10 Best Indoor Plants for Clean Air (No. 5 is Special)

Back when our grandparents were children, indoor air quality was not a huge issue. People still spent plenty of time outdoors, and the time spent inside, was spent in houses that were not well insulated, and allowed a lot of outdoor air in.

The 1970’s brought on the energy crisis that made many people look into options for insulating their homes and businesses better throughout the 1980s. It was during this time, that a phenomenon that became known as “sick building syndrome” began to become an issue for many people. This is because the insulation reduced the air exchange that normally took place between the indoor and outdoor air.

indoor plants

Since people typically spend 80-90% of their time indoors, indoor air quality is of obvious importance. Many consumer products use harmful chemicals which can be carcinogenic, and trigger allergies in some people. Replacing these products with greener options is ideal, but sometimes not always possible.

If you use glues, paints, detergents, or some furniture wax, you probably have some Benzene in your home. If your home is under renovation, you could have Trichloroethylene from industrial work. If you commonly use aerosols, you’re probably subjecting yourself to ammonia. Formaldehyde, Xylene, and Toluene could also be common pollutants in your home.

NASA research that began in 1989 has shown that adding houseplants to your home, could be a great way to combat this indoor air pollution crisis. Plants have been improving the air quality for us humans since time began. Having appropriate house plants in our home will provide us with aesthetic enjoyment, and could help us breathe easier.

If you haven’t had house plants before, don’t despair. If you follow some simple rules, they are easy to take care of:

  1. Keep your plant in a pot that is suitable for its size. This means you will probably have to re-pot your plant on a regular basis. Some plants grow faster than others, but plan on re-potting at least every few years.
  2. Know the light requirements of your plant. Some prefer bright light, others like the shade. All plants need some light.
  3. Know how much to water. The most common cause of death for a houseplant is overwatering. It’s tempting to add a little water every time you walk by, but this is a bad idea. Pot your plant in a container that has good drainage, so excess water can leave the container, and only water when necessary. Usually this means letting the soil get slightly dry, then watering until it’s consistently damp, but not dripping wet.

If you are in doubt, check any labels that came with your plant, or ask a horticulturist or garden center associate for help.

Now let’s get onto the 10 best indoor plants for clean air that you may not know about.

1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

peace lily

The NASA study reports that this plant will remove formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from your indoor atmosphere. This is a delicate looking plant that is dark green with beautiful white flowers. This plant needs to be kept consistently moist.

2. Lady Palm (Rhapsis excelsa)

This plant removes the big three, and ammonia from your air. This is a fan shaped plant that will grow to about six feet of height if you treat it right. The soil in this plant’s pot should be kept moist from spring to fall, but a little dry in the winter. It will suffer from root rot if you let it sit in water, so ensure it’s in a container that drains well. In the spring and summer, it should have standard liquid fertilizer once a month.

3. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

The Bamboo Palm is beautiful and colourful. It has been proven to remove formaldehyde and benzene and as a bonus, acts as a natural humidifier in your home, so you can even save on your electric bill. You should be aware that this plant requires a lot of water, especially in the winter. Since it will be helping humidify your home during the winter, this probably won’t be an issue to you. Make sure you place it in bright sunlight so it has the best chance to thrive.

4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Some people call this plant the ‘Mother in Law’s Tongue’, if you don’t like your Mother in Law, this might seem like a great name for something also called Snake Plant. Nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde are both absorbed by this plant. If you are choosing a plant to put in a bedroom, this one is a great option because it absorbs carbon dioxide, and releases oxygen. Having this plant near you while you sleep could help you breathe easier while you are sleeping.

snake plant

If you live in a darker home, this plant will do fine because it is drought and dark tolerant. This is a great beginner’s plant, because it will survive in places where others won’t. Don’t re-pot this plant too often, because it likes to be a little root bound. It should be watered regularly from spring to fall, with a goal of keeping the soil moist at all times. Let it get almost dry in the winter.

5. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

This is a very attractive plant with long grass like leaves that are a few different shades of green and white. This plant looks great either sitting on a tall stand, or hanging from the ceiling because it likes to cascade and trail out of the pots you put it in. It’s very easy to care for, and if a piece falls off, it’s easy to root in a cup of water and can become another Spider Plant.

spider plant

Be aware that this plant is really hard to kill, so if you decide you don’t want it anymore, you might have to find a neighbour to adopt it. Keep it moist, because if it dries out, you’ll get permanent brown tips on the leaves.

6. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadesis)

Regardless of air quality concerns, everyone should have one of these. The Aloe Vera is the plant that the ointment we commonly see in drug and discount stores is made from. Instead of buying expensive preparations that might also have other additives in them, get an Aloe Vera plant, place it in a sunny window, and have sunburn remedy for years to come. Just crush a few leaves in your hands and apply the juice.

best indoor plants for clean air

Besides the skin benefit, Aloe Vera absorbs formaldehyde and benzene, and will release oxygen at night as well. Water this plan well from spring to fall, but water very sparingly in the winter.

7. Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

This plant is a great choice is you like big, bright flowers. You have probably seen Gerbera Daisies used in cut flower bouquets before, because they can last up to two weeks after being severed from the plant if they are properly treated. The great thing about Geber Daisies, is that they’re good at filtering out trichloroethylene, which is a common by-product of dry cleaning. They’re great to keep in a laundry room, or bedroom, but make sure they get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

gerbera daisy

This plant needs to be kept moist, and should be watered with standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks.

8. Golden Pothos (Scindapsus aures)

This is a plant that is great at dealing with formaldehyde, so it’s a good option for your entrance way, or somewhere else where car exhaust could creep into the house. This plant needs bright light, but does best when this lighting is indirect. Although most houseplants can be damaged by overwatering, this is plant that is especially susceptible to issues when it becomes too wet. Water regularly, but don’t drench this plant. Be aware that small children and pets shouldn’t have direct access to a Golden Pothos because this plant is poisonous.

9. Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)

Commonly known as a ‘Mum’, these plants are commonly found at a variety of stores in the fall. They are sold in pots of various sizes and are used for fall decor along with pumpkins and all the other typical fall fare we like to display. These Mums are not quite the same as the kind you want to grow indoors. Instead of buying a garden Mum, look for a floral Mum and position it in bright light in your home or office.


Mums come in almost any color, and are great at filtering benzene. Since it’s the blooms that do the actual filtering in this plant, you’ll want to make sure it’s in the brightest sun available in your building so the buds will open properly and do their job.

10. Red-edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

This mostly green plant sports attractive red edges which will add a subtle amount of color to your room. Xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde are all chemicals that this plant loves to devour, so if you have a lot of lacquers, varnishes, or gasoline that seep chemicals into your living space, consider one of these. There are other varieties of Dracaenas, but this is one of the most common. This is a plant that can grow as large as fifteen feet tall, so consider putting it in a room with a high ceiling where you can offer it moderate sunlight. Dracaenas need to be kept in moist soil from spring to fall, then watered sparingly in the winter. The plant itself requires high humidity, so it should be set in a tray of moist pebbles.

Choose plants that fit your decor, and that will grow well in your environment. A good rule of thumb is to have one plant per 100 sq ft of your home. With a little planning, you can have beautifully plants, and a safe home with great air quality.

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