Common Houseplants That Purify Air

A peaceful woman sits on the floor surrounded by houseplants
(Image credit: ChayTee)

Houseplants provide beauty and interest, bringing a bit of leafy, green, outdoorsy ambiance to the indoor environment. However, plants play an even more important role by helping to improve air quality in your home.

Research by a team of NASA scientists indicates that these helpful houseplant air purifiers clean the air during the natural process of photosynthesis. The pollutants, absorbed by the leaves, are eventually broken down by microbes in the soil. Although all plants are believed to be beneficial, researchers discovered that some plants are especially effective at removing dangerous pollutants.

Best Houseplants to Purify Air

Air purifying houseplants include several familiar, inexpensive, easy-to-grow houseplants. For example, golden pothos and philodendron are superior air purifiers when it comes to removing formaldehyde, a colorless gas released by glues and resins in particle board and other wood products. Formaldehyde is also emitted by cigarette smoke and fingernail polish, as well as foam insulation, some draperies, synthetic carpeting and household furnishings.

Spider plants are powerhouses that remove formaldehyde, as well as carbon monoxide and common pollutants like benzene and xylene. These low-maintenance plants are easy to propagate by planting the small, attached plantlets, or “spiders.” Place spider plants in rooms where carbon monoxide is likely to concentrate, such as rooms with fireplaces or kitchens equipped with gas stoves.

Blooming plants, such as peace lilies and chrysanthemums, help remove Tetrachloroethylene, also known as PCE or PERC, a chemical used in paint removers, water repellents, glues and dry cleaning solvents.

Indoor palm trees, like lady palm, bamboo palm and dwarf date palm, are good all-around air cleaners. Areca palms provide an additional benefit by increasing the level of humidity in the air.

Other general-purpose air purifying houseplants include:

  • Boston fern
  • Queen fern
  • Rubber plant
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Bamboo
  • Schefflera
  • English ivy

Most types of dracaena and ficus, along with succulents such as aloe vera and sansevieria (snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue), help purify the air as well.

These attractive, all-purpose plants are helpful anywhere in the home, but do the most good in rooms with new furniture, paint, paneling or carpeting. NASA studies indicate that 15 to 18 healthy, vigorous plants in medium-size pots can effectively improve air quality in an average home.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.