Do you ever notice how stuffy and stale the air feels inside your home after being shut up all winter? I sure do. Going from the crisp outdoors to the air inside that’s been recirculating through the vents makes me feel like I’m being smothered under a big wool blanket. All that time cooped up indoors means pollutants from cooking, cleaning, even our own breathing builds up. Things like mold, pet dander, chemicals from products and furnishings, and dust mites just hang in the air we breathe. It’s enough to make you sick!
But don’t start ripping out your HVAC system just yet. Believe it or not, one of the easiest and most natural ways to freshen your indoor air is by adding houseplants. Many common (and beautiful) houseplants have air-purifying properties that filter nasty pollutants from the air. Bringing a bit of nature’s cleaning power indoors helps remove toxins so you and your family can breathe deep and easy.
In this article, we’ll go through the top 5 air-purifying houseplants to know, plus tips for choosing and caring for them so they can do their job improving your indoor air quality. Just a couple of these pretty green friends placed in rooms throughout your home can make a real difference in how fresh the air feels. Ready to breathe a little easier? Let’s get growing!
Snake Plant: A Low Maintenance Air-Purifying Classic
With its upright spear-shaped leaves that resemble reptile tongues or spikes (hinting at its other nickname “mother-in-law’s tongue”), the snake plant has dramatic architectural form. It packs a lot of style for an easy-care plant. When it comes to air purification, the snake plant excels at removing nasty toxins like formaldehyde, xylene, trichloroethylene, and benzene from the air. Study after study confirms the snake plant is one of the best for filtering indoor air.
Native to tropical West Africa, the snake plant thrives indoors in regular home temperatures and humidity. It grows well in bright, indirect light but also tolerates low-light conditions—making it an ideal choice for dim corners of any room. Snake plants require very little water and are prone to root rot if overwatered, so take care not to love them to death! Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, especially in winter. Apply cactus fertilizer every 2-3 months during the growing season for light feeding.
Repotting is only needed every 2-3 years. Watch for roots starting to grow through the drainage holes, then size up the container one size and use cactus potting soil. The snake plant spreads by rhizomes and thick roots, so it’s easy to divide and share when repotting. New plants can also be started by simply placing a cutting in water or potting mix. Keep an eye out for potential problems like fungal disease if subjected to overly damp conditions for too long.
With proper care, the snake plant continues to grow taller and fuller over time, improving air quality along with it. It’s no wonder this classic houseplant remains a favorite for beginners and experienced gardeners alike thanks to its stylish looks and air-purifying superpowers. For best results, place several in rooms where you spend the most time.
Peace Lily: A Tropical Air Purifier with Gorgeous Blooms
Nothing says tranquility quite like a lush green peace lily with its trademark snowy white blooms. But this tropical plant gives you more than just good vibes—it also actively purifies by removing mold spores like aspergillus and penicillium from the air. Studies show it also filters out harmful trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde, making it a great choice for vinyl-floored spaces.
Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, the peace lily thrives in warm indoor spaces with plenty of indirect sunlight and moist, humid air. Misting the leaves goes a long way since these tropicals crave humidity. Water thoroughly when the top couple inches of soil become dry, taking care not to oversaturate the soil. Even moisture is key to prevent issues like root rot or leaf spotting.
Feed monthly during spring and summer using a balanced liquid fertilizer. To keep your peace lily growing strong, repot annually in the spring before it becomes rootbound. Use a pot only one size larger and make sure it has drainage holes at the bottom. Sterilized potting mix formulated for tropicals provides the fast drainage peace lilies require. Remove spent flower stalks to encourage more blooms.
Propagating peace lilies is super easy. Just divide the plant at the root ball or take plantlets that form on the stalks.
The peace lily is a favorite for its lush and exotic vibe, versatility to fit any decor, and ability to indicate air moisture needs through drooping leaves. A few potted around the home remove allergens and harmful substances so you can breathe naturally easy.
Boston Fern: Cascading Natural Beauty with Air-Purifying Properties
With long, graceful fronds that can reach up to five feet long on mature plants, the Boston fern makes a fabulous hanging plant or drapes beautifully over shelving. Unlike many ferns, this variety tolerates indoor conditions well and filters common toxins like formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from indoor air. The Boston fern originated in tropical zones, not Boston, and was a favorite during Victorian times.
Boston ferns need bright, indirect sunlight and consistently moist soil to thrive. Water thoroughly and mist often to imitate its preferred rainforest habitat. Adding pebbles to the drainage tray can boost humidity. Indoor heating in winter tends to dry the air, so situate near humidifiers. Feed every month during spring and summer using balanced indoor plant fertilizer.
Selecting a healthy green specimen with full foliage when buying is key—then continue proper care at home. Repot every 2 years in the spring before it becomes rootbound. Move up to a pot one size larger and use indoor potting mix blended for ferns. Divide congested root balls during repotting to encourage bushier growth. Prune old fronds at the base to maintain an attractive shape.
As one of the fast growers, the Boston fern filters air pollutants while adding soothing green ambience. Those lovely cascading fronds also have a cooling effect. Boston ferns are eye-catching yet easy going, making them an excellent air-purifying plant for indoor settings from offices to sunrooms.
Chinese Evergreen: Low-Maintenance, Stylish Air Purifier
With colorful leaves splashed, spotted, and variegated with shades of green, red, pink, and cream, the Chinese evergreen definitely livens up living spaces with its fabulous foliage. Those dramatic leaf patterns aren’t just pretty to look at—this plant also makes your air healthier by filtering out benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde as it grows.
A member of the Aglaonema genus originating in tropical Asia, the Chinese evergreen adapts readily to indoor conditions. Its ability to tolerate low light makes it perfect for dim corners or office cubicles. Well-draining all-purpose potting soil provides a suitable base. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry before watering again. The Chinese evergreen prefers average humidity and temperatures around 65-80 F.
Repot every second spring before roots start circling the pot, moving up just one or two pot sizes at a time. Divide the root ball if the plant is overcrowded. Wipe leaves occasionally with a damp cloth to keep dust free. Apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer monthly through the growing season for good nourishment.
This sturdy plant holds up beautifully to indoor conditions while improving air quality, and its colorful foliage adds a contemporary element to rooms. Place Chinese evergreens in gathering areas where their bright leaves and air-purifying properties can beautify and benefit your home.
Areca Palm: Tropical Vibes plus Air Purification
Nothing conjures up the tropics like a stately palm. With clusters of slender trunks topped with feathery fronds, areca palms adapt well as houseplants while doing double duty removing airborne toxins like xylene, formaldehyde, and VOCs. According to NASA, the areca palm is one of the best air purifying plants for indoors.
Native to Madagascar and South India, indoors the areca palm grows up to 6-8 feet tall at a moderate pace. It flourishes with bright indirect light and average humidity—making it a great choice for air purification in living rooms and offices. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out before watering thoroughly again. Misting the arching fronds often boosts the humidity this tropical plant loves.
Feed every 2-3 weeks through the growing season with a balanced palm fertilizer diluted to half strength. Repot in the spring only when rootbound using a potting mix formulated for palms and tropicals, moving up just one pot size at a time. Divide congested root balls during repotting to encourage branching stems. Wipe leaves regularly with a damp cloth to prevent buildup of dust.
With its subtly curved fronds and upright growing habit, the areca palm brings a refined tropical vibe as well as powerful air-cleaning qualities. It’s an easy way to purify the air while adding organic style to your indoor decor.
Choosing the Best Air-Purifying Plants for Your Home
Now that you know which plants pack the most air-purifying punch, how do you choose the right varieties for your space? Here are tips for picking the perfect plants:
- Consider the light you have available in the rooms where you want to place plants. Is it low, moderate, or bright indirect light? Choose plants suited to those conditions so they can thrive.
- Pay attention to the existing temperature and humidity in your home, which varies by season. Pick plants that are comfortable in the ambient conditions. Group plants to boost humidity.
- If you’re newer to indoor gardening, select easy care varieties like the snake plant, areca palm, or Chinese evergreen to start out. Soon you’ll be ready for more challenging plants!
- Inspect plants closely before buying to be sure they are pest and disease free, with healthy foliage and no wilting. This gives them the best start in your home.
- Consider air purification needs of certain spaces, like bathrooms or kitchens prone to mold, basements prone to humidity and VOCs, bedrooms where you want restful sleep.
- Don’t forget to check whether plants are pet safe if you have furry friends at home. Most air purifiers like the snake plant are non-toxic for cats and dogs when ingested, but supervise curious pets around all houseplants.
Caring for Houseplants So They Thrive
Bringing home gorgeous new houseplants is always exciting, but how do you keep them looking their best while doing their air-filtering job? Follow these indoor plant care tips:
- Allow new plants to acclimate for a few weeks before repotting or moving them to permanent spots. Keep them in their nursery pots on a sunny windowsill and water sparingly at first.
- Slowly move plants to brighter locations over 7-10 days to avoid shock from sudden light changes. Rotate plants periodically for even sun exposure.
- Learn to recognize the signs of too much or too little light – leggy growth means more sun, while leaf loss indicates too much. Adjust lighting or supplement with grow lights.
- Water thoroughly only once the top inch of soil dries out – but don’t let plants sit in standing water. Add pebbles to drainage trays for humidity-loving varieties.
- Use room humidifiers and group plants together to provide the ambient moisture many tropical air purifiers prefer. Notice browning leaves and respond.
- Fertilize monthly according to package instructions with balanced indoor plant fertilizers. Feed more often for faster growing plants.
- Repot when rootbound every 1-3 years in the spring using the proper potting mix – one that drains well but holds moisture.
- Remove dead leaves and stems to encourage new growth and maintain an attractive shape. Know when to prune specific varieties.
- Inspect regularly for pests like spider mites. Isolate and discard seriously infested plants. Wipe leaves and use neem oil spray judiciously.
- Propagate by division or cuttings using clean shears and proper rooting medium – water, potting mix, sphagnum moss. Change the water every few days.
By understanding and meeting your plant’s needs for light, humidity, soil moisture and nutrition, they will reward you with vibrant growth and fresh, purified air for years to come!
Frequently Asked Questions About Air Purifying Plants
If you’re new to using houseplants for natural air purification, chances are you have some questions about how to implement them effectively in your home. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions to help you get started:
- What are the main indoor air pollutants that plants can help remove? Plants help filter out volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and smoke that accumulate indoors and cause health issues like allergies and asthma.
- How do plants actually clean the air? Through the natural processes of photosynthesis and transpiration, houseplants absorb CO2 and contaminants, then release oxygen and moisture back into the air. Their leaves and soil also trap toxins and allergens through filtration.
- How many air purifying plants should I have per room? Experts often recommend 1-3 good sized plants per 100 square feet of floor space. For heavier pollutants like smoke, more plants are beneficial. Spread them out around each room.
- Where is the best place to put plants in a room? Position houseplants in a scattered arrangement for good air circulation. Avoid cramped spaces or directly in drafty areas near vents and doors. Near seating/activity areas is great.
- What are the best air purifying plants for the bedroom? Top plants for restful sleep include snake plant, English ivy, spider plant, and peace lily. They filter allergens and replenish oxygen levels at night.
- Which plants are best for purifying bathroom air? Great bathroom plants are ferns, orchids, and palms that help control humidity and filter mold and odors. Provide proper ventilation along with plants.
- Do air purifying plants generate more oxygen at night for me to breathe? They do release more oxygen at night, but the amount is quite small – open windows have a greater effect on air oxygen levels in a room.
- Can plants alone completely purify my indoor air? While very helpful for filtering pollutants, houseplants should complement proper ventilation, air filters, and eliminating pollution sources – not replace them entirely.
- If I have plants, do I still need mechanical air filters in my home? Yes, houseplants don’t remove all dust, smoke, and chemicals that technical air filtration can. Use both for cleaner indoor air.
- How often should I water and prune my air purifying plants? Watering frequency depends on the individual plant’s needs. Prune dead leaves and use a schedule specific to each variety for best growth.
- What type of light do most indoor air purifying plants need? Most require bright but indirect light to thrive. Insufficient light causes weak leggy growth in plants. Supplement with grow lights if needed.
- What are signs my plant isn’t getting what it needs and is struggling? Look for clues like drooping or wilting leaves, browning leaf tips, stunted growth, dropping leaves and leaf spots. Then adjust its care.
- Where is the best place to buy air purifying plants? Local nurseries and garden stores, hardware stores, or reputable online plant retailers offer healthy specimens at good prices. Shop for pest and disease free plants with vibrant foliage.
- Can I grow air purifying plants at home from seeds? Some types can be grown from seed, but most purchased seeds are not true to variety. For air purification, it’s better to start with young plants that are already growing.
Breathe Easy With Houseplants
With many of us spending more time than ever indoors, it’s no wonder the air can start to feel stale and even make us sick. But you don’t need to buy expensive air filters and gadgets to freshen the air in your home. One of the healthiest, most natural solutions is simply introducing air-purifying houseplants!
In this article, we covered the top 5 varieties to filter nasty toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, mold spores, and other pollutants from your indoor air. Easy care, beginner-friendly plants like the snake plant, peace lily, areca palm, Boston fern and Chinese evergreen can help remove allergens, replenish humidity, and make your indoor living spaces healthier.
While houseplants alone can’t eliminate air pollutants completely, used strategically they make a significant difference. Follow the tips above for choosing suitable air-purifying plants for your conditions and caring for them properly, and they will reward you for years to come!
Want to learn more about using indoor plants to vitalize your home and improve wellbeing? Be sure to visit my website and follow along on social media for more helpful plant care tips and inspiration!