When you are living in a big city, you get quite used to pollution as it surrounds you whenever you are in busy areas or stuck in traffic. However, when we get home, most of us breathe a sigh of relief. The indoor air doesn’t feel polluted and our homes feel like safe havens in a world drowning in exhaust fumes.
Unfortunately, the indoor air is also polluted but there are natural ways in which we can fight indoor pollution. We can start by eliminating some of the lesser-known sources of indoor pollution. We can also use natural air-purifiers to clean the indoor air.
Some indoor plants are not only aesthetically pleasing but they also make for great air-purifying plants. Keep on reading to discover the sources of indoor pollution and our list of the best plants with air-purifying properties.
Keep on reading to discover the best plants with air-purifying properties.
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Top 10 Best Air-Purifying Plants
The air-purifying properties of plants have been studied for a long time. The most comprehensive study and the most relevant for indoor air purification is the study performed by NASA. The main purpose of the NASA Clean Air Study was to research the best ways to clean air onboard a spacecraft. Plants proved useful not only in turning carbon dioxide into oxygen but also in removing volatile organic compounds.
Here are some of the most popular plants that you can bring indoors if you want to have cleaner air.
Epipremnum aureum is also known as Pothos or Devil’s Ivy. Sometimes, it can be mistakenly labeled as Philodendron. It is one of the most popular apartment plants due to its low maintenance needs and amazing air-purifying properties. It is great at removing benzene and Formaldehyde (found in building materials and gas-fueled appliances). It also filters xylene, and toluene (found in furniture solvents and paint).
If it is provided with adequate growing conditions, an indoor pothos can reach a top length of 3 meters. Its leaves which are no bigger than two inches in young plants can reach 60 cm in length in a well-grown mature plant. The best thing about pothos plants is that they come in a plethora of varieties.
The heart-shaped varieties are Golden Photos, Marble Queen Pothos, Neon Photos, Jessenia Pothos, Manjula Pothos, and Pearls and Jade Photos. Other varieties with longer leaves include Baltic Blue Pothos, Cebu Blue Pothos, and Global Green Pothos.
In terms of growing conditions, Pothos is very adaptable and forgiving. It needs a moderate amount of light, but it can also make do with indirect sun. Keep in mind that different varieties can have different needs.
Variegated plants in particular need more direct light because they don’t have as much chlorophyll as normal plants. Pothos prefers soil with good drainage. As far as water goes, it needs to be watered abundantly once a week, or even once every two weeks in the wintertime. It can survive overwatering as well as draughts.
2. Hedera helix
Also known as English Ivy, this is a clinging evergreen that can be found in most parts of Europe and Western Asia. It cleans the air of the same volatile organic compounds as the Pothos plants. Moreover, it can also filter Trichloroethylene (found in varnishes and paint solvents). It is usually grown outdoors, but it can also make for a great indoor plant.
Hedera is the Latin word for ivy, which actually comes from a Greek verb that means „to grasp”. Its leaves are dark green, waxy, and sometimes leathery. It is often associated with the three-lobe leaves, but its leaves can have many shapes. The lobes can fade in some cultivars, resulting in a heart leaf shape. An indoor ivy plant can reach a top length of 270 cm. It looks great in hanging baskets or on shelves where it has sufficient space to cascade downwards.
You can propagate this plant from seeds, cuttings, layerings, or seedlings. The seedlings method is the easiest and it has the highest chances of success for an indoor plant. English ivy will perform best in bright, indirect light. It needs a rich potting mix and a container with good drainage holes. Water it thoroughly and allow the top cm of soil to dry before watering it again. This plant prefers moderate or even slightly high humidity levels. In an environment with low humidity, set the ivy’s container on a tray of wet pebbles.
Read our Complete Guide to English Ivy to learn more about this amazing plant!
3. Peace Lilly
This evergreen herbaceous perennial goes by the botanical name Spathiphyllum. It is one of the best air-purifying plants. Not only is it just as efficient as the previously mentioned plants, but it can also successfully filter ammonia from indoor air. Ammonia compounds come from cleaning products, building materials, or tobacco smoke.
The Peace Lilly is a beloved plant by plant lovers, not only for its air-purifying properties but also thanks to its gorgeous look. It features large leaves which can reach a top length of 65 cm and a top width of 25 cm. Young plants have small leaves of 12 cm in length and 3 cm in width.
The milky white flowers are also very prized. Each flower features large spandex which is surrounded by a spathe with an average length of 10-30 cm. The spathe is usually white, but it can also be yellowish or even greenish.
The Peace Lilly loves the shade and it needs minimum light to thrive, so it is on our best indoor plants list and our list of kitchen plants. This delicate plant will thrive as long as you water it once a week, but the watering schedule can also depend on your indoor environment. The plant grows best if the soil is kept moist at all times. The most popular cultivar is Mauna Loa which has even won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. The only downside of this plant is that it is highly toxic for pets and even mildly toxic for humans.
Read our Peace Lily Guide to learn more!
Chamaedorea is a genus that contains over a hundred species of palm. Among them, Chamaedorea Seifrizii (Bamboo Palm) and Chamaedorea Elegans (Parlor Palm) have been recognized by NASA for their great air-purifying properties. They can filter the most common types of volatile organic compounds.
The Bamboo Palm is not effective against ammonia. Both species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of America. The Parlor Palm can reach a top indoor size of 1,5 m whereas the Bamboo Palm can reach a top indoor size of 3,5 m. As far as the width goes, they are relatively similar.
Their foliage is very similar featuring clumps of slender stems that carry long, arching leaves.
Both types of palms require moist, well-draining soil with an acidic or a neutral pH level. A peat-based potting mix is recommended by many gardeners. They can grow in similar lighting conditions. The Parlor Palm tends to perform better in bright, indirect light whereas the bamboo palm will be happier in medium light or even partial shade. As far as watering goes, palm trees can be a little fussy.
They can’t handle either over-watering or under-watering. If you have to choose, it is best to underwater them. In a moderate indoor environment, Palm trees should be watered about once a week.
Because it is such an amazing companion, you can also find Chamaedorea on our Best Tropical Houseplants List and you can learn more about it from our Parlor Palm Guide. The Parlour Palm is also one of the trendiest houseplants of 2022.
5. Rhapis excelsa
Let’s move on to a different type of palm, from a different genus. Belonging to the Rhapis genus, Rhapis Excelsa is native to China and Taiwan. This Palm is rarely found in the wild nowadays, but it is grown all over the world as an indoor plant or a garden plant. It is also known as the Broadleaf Lady Palm, and it is often mislabeled as the Bamboo Palm. Indoors it can reach a top height of 180 cm and a top spread of 120 cm. It has glossy-green leaf fronds arranged in a fan pattern. Each frond can have 5-8 thin segments.
This plant is very popular in public spaces like malls and offices. This is because it can handle low light conditions and a wide range of humidity levels. It can virtually survive in any type of lighting condition. Nonetheless, it will grow best when it had access to bright, indirect sunlight.
It is very responsive to light, so you can use its leaves as an indicator for finding the optimal light for it. The leaves will get darker when they don’t have enough light and they will get yellow if they have too much light. You want the leaves to have a glossy, light green shade.
The Broadleaf Lady palm grows best in loamy, well-drained soil. This plant is very tolerant of droughts, but you should pay attention to its water needs in the spring and the summer when it actively grows. During those times, water it as soon as the top 2 cm of the soil dries out. During winter, you can allow the top 4-5 cm to dry before watering it.
Want to grow a Broadleaf Lady palm? Read our Rhapis Excelsa guide!
6. Dracaena trifasciata
Also referred to as Sansevieria, this plant belongs to the Asparagaceae family and even if its appearance doesn’t show it, it is related to the common Asparagus. It is native to West Africa and it is commonly known as the Snake Plant, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, or Saint George’s Sword.
It is an evergreen flowering perennial that can reach a top indoor size of 2 meters. Its leaves can reach a top length of 60-90 cm. The leaves are stiff and upright boasting a dark green shade with yellow and white variegation in a stripe pattern.
This plant needs porous soil with good drainage. You can choose a basic succulent mix or you can make your own soil by mixing one part of potting soil with two parts of perlite. It needs a few hours of bright indirect sunlight to thrive, but it can also grow well in partial shade or even full shade. A brighter condition will result in a more beautiful variegation pattern.
This plant is very sensitive to root rots and it prefers to be under-watered rather than over-watered. During the summertime allow at least 5 cm of the topsoil to dry before watering it. During the winter, feel free to water Dracaena once a month, or even once every two months, depending on how much heat and sunlight it gets.
Read our Snake Plant guide to learn more about this fascinating houseplant.
7. Chrysanthemum morifolium
Also known as the Florist’s Chrysanthemum, this plant is great at purifying indoor air. It is also a nice change from the evergreen apartment plants that we covered so far. The Chrysanthemum can deliver some spectacular blooms that are bound to beautify any home.
This Mum has been around for a long time, but it first became popular in China around 500 BC when it was recognized for its superior healing powers. It is one of the plants most researched concerning immortality. As an indoor plant, the Chrysanthemum can reach a top height of 50 cm with a top spread of 60 cm.
Its foliage is dense and bushy with thin, ovate leaves that reach a top length of 10 cm. It blooms in autumn in shades of pink, yellow, red, white, orange, purple, or dual colours. The diameter of the blooms ranges from 8 to 20 cm.
Chrysanthemums need bright, direct sunlight but they prefer cooler temperatures. If you keep your mums at a top temperature of 18℃ you will prolong their flowering period. These flowering plants prefer slightly acidic soil with good drainage. They need to be watered frequently, but be careful not to overwater them. Soggy soil will dry the roots whereas dry soil won’t allow the roots to develop properly.
Read our Complete Guide to Chrysanthemums to learn how to grow and care for these plants.
8. Aloe Vera
Is there anything that the mighty Aloe Vera can’t excel at? You probably already have this plant in your home, and if you don’t you need to get one as soon as possible. It is prized for its exotic look and its incredible healing properties.
As it turns out, it is also a great air purifier. A typical plant can reach a height of 60 cm, but under ideal conditions, it can grow as tall as 90 cm. It has a top spread of 50 cm. It is native to the Arabian peninsula, but it has spread to all tropical and subtropical parts of the world. It is also the most popular indoor succulent.
The leaves are long, grey to green and they are arranged in a rosette pattern. They have sharp spines along the edges.
This plant thrives on neglect, so don’t worry about ever harming it. Use a succulent potting mix for it and a container with good drainage. It needs a minimum of 6 hours of indirect sunlight each day.
When it comes to its water needs, allow the top 5 cm to dry out before watering it and reduce the watering frequency even more in the colder seasons. Aloe Vera is not thrilled when it is overwatered, but you are unlikely to ever kill it even if you occasionally soak it.
Read our Complete Guide to Aloe Vera to learn more about this low-maintenance succulent. If you already have a thriving Aloe Vera in your plant collection, try your hand at growing these other equally friendly succulents that belong to the same family: Aloe Pepe, Aloe Juvenna, Aloe Brevifolia, and Aloe Christmas Carol.
9. Nephrolepis exaltata
This plant is more commonly known as the Boston Fern or the Sword Fern. It can be found in tropical regions all over the world. It is a popular apartment plant, prized not only for its air-purifying properties but also for its ability to regulate indoor humidity.
Its lush, exotic foliage is also a great crowd-pleaser. Its foliage presents itself as a very rich bush with tendrils filled with small leaves arranged in a feather pattern. Indoors, the Boston Fern can reach a top height of 90 cm with a similar spread.
This plant prefers bright indirect light, but the amount of light it needs changes with the seasons. It needs at least two hours of indirect afternoon light in the winter. As the weather gets warmer and the sun gets brighter it needs more shelter.
As far as the soil goes, it needs airy, loamy soil. Peat and perlite can be used to improve airflow. Proper drainage is also essential. Outdoor ferns need to be heavily watered but indoor ferns can do with more moderate watering sessions. Keep the soil moist in spring and summer, and allow the top 5 cm to dry before watering it in the winter.
10. Chlorophytum comosum
This plant is also known as the Spider Plant, the Ribbon Plant, or Spider Ivy. It is an evergreen perennial, native to tropical Africa. It makes for a low-maintenance houseplant which is why it can now be found all over the world. It can reach a top height of 60 and a similar spread. It can also be grown as a hanging plant in which case it can have a much bigger length. It has long, narrow bright-green leaves with stripe variegation.
This is a very hardy plant that can tolerate droughts, high humidity, and low light conditions. Its hardiness makes it suitable for public spaces like malls and open offices, but it is also popular as an apartment plant. It grows well in loamy moist soil.
It prefers neutral or slightly acidic soil. It can survive in low light but it needs bright indirect light to thrive. Bright, indirect light will also deliver more beautiful variegation. Try to keep the soil moist, but allow it to get thirsty from time to time, especially in the winter. It usually thrives if it is watered once a week.
Read our Complete Guide to Spider Plants to learn all about growing and caring for these versatile plants.
Indoor Sources of Pollution
Contrary to popular belief, pollution is not just the result of burning fossil fuels. There are other sources of pollution, many of which can be found inside our homes.
Any contaminant which affects the quality of indoor air can be considered a pollutant. While these indoor sources of pollution are not as powerful as gas-powered vehicles, they too can affect our health in the long run. Here are some hidden sources of indoor air pollution:
- Construction materials (asbestos, new flooring, paint)
- Thick textiles (carpets and upholstery are rarely cleaned and they trap countless polluting compounds)
- New furniture (made of pressed wood products)
- Cleaning products
- Mattresses (VOCs from memory foam, allergens from spring mattresses)
- Heating/cooling systems
- High humidity levels (leading to mould)
- Gas-fuelled appliances (gas heaters, gas stoves)
- Air fresheners
- Biological pollutants (pet dander, pet hair, bug pieces)
- Hobby materials (glue, paints, solvents)
You can reduce the levels of indoor pollution through proper ventilation. Ventilation dilutes indoor air pollution and carries some of the pollutants outdoors. Lack of ventilation, high temperatures and high humidity can also worsen indoor pollution.
Effects of Indoor Pollution
The first symptoms of indoor pollution are similar to allergy symptoms. They include irritations to the nose, eyes, and throat. Prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor pollution can also cause headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Some people can be more sensitive than others to indoor pollution.
Such is the case of elderly people or people who suffer from medical conditions. People who have been exposed to high levels of indoor air pollution can also develop higher sensitivity to it.
Long-term exposure to indoor pollution can lead to serious health problems. Common health problems include asthma, respiratory diseases, heart diseases, and even cancer.
The early symptoms of these diseases are very subtle. As such, it is best to prevent exposure to indoor pollution rather than await for its symptoms to appear before you do something about it. And this is where plants can become valuable tools. With their amazing air-purifying properties, plants can help us live in a cleaner environment.
There are many plants with great air-purifying properties there and many more are included in the NASA Clean Air Study or in similar indoor air quality studies.
We gathered 10 of the plants with the best air-purifying properties, which also happen to be rather low maintenance. We hope our selection suits your taste and helps you increase the quality of your indoor air. You can also improve the indoor air by equipping your vents with HEPA filters
Another solution would be to choose eco-friendly furniture and building materials. Electric air purifiers are also great. Also, keeping your indoor humidity level moderate will discourage the spread of indoor pollution.
A higher-quality indoor air may not have an impact that you will feel immediately, but it will have a positive impact on your long-term health.
What type of air-purifying plants are you growing in your home? Let us know in the comment section!