of a room with a to-scale decor accent. Just make sure the pot is plenty big if you want it to grow larger. Also, place the tree near a window so it gets lots of natural light, and let the soil dry out between waterings.
This tree might help purify the air in your home. However, since its leaves are relatively large, dusting them regularly can also help keep indoor allergens at bay.
4. Spider Plant
The NASA study we cited above also showed the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) as one of the best plants for air purification. What's more, it's one of the few houseplants that won't harm curious nibbling pets.
With its brilliantly striped blades, this semi-spiky, two-toned shrub looks beautiful in hanging baskets, on kitchen counters and in home offices. Also known as the ribbon plant, it likes moderate sunlight and a regular watering schedule.
5. Chinese Evergreen
As one of the best plants for clean air, the Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is thought to remove benzene and formaldehyde from indoor spaces.
Native to subtropical Asian regions, this shrub likes low-light conditions and humidity. This makes it an excellent choice for your bathroom counter, floating shelf, over-the-toilet unit or windowsill. Just make sure you put it in a pot with drain holes.
6. Devil's Ivy
Known for its robust, waxy leaves, devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum) might help keep your indoor air clean. As with any large-leafed flora, dusting is also important for minimizing allergens.
This easy-breezy flowering plant can hang in various lighting conditions and needs relatively little water. Since you can expect it to climb and cascade, consider placing devil's ivy in a hanging pot, on your mantle, on top of a bookcase or on a floating shelf.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has a chic, modern appeal. You can place a trio of smaller ones on your window sill, on your dining table as a centerpiece or on your coffee table. Slightly larger aloe vera plants look lovely on dressers and side tables too.
This succulent loves sunlight more than water and is generally easy to care for. It's also known as one of the best air-purifying house plants.
Check out our blog 5 Ways to Style Your Plants for more tips on curating houseplants from the experts at Léon & George.
8. Broadleaf Lady Palm
The broadleaf lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) is considered one of the best air-purifying plants. With glossy ribbed leaves and a relatively tall stature, it's a great option to place on your floor. Sometimes called a bamboo palm, this humidity-loving Chinese native thrives in bathrooms and other moisture-prone spaces.
9. Areca Palm
Areca palms (Dypsis lutescens) are among the best plants for clean air. According to the NASA study, the tropical beauty helps eliminate formaldehyde, plus it's non-toxic for cats and dogs. This medium-to-large floor plant is perfect for living rooms, wide entryways, dining areas, sunrooms and home bars.
10. Rubber Plant
Low-maintenance rubber plants (Ficus elastica) need little water and a good amount of natural light. Place a large one in your living room or on your landing if your home has stairs. A medium rubber plant can be placed on a shelf or cabinet, but you might need to transfer it to a bigger pot later on.
If you're looking for indoor plants that clean the air, this is a stellar choice. That said, the signature rubber-like leaves will definitely need regular dusting.
11. Peace Lilies
Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) are arguably the best air-cleaning plants for bedrooms. As its name suggests, this flora presents a calming aura and brings serenity to your sleeping quarters. A peace lily will look lovely on the floor next to your nightstand, by the window or on top of your dresser.
They like low-light areas, so don't worry if you forget to open your curtains during the day. And watering once a week (or whenever the soil gets dry) is plenty.
For more ideas, check out The Best Plants for Bedrooms and Bathrooms by The Sill on our blog.
12. Boston Fern
Known for its sword-shaped leaflets and spored texture, the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is an excellent pick for bedrooms, kitchens, sunrooms and home offices.
This mop-top shrub is perfectly happy when misted daily in a well-lit area, making it a great option for hanging baskets and window sills. Since it thrives in humid environments, it can also work in a windowed bathroom.
13. Heartleaf Philodendron
The heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) is thought to help eliminate formaldehyde from indoor air. With its dark green leaves and propensity to climb, it offers a romantic appeal when placed on virtually any shelf, sill or ledge in your home.
This shade-loving Brazil native is notably low-maintenance too. Unlike other houseplants, it's hard to overwater a heartleaf philodendron, so as long as you keep the soil moist, it's good to go.
14. Weeping Fig
Trees make outdoor air breathable, so it makes sense that they'd offer similar benefits in the home. According to NASA, the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) can help remove benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air.
Not only is this indoor tree considered one of the best plants for clean air, but it's also a top choice among interior designers. Get a sizable planter and place it in your entryway, at the base of your stairs, on your landing, or in the corner of a bedroom.
Also known as the ficus tree, this is one of the more finicky options in terms of care. But if you place your weeping fig in a bright room away from drafts and water it only when the soil has completely dried out, you can expect it to thrive in your home.
15. Barberton Daisy
If you're open to branching out from green, consider getting a potted flowering plant, like a barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii). Sometimes called the gerbera daisy, this indigenous African flora can bring cheerful bursts of orange, yellow, pink or red into your home. The flowers look charming when placed on a windowsill, dining table, kitchen island or countertop.
What's more, it's believed to help eliminate three of the top-offending VOCs (formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene) from the air. Like most flowers, these daisies drink up natural light and appreciate lots of water, though a well-drained pot is recommended.
16. Cornstalk Dracaena
If you like the tropical look and have ample natural lighting in your home, go with a cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans). Sometimes called Janet Craig, this Africa native is among the best indoor plants for clean air.
Reaching up to 15 feet in height, this tree-like flowering plant is ideal for homes with tall ceilings. It can supplement the wall decor in your living room, foyer or dining room, presenting a laid-back yet sophisticated appeal. Bear in mind that cornstalk dracaenas prefer indirect sunlight and need to be watered every couple of weeks, depending on the season and how close they are to a window.
Want more guidance on flexing your green thumb without venturing outside? Check out the blog Know Your Plants, With the Sill.
Free Home Design Consulting with a Parachute Stylist
Now that you're up to speed on the best plants for clean air, it's time to get your potting gloves on and start situating them around your home. Whether you like the Southwestern vibe of succulents, the tropical appeal of palms, the down-to-earth aesthetic of ferns or the wild climbing nature of vines, there's a plant out there for every taste.
Deciding on a species is one thing, but figuring out what size you need and finding the right pot for it is another. If you need help choosing a plant, sizing a planter or placing it in your home, the experienced design specialists at Parachute are available to assist.
During your complimentary one-on-one phone or video consultation, a stylist will take a look at your space, consider your goals and preferences, then offer expert insight and personalized guidance. In addition to styling with house plants, they can provide recommendations for everything from layering a bed and arranging decorative pillows to mixing and matching textiles and adorning a blank wall.