10 House-Plants That Help Improve Indoor Air Quality

Updated on October 19, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Friends say I have "green-fingers," and the garden certainly seems to respond to my efforts. I enjoy observing wildlife and being outdoors.

Flamingo Flower houseplants help purify indoor air.
Flamingo Flower houseplants help purify indoor air. | Source

Houseplants Help Reduce Indoor Pollution

Houseplants can help lift your mood and purify the air indoors. NASA research (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has proven that indoor plants can detoxify the surrounding air. Potted plants in home and office remove chemical pollutants known to affect health such as Benzene, Trichloroethylene and Formaldehyde.

The top 10 best air-filtering houseplants according to NASA are as follows.

  1. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
  2. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
  3. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exalta Bostoniensis)
  4. Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis)
  5. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
  6. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)
  7. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
  8. Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)
  9. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
  10. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)

NASA Clean Air Study Results in Big Improvement to Air Quality

50 Detoxifying Plants For Indoor Spaces

For lots of choice, I recommend How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office. The book is the result of NASA’s indoor air quality research project. It lists the 50 best house plants for purifying home and office spaces. It includes details of each plant’s ability to filter out and remove common pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. There is also guidance on which house plants are easy to care for and which rooms they would suit best.

1. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

English ivy requires little maintenance and grows in virtually any indoor condition. It is recommended for removing carcinogens from secondhand tobacco smoke.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix), also known as Common Ivy.
English Ivy (Hedera Helix), also known as Common Ivy. | Source

2. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)

Golden pothos was NASA’s top recommendation for indoor formaldehyde removal. It is also good for lowering carbon monoxide levels.

Golden Pothos or Money Plant (Epipremnum Aureum).
Golden Pothos or Money Plant (Epipremnum Aureum). | Source

3. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exalta Bostoniensis)

This large ornamental fern has a great visual impact and is easy to care for. It acts as an air humidifier and helps eliminate formaldehyde.

The Ornamental Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata Bostoniensis) is also known as a Fluffy Ruffles Fern.
The Ornamental Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata Bostoniensis) is also known as a Fluffy Ruffles Fern. | Source

4. Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis)

Dracaena is a very large plant which may not be suitable for many homes, but it can be useful for offices to eliminate trichloroethylene, which comes from solvents and varnishes.

Striped Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis).
Striped Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis). | Source

5. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)

NASA found this small decorative palm to be a good air filter for benzene and trichloroethylene. It is also a great air humidifier, is easy to grow, and is resistant to insect attack.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans).
Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans). | Source

6. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

A dragon tree is low maintenance and recommended for offices and homes that need to remove xylene from the air. Xylene is released from car exhaust, paints, and cigarettes.

Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata).
Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata). | Source

7. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

The peace lily is an attractive plant that is effective at removing indoor air pollutants. However, if eaten, its leaves can be poisonous. Therefore, it should not be placed it in areas frequented by children or pets.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum). | Source

8. Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)

The attractive palm requires frequent watering in hot weather, so it is not as easy to care for as some other plant options. However, it does effectively reduce multiple indoor pollutants so is worth the extra effort.

Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa) also known as Minature Fan Palm.
Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa) also known as Minature Fan Palm. | Source

9. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

The spider plant grows well in bathrooms, kitchens, and areas where the air is moist. It requires very little attention and removes carbon monoxide from the air.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum).
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum). | Source

10. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)

The snake plant (mother-in-law's tongue) is a good all-rounder and is low maintenance. It absorbs formaldehyde and other chemical air pollutants, which makes it a great choice to have indoors.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata).
Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata). | Source

Are African Violets Good for Air Quality?

Yes, African Violets scored well in NASA's tests to improve indoor air quality. They are small and easy to care for (but beware of over-watering them.) They have the added benefit of being a colorful accessory to your home.

African Violet (Saintpaulias) is another plant that can help remove indoor pollutants.
African Violet (Saintpaulias) is another plant that can help remove indoor pollutants. | Source

How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

  1. Reduce or remove the source of the pollution. For example, have your boiler serviced regularly so it burns without producing dangerous carbon monoxide. You could also forbid smokers from lighting up indoors, as secondhand smoke contains carcinogens.
  2. Improve room ventilation. Increasing the number of air changes per hour will remove many pollutants. You can do simple things like opening up a few windows to increase air circulation.
  3. Use air cleaners to filter and remove pollutants. Many mechanical air cleaners are available on the market, but they can be expensive to buy and maintain. The NASA research study has shown that houseplants provide a practical, low cost, and easy-to-maintain alternative.

House-Plants For Clean Air

Are Indoor Plants Low Maintenance?

All plants are living things and so they need the correct temperature, food, and water to thrive. When choosing a house plant for your home or office it is a good idea to discuss your requirements with the plant nursery before buying. For example, you would buy a different plant for an airconditioned office from one that would be placed in a steamy shower room.

You may prefer a showy flowering plant over one that stays leafy for the majority of the year. In general, a flowering plant needs feeding more frequently than a foliage-only one. Producing flowers uses up a lot of a plant's energy. If you buy from a reputable supplier they will be able to advise you the best way to care for and prolong the life of your air-purifying plant.

Common Sources of Health-Damaging Pollutants

Benzene – Found in glues, paints, furniture wax and detergents.

Formaldehyde – Found in pressed wood products (plywood, particle board, paneling), and foam insulation products.

Trichloroethylene – Used as a solvent and as a refrigerant.

Xylene and Toluene – Present in a wide variety of household sprays and consumer products.

Ammonia – Present in aerosols and sprays used in the home.

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