12 Best Air-Purifying Houseplants

Doug Echelberger


We don't need to give you the hard sell on houseplants: They instantly add color, vibrancy, and a breath of fresh air to your space, no matter the size. Certain greens — ferns, palms, and ivy to name a few — also detoxify the air around you, too. They also happen to be some of the most tolerant, low-maintenance plants out there, which means it's very hard to kill them and they're perfect for beginner gardeners.

How do plants purify air?

Let's take it back to science class: During photosynthesis (you remember that word, don\'t ya?), plants convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and remove toxins from the air we breathe. NASA tested this theory in a landmark 1989 study when they examined how popular houseplants diffuse toxic chemicals including:

  • Formaldehyde, which can cause irritation to nose, mouth, and throat.
  • Benzane, which can cause irritation to eyes, drowsiness, dizziness, increase in heart rate, headaches, and confusion.
  • Trichlorothylene, which can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
In the study, they found several, no-fuss plants that actually filter out the bad stuff and easily grow indoors.

How many plants do you need to purify a room?

The more plants, the better. To reap the benefits, have at least two plants per 100 square feet. Keep in mind that plants with larger leaves — think: palms — purify air quicker. Bill Wolverton, the man behind the NASA study, also recommends fern and ivy plants because they take up the most surface area.

1) Kimberly Queen Fern

This easy-to-grow fern thrives in bright direct sunlight and mild temperatures. It also loves the humidity, so if the air in your home tends to be dry, you might want to set it up next to a small humidifier.

2) Variegated Snake Plant

This striped green can survive with little water and light. Because it can go weeks without care, it\'s known as one of the most low-maintenance houseplants for beginner gardeners. Not to mention, it\'s a beautiful deep green that will make your space feel so lush.

3) Barberton Daisy

This colorful plant can grow indoors or outdoors, and many people love it for its cheery blooms. Barberton daisies can flower at any time of the year, and each flower lasts between four and six weeks.

4) Weeping Fig Tree

This large indoor tree should be in a well-lit room and watered regularly. Keep in mind that you may need to repot this plant annually, as it can grow between 3 and 6 feet in height.

5) Red-Edged Dracaena

With its red, spiky leaves, this evergreen is tropical in appearance and will add a punch of color to any space. It can survive with or without sunlight, and also requires very little water.

6) Peace Lily

A symbol of sympathy, this budded plant works well in partial sunlight and humid climates, and blooms for about two months in the spring. If you have pets, keep in mind that peace lilies are poisonous to both cats and dogs.

7) Broadleaf Lady Palm

Perfect for indoors or outdoors, this plant can grow up to 14-feet tall (although it can also be pruned back to a more manageable height). Lady palms prefer indirect light, moist soil, and can thrive in almost any temperature.

8) Spider Plant

Another great option for beginner gardeners, spider plants flourish in bright, indirect sunlight with lots of water. Some mature spider plants produce white flowers, which then mature into baby spiderettes that can be removed and rooted in water or soil.

9) Devil's Ivy

This plant loves indirect sunlight and only needs to be watered when dry. It gets its name due to the fact that it\'s nearly impossible to kill and stays green even when kept in near darkness.

10) Flamingo Lily

Naturally found in rainforests, this plant needs indirect sunlight, humid temperatures, and water to grow. It can bloom year round and produces stunning red flowers that will beautify your space.

11) Chinese Evergreen

With its ability to tolerate low light and drought, the Chinese evergreen is an easy plant for beginner indoor gardeners. If your plant gets enough sunlight, it might even produce a calla lily-like bloom.

12) Bamboo Palm

If you have the space, try a bamboo palm (these trees can grow from 4 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide). Place the palm in a well-soiled planter in indirect sunlight and water it when the surface feels dry.


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