Air Purifying Plants

The 10 Best Air-Purifying Plants For Home According To Expert David Domoney

We cover a range of different popular houseplants which can help to remove airborne pollutants from around your home.

The best air-purifying plants

Improving air quality in your house and removing possible airborne pollutants can create a happier home - and air-purifying plants have the potential to help with this.

While ventilation and good air circulation throughout your home are crucial, adding in certain types of houseplants could also aid in balancing CO₂ levels and removing air pollutants.

Modern homes are more sealed up to help keep the heat in, but it also means houses aren’t as passively ventilated. This requires us to take a more manual approach to purifying the air in our houses and ensure your indoor spaces get plenty of fresh air.

Why is air quality important?

Air quality is determined by its concentrations of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

When levels of these harmful gases and pollutants exceed a certain level, they can lower the air quality of indoor spaces.

This is linked to a range of health issues, including respiratory problems and can aggravate existing conditions such as asthma.

Can houseplants help improve air quality?

While it’s generally agreed that plants can have a positive effect on air quality, it is debatable to what degree they work.

David Domoney, Everest Ambassador, Chartered Horticulturist and plant expert says, “it is well known that some plants can help improve indoor air quality. They absorb pollutants through their leaves and roots, filtering out harmful compounds and releasing clean oxygen. This natural process helps reduce levels of carbon dioxide, increase humidity, and eliminate significant amounts of airborne pollutants, thereby improving the overall air quality within indoor environments.

A NASA environmental scientist originally published a study on this topic back in 1989. He was investigating indoor air pollution and found that certain varieties of plants have the potential to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

The Royal Horticultural Society investigated the impact of plants on indoor air quality as well. The lead researcher said: ‘plants have been found to reduce the concentration of harmful pollutants to a healthier concentration, if the environmental conditions are correct’. These environmental conditions referred to the light levels, with increased indoor light increasing a plant’s potential to absorb CO₂.

The Innovation Institute for Sustainable Maritime Architecture Research and Technology also looked at how plants aid in improving indoor air quality as we are spending more of our time indoors. Their findings also established that plants can play a clear role in helping to regulate indoor environments and remove pollutants from the air around us.

However, other studies found that the level of air purification which houseplants can offer is probably minimal - unless you fill a space with plants from top to bottom. The Faculty of Agriculture from Ferdowsi University set about testing exactly this using ‘green walls’ and found them to be effective in the right configuration.

While it’s likely that houseplants cannot make a significant impact to air quality alone, they can still potentially help by working in tandem with other ventilation features. These include trickle vents and windows with a ventilation position.

How do plants remove pollutants from the air?

Plants contribute to indoor air quality improvement through a few of their natural processes.” says David Domoney, providing more insight into the pollutant-removing qualities of plants. “They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, enhancing air quality and providing oxygen-rich environments.

Some are capable of removing pollutants like benzene found in detergents, paints and furniture wax, formaldehyde from fuel-burning appliances, and even trichloroethylene released from paints, varnishes and adhesives. These pollutants from the air go through a process known as phytoremediation. Just one houseplant can help to make a difference.” Certain plants have also been found to help reduce levels of xylene found in some cleaning products and adhesives, as well as ammonia which can be found in trace amounts within fabric stain removers, cleaning products and fertilisers.

David also touched on the additional benefits that houseplants have been found to have. “Plants can also increase humidity through transpiration, which can benefit respiratory health by reducing dry air that can irritate the lungs. The presence of plants can also reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance concentration and productivity by creating a more natural, soothing environment. This holistic approach to purifying indoor air not only improves physical health but also contributes to psychological well-being.”

Can indoor plants help you sleep better?

Plants can improve sleep quality by purifying the air and increasing oxygen levels, helping to enhance the bedroom environment for better rest.

Some plants can also release calming scents that can help reduce stress and anxiety while promoting more restful sleep. For example, lavender is known for its relaxing properties, whilst some houseplants increase oxygen levels at night, potentially improving air quality and promoting deeper sleep.

This natural improvement in air quality and the calming effect of certain plants contribute to a more conducive sleep environment.

The Best Houseplants for Air Purifying

The following plants are a selection of the most popular houseplant varieties used to assist with keeping the air in an environment cleaner.

Some are more suitable for certain rooms, so be sure to check what conditions they thrive in before positioning them.

Florist's Chrysanthemum

1. Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

While Chrysanthemums are typically seen as outdoor plants with their colourful blooms, they can also make a wonderful addition to your home when cared for properly.

Florist’s Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are potted and more suited for indoor climates. In a cool, well-lit spot in your home, you can expect the blooms to last between 6 to 8 weeks.

Mums prefer bright light with the buds needing plenty of sunlight in order to open, but they should avoid intense afternoon sun as they still need a cooler temperature.

You’ll also need to keep the soil evenly moist as flowering plants are thirstier than others. The foliage will wilt if the roots are too dry, so keep an eye on them and water frequently.

It is essential to note that Chrysanthemum leaves are poisonous, so keep any out of the reach of children or pets.

Lady Palm

2. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

If you’re looking for a plant with a small footprint, then a Lady Palm could be a good fit. As the fronds don’t spread too widely, growing up rather than out, they can comfortably fit into most spaces.

It also has one of the top removal rates of toxins such as formaldehyde and ammonia found within Wolverton’s studies.

As the Lady Palm grows, the lower leaves fall off to leave small scars on the stems. This creates an aesthetically pleasing appearance a bit similar to bamboo.

Bright, indirect sunlight suits this palm best, as too much sun can cause the leaves to discolour. Although Lady Palms prefer the humidity, bathrooms might not be ideal spots as the palm still thrives in more moderate temperatures.

While the Lady Palm is relatively rugged, in drier homes there is the risk of attracting dust and spider mites on its long leaves. Simply wiping them with a damp cloth will help to tackle both issues.

Peace Lily

3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')

Adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to any space, Peace Lilies also have a few other benefits that make it a great choice.

Peace Lilies were able to absorb a wide range of toxins in studies, including benzene and trichloroethylene, making them a solid option for air purifying.

They can also work well to reduce humidity and thrive in damp conditions, with their soil needing to be moist but not overly wet. You also don’t need to worry too much about light levels, as Peace Lilies are happy in lower-light environments or under fluorescent lighting.

This plant is another which can be toxic to pets, so be sure to keep them away from anywhere animals in your home could reach.

English Ivy

4. English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Known for its trailing vines, English Ivy works well as a controlled houseplant where you can make the most of its verticality - on shelves, on top of cabinets, or from a hanging houseplant holder.

Given its presence in woodlands across both Europe and Western Asia, English Ivy can work with a wide variety of conditions which makes it suitable for houseplant beginners.

They like bright, indirect light, medium to high humidity and regular watering when the soil feels dry to the touch. This can make them ideal for bathroom or kitchen environments where humidity can fluctuate and even helps to regulate it.

This is another houseplant which can be harmful to animals and pets, so make sure it’s positioned somewhere it can’t be accessed.

Snake Plant

5. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Low maintenance and minimalist foliage are the staple features of the Snake Plant. Its tall, slim leaves carry a striped pattern - which is how it came to get its name, although not all varieties carry this pattern.

Snake Plants can thrive in a variety of conditions, whether it’s a higher humidity space or a drier room. This can make them suitable for those new to caring for houseplants, as they can go without being watered for several weeks if you happen to forget.

Due to Snake Plants being one of the few to convert CO2 and release oxygen during the night, it can be a great bedroom option whilst also tackling excess water vapour in the air as you sleep.

It can also remove harmful chemicals such as xylene, trichloroethylene and benzene too, which can be found in everyday aerosols. This is an additional reason to position this plant in the bedroom if you’re regularly using these products in your sleep space.


6. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Native to Mexico and Central America, Bamboo Palms have slender stems that resemble bamboo and grow to be between 1 and 2 metres tall.

Their long, dark green fronds form a fan-like pattern to fill spaces with vibrant colour, and their shallow roots mean they don’t need a big pot to grow healthy and strong. They’re also not poisonous to dogs or cats, so make a great choice for pet owners.

Bamboo Palms enjoy being in spaces with bright, indirect light but can also grow in lower light conditions. As they remove benzene and trichloroethylene from the air, Bamboo Palms are very handy as air purifying options.

These palms also need watering once a week during growing months (spring and summer), but once a fortnight during dormant months (autumn and winter). Overwatering can lead to root rot where the plant wilts or develops yellow leaves, so be careful not to go overboard.

Red-Edged Dracaena

7. Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

Also known as ‘dragon trees’, Dracaena can come in a wide range of colours and patterns, with the red-edged variety producing red, spiky variegated leaves which can add a tropical touch to your home.

This is another houseplant which doesn’t require much special attention, favouring bright, indirect light, medium humidity and temperatures, and occasional watering when the soil has partially dried out.

To know if the temperature is right, the general rule of thumb is if you feel comfortable then so will your Red-Edged Dracaena. However, they can also thrive in more humid conditions so have the potential to be great options for a bathroom environment.

Red-edged Dracaena are also able to pull pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air, which is what makes them great air-purifying plants. You do need to be careful when positioning a dragon plant in your home, as it is toxic to both cats and dogs.

Weeping Fig

8. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

For a burst of lush green foliage, a Weeping Fig can give any room in your home an aesthetic uplift with its tall stature, slender branches and evergreen leaves.

They’ve been found to purify toxins like formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air, and one study in the US has suggested they can also prevent the growth of microbes and fungus.

While Weeping Fig trees in their native tropical climates can reach heights of over 15 metres, their houseplant counterparts stay between 1 and 2 metres tall.

They prefer indirect sunlight, medium to high humidity, and average room temperatures which can make them suitable for most rooms in the home. Make sure to keep the soil moist but don’t let it sit in water or it may develop root rot.

It’s important to note that Weeping Figs are also toxic to pets and can also cause skin and eye irritation if you touch the plant’s sap.

Barberton Daisy

9. Barberton Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

Originating from central Swaziland, this is another plant named in the NASA study which can draw toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

Barberton Daisies have colourful blooms which can brighten up a living room or bedroom. You can get them in a variety of red, orange, pink and yellow shades.

They’re relatively simple to grow, favouring bright direct light (but not too much) and like the soil to be moist whilst in flower. Overwatering can be one of the biggest issues, as you need to keep the plant’s central crown dry, and can reduce the frequency of watering over the autumn and winter months.

You can expect the vibrant flowers to last for 6 to 8 weeks, but they only have a temporary lifespan. The plant will continue to live afterwards but the burst of colour will no longer be present.

If you have pets at home, this can be a good air-purifying plant choice as it is non-toxic so is safe to be around for cats and dogs.

Aloe Vera

10. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis ‘Miller’)

A popular succulent plant, Aloe Vera has distinctive thick and spiky leaves that grow upwards. They’re known for producing high levels of oxygen, as well as absorbing VOCs like xylene, formaldehyde and benzene.

Aloe Vera is another plant that has nocturnal respiratory traits, originally to help it survive in drier climates. This means that it could help when positioned in the bedroom when it’ll be releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

They also love plenty of indirect sunlight, positioned on a windowsill or similarly bright spot - provided it doesn’t get too much sun.

Because of its natural adaptations to store water, Aloe Vera can be especially useful in bathrooms or kitchens to help reduce excess humidity.

Its sap also possesses soothing properties to help treat burns and abrasions. Aloe Vera leaves also contain a latex-like substance which can be harmful to humans and pets, so it’s recommended you keep it away from where cats and dogs can reach.

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How David Domoney keeps indoor plants alive for longer

One of the most simple ways you can look after your houseplants is to make sure you know what conditions they prefer. For example, how much sunlight does it need? What are their watering requirements?

A snake plant, as a case study, is very low-maintenance and only needs light watering every couple of weeks. Any more than this is too much for this drought-resistant houseplant. On the other hand, Boston ferns should never have dry roots, so they need misting regularly, and check the soil every few days to see how dry it is.

Houseplants are often killed with kindness, so make sure you houseplants never sit in water. Add some gravel at the bottom to help aid proper drainage.

An easy way to give your houseplants a boost is by washing their leaves every so often. This can help clear the leaves' pores to unblock them and allow the plant to breathe better, helping their ability to photosynthesise and improving overall health. I sometimes like to add a drop of lemon juice to the water before washing the leaves to get rid of any residue build-up.

You might also need to repot your houseplants every year or so depending on how quickly your plant grows. Check the bottom of your pot to see if roots are peeking and whether the soil inside is solid to the touch with roots. If one or both of these are the case, the plant is rootbound and should be repotted. Make sure the new container is a few sizes bigger than previous one and line the bottom of it to allow for adequate drainage.

Using Plants for Air Purifying

While adding air-purifying plants to your home can potentially help remove CO₂, boost oxygen levels and remove VOCs from the air, ventilation is likely going to have a bigger impact in helping freshen up the air in your home.

Opening a window will allow stale air to leave while giving your home more breathing room by bringing in fresh air from outside. This can also benefit in the summer months when you want to regulate the temperature of a room as well as bring clean air inside. It’s also recommended that you vacuum and dust your home regularly to help keep things clear.

Having plants with air-purifying properties can still help you maintain a more comfortable living environment, as well as boost your mood and create a welcoming space. However, you can’t rely on plants to eliminate the need for properly ventilating your home.

If you’re having trouble with low air quality or want to help improve the ventilation within your home, our uPVC windows have trickle vents to help improve passive ventilation. Alternatively, installing windows with a bigger opening can help to improve airflow when you need to get fresh air inside your home.

For those who are worried about ventilation making your home cooler, new double glazing or triple glazed windows can help improve your home’s energy efficiency. These help to minimise the heat lost from your house, even when trickle vents are in use.

Read more about how to ventilate your home or contact us to talk about upgrading your windows.

If you want to learn more about the houseplants you should have in your home to help improve air quality and your mental well-being, we can recommend David’s book, My Houseplant Changed My Life.

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