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16 Houseplants You Can Use as Air Purifiers

Last updated September 19, 2021

This post may contain affiliate links.

Author
Author avatar Danny Ashton

Danny as been writing about air purifiers for 10+ years. He is a major fan of home technology, which makes him the perfect person to test and evaluate products for HouseFresh

Updated 19th April 2020

When I first wrote up this research paper there was general agreement that it was correct that houseplants plants in the home can help to clean the air. But since that publication, there has been a number of public responses from prominent scientists rejecting the idea including on Atlantic.com. We, therefore, share this list of plants but would recommend you not buy them if your only plan is to clean your air [We think there are a ton of benefits for plants so don’t let this put you off owning and looking after plants]. It would be far more useful for your air quality to invest in one of the air purifiers from our recently updated list of the best air purifiers for wildfire smoke. If you are on a tight budget, then feel free to look at one of the units on our list of the best air purifiers for less than $100.

And if you worry that the air purifier is too loud be sure to check out the recently updated study on the best quiet air purifier as of 2021.

A Note About Pets:

As noted by a number of readers, many of the plants on this list can also be poisonous to dogs and other pets. Be sure to check for any potential poison or allergies from the plants for your animal and try to put plants in locations that pets can not reach.

If you do have pets, make sure you check out the recently updated list of our recommended purifiers for pets as these in combination with a combination of these 15 plants on this list can allow pet owners to live without the fear of allergic reactions.

If you are interested in cleaning the air in your home, I would suggest a cheap HEPA air purifier, we recently did a review of the Levoit 300 and Levoit PUR131.

1. NASA Research

A NASA research document came to the conclusion that “house plants can purify and rejuvenate air within our houses and workplaces, safeguarding us all from any side effects connected with prevalent toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia and also benzene.”

Here are the results of the NASA research study:

  Common name Scientific name Score
1 Areca palm Chrysalidocarpus lutescens 8.5
2 Lady palm Rhapis excelsa 8.5
3 Bamboo palm Chamaedorea seifrizii 8.4
4 Rubber plant Ficus robusta 8.0
5 Dracaena “Janet Craig” Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig” 7.8
6 English ivy Hedera helix 7.8
7 Dwarf date palm Phoenix roebelinii 7.8
8 Ficus Alii Ficus macleilandii “Alii” 7.7
9 Boston fern Nephrolepis exalta “Bostoniensis” 7.5
10 Peace lily Spathiphyllum sp. 7.5

2. Interior Plants: Their Influence on Airborne Microbes inside Energy-efficient Buildings

In another study made in 1996, a bedroom with no plants had 50% more colonies of airborne microbes than a room which contained houseplants.

microbe removal using plantsSource

3. Foliage Plants For Indoor Removal of The Primary Combustion Gases Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide

During a laboratory experiment in 1985, Dr. Wolverton PHD compared the removal of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide using a sealed chamber of spider plants.

nitrogen and co2 removal using plants Source

4. Dr Wolverton – Formaldehyde removal experiment

In another laboratory study by Dr. Wolverton PHD, he compared a number of house plants at removing formaldehyde from a sealed chamber. Formaldehyde is a common household toxin that is released from a variety of household items.

Removal of Formaldehyde from Sealed Chambers for Plants Grown in Potting Soil

CommonNameBotanical NameRemoval Rate*(Micrograms/Hour)
Boston fernNephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”1863
Dwarf date palmPhoenix roebelenii1385
Bamboo palmChamaedorea seifrizii1350
Janet CraigDracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”1328
English ivyHedera helix1120
Weeping figFicus benjamina940
Peace lilySpathiphyllum “Clevelandii”939
Areca palmChrysalidocarpus lutescens938
Corn plantDracaena fragrans “Massangeana”938
Lady palmRhapis excelsa876

Source.5

16 Air Purifier Plants

With reference to the experiments of Dr Wolverton and the NASA experiments, I have compiled a list of 16 house plants that provide the greatest level of air purification.

1. Areca Palm Tree

Areca Palm Tree
The ultimate “plant air purifier” according to NASA

Costa Farms Areca Butterfly Palm Tree, Live Indoor Plant, 3 to 4-Feet Tall, Ships in Grow Pot, Fresh From Our Farm, Excellent Gift
  • Do not recommend shipping to states currently experiencing extreme cold weather/temperatures.
  • I can adapt to full sun or light shade, but bright indirect sunlight is the best!
  • Place me on your patio to create a topical paradise!
  • I love regular watering's, keep me damp, but not muddy
  • We're unable to ship this item to: AK,AZ,CA,GU,HI

The Areca palm tree is the very best air purifying plant according to the ratings from NASA’s research and has the 8th highest removal rate for Formaldehyde according to Dr Wolverton’s data. This house plant was referred to as “the most effective air humidifier” by MetaEfficient.com. The Areca has the ability to  maintain your office or home moist throughout dry periods as well as continually removing chemical toxins from your air. In the course of the winter season, it’s so effective at putting moisture back in the air that you could switch off your electric humidifiers!

2. Lady Palm

Lady Palm

American Plant Exchange Lady Palm Rhapis Excelsa Indoor/Outdoor Air Purifier Live Plant, 6" Pot
  • A graceful palm for gardens or a beautiful addition to an indoor space.
  • Adds an elegant and graceful tropical effect to any home.
  • Slow growing, bamboo-like clustering trunk pattern.
  • Wonderful in large pots and containers.
  • Nasa clean air study discovered Rhapis Excelsa to be one of the Best houseplants at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene.

This house plant – Lady palm (or Rhapis excelsa) achieved exactly the same rating as the Areca Palm tree in NASA’s research. This adaptable house plant, can be stored in dry or moist parts of the world ( between 20-100° Fahrenheit) and is particularly resistant to the majority sorts of plant insects.

The Lady Palm is not the most effective at removing Formaldehyde so if this is a concern then i would suggest you look at another plant.

Read more…

3. Bamboo Palm

Bamboo Palm

Costa Farms Clean Air-O2 For You Live House Plant Collection 4-Pack, Assorted Foliage, 4-Inch, Green
  • Is this a gift? Please choose "this is a gift" at check out to add a personalized message.
  • The Costa Farms Clean Air Plant Collection includes four plants from a grower’s choice assortment of small foliage plants. See image description of possible varieties that may be included; plants are selected by our expert growers based on seasonal availability.
  • The O2 for You Clean air Plant collection are the most efficient plants around to filter indoor pollutants, allowing us to breathe clean air in our homes and offices, according to NASA studies
  • Care varies from plant to plant, in general place the plants in a bright room and water weekly
  • Height at shipping is ranges from 10-15 Inches tall, measured from the bottom of the pot to the top of the plant

The bamboo palm was the third most powerful plant at removing formaldehyde from the air. It ranked third in the NASA experiment so is a good all rounder at keeping your room air clean. This house plant will grow best in a moist but not wet soil and in direct sunlight. However this palm will require lots of room to grow, so it might not be the best option if want this plant to sit on your desk.

Read more…

4. Boston Fern

Boston Fern

Costa Farms Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata, Live Plant, 2-Feet Tall and Wide, Ships in Grow Pot with Hanger, Fresh From Our Farm, Excellent Gift
  • EASY CARE! Water Boston Fern to keep soil consistently moist. If the soil dries out, the fronds may turn brown and crispy. Never allow the soil to become saturated. Boston Ferns enjoy high humidity, so give it a good misting.
  • LOVES INDOOR LIGHT: Boston Fern loves bright to medium light; do not place in direct sun.
  • BONUS! A HANGING POT: Boston Fern is grown with care by the horticultural experts at Costa Farms and shipped in a 10-inch black hanging pot, ready to adorn your home. Just hang it up and admire it or remove hanger and place on a plant stand.
  • REAP HEALTH BENEFITS: Studies show that Boston Fern helps cleanse indoor air, removing toxins such as toluene and xylene. Plus, leafy green plants improve your mood and reduce stress.
  • ENJOY LIVING HOME DÉCOR: Boston Fern is a voluptuous, easy-care fern that grows well indoors as well as on porches and patios. Its arching branches covered with soft, emerald-green fronds ship at min. of 20-in. tall. Keep for yourself or give as a gift!

The Boston fern was the most effective plant at removing Formaldehyde and removed significantly more per hour than the rest of plants examined.

Studies have also shown that the Boston fern will also eliminate heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic from the soil.

Source

5. Rubber Plant

Rubber Plant

Burgundy Rubber Tree Plant - Ficus - an Old Favorite - 6" Pot
  • Easy to grow house plant
  • Great for the house, apartment, office or dorm
  • Provide bright, indirect or artificial light
  • Trim as needed
  • The plant you will receive is growing in a 6" pot

This rubber house plant (Ficus robusta) has been mentioned as one of the leading Twenty plants by Doctor. B.C. “Bill” Wolverton’s “50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home Or Office.” This rubber house plant provides moisture, eliminates bio effluents, takes away volatile organic compounds as well as suppresses air based microorganisms as soon as it’s put into a room

As time passes this rubber plant will become much more skilled at eliminating toxic compounds present in the air. Bacteria within the rubber plants leaves break up the toxins and also feast on them. The procedure subsequently emits clean air in to the surrounding environment. Since the plant grows, these microorganisms increase.

This increased number of bacteria assist the rubber house plant in becoming progressively more effective at extracting further toxic compounds from the air.

6. Janet Craig – Dracaena

Janet Craig Dracaena

No products found.

The Dracaena (or Dracaena deremensis) places fifth on NASA’s ranking with a 7.8 score.  According to data it can remove Formaldehyde, at a rate of 1,328 micrograms per hour. It also removes Xylene, at a rate of 154 micrograms per hour according to http://www.earthwitchery.com/pollution.html

Recommended Placement in Home: These are especially effective in newly carpeted or newly furnished rooms were formaldehyde levels are at the highest.

Tips to keep this plant healthy:

  • Favours vibrant light, although not direct sunlight.
  • Water completely through early spring through the winter season and allow the plant’s soil to dry out in between watering

7. English Ivy

English Ivy

No products found.

If your air flow in your geographical area has got stagnant and dried out, English ivy (also known as Hedera helix) may be just the solution! WebMD.com talks about this effervescent house plant as “a solution for allergic reactions” observing that sixty percent of air based mold within the space was removed after just six hrs right after English ivy had been introduced.

People that have allergies, asthma, or even the desire to inhale cleaner, more fresh air might be wise to give this English ivy plant a shot!

8. Date Palm Tree

Date Palm Tree

Although it does not position at the top of the purifying scale when compared to  it’s three palm relatives, make no mistake: this Date palm house plant (also known as Phoenix roebelinii) remains an extremely efficient and stylish looking method to both cheer up the design of an area and reduce the content level of volatile organic compounds floating all over the air.

The Date house plant is very effective at getting rid of formaldehyde thus works great in combination with other purifier plants (has the second highest removal rate after the fern plant.)

9. Ficus Alii

Ficus Alii

Benjamina Ficus Tree- Unique Potted Tree, Perfect as a Patio Plant or Indoor Tree | No Shipping to AZ (2-3 ft.)
  • NO SHIPPING TO ARIZONA: Benjamina Ficus Tree cannot be shipped to AZ due to federal agricultural restrictions. If you live in Arizona and order this tree, your order will be cancelled.
  • PERFECT SIZE FOR INSTANT BRIGHT FOLIAGE AND COLOR: Benjamina Ficus Tree will not be mature on arrival, but it will instantly adorn any landscape with a refreshing dash of bright foliage!
  • DELIVERY- your ficus trees may arrive a little more dry than you expected. Please unpack them and give them a healthy drink. They should perk right back up. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us immediately.
  • GROWING DIRECTIONS: Upon arrival, your new Benjamina Ficus Tree will benefit from a healthy drink of water, and continue to water regularly 2-3 times a week.
  • HAPPY & HEALTHY GUARANTEE: If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your Benjamina Ficus Tree or with our service, please notify us immediately or within 30 days of receipt. We will correct the situation to your satisfaction.

This ficus alii (also known as the Ficus macleilandii) isn’t as strong in it’s pollutant-removing effectiveness as, say, a rubber plant, however it remains an excellent addition to any kind of office or home wherever clear air is missing. Although they aren’t terribly difficult to look after, PlantCareGuru.com alerts to us that hand protection ought to be used whilst dealing with the house plant for those who have latex allergic reactions.

 

10. Peace Lilly

Peace Lilly

Peace Lily Clean air Plant Friendship Foliage's Family Farm Quality Live Indoor Spathiphyllum (6" Pot, 14-18in Tall from Bottom of The Pot)
  • 6" plants are shipped with blooms/lilies very low in foliage (spike form) at this time. Blooming in 2-3 weeks. 10" are in full bloom.
  • CANNOT SHIP TO CALIFORNIA or ARIZONA due to state policies*
  • Grown by small family owned and operated nursery
  • Cleans, purifies, and removes toxins from the air
  • Easy to care for

The Peace Lily (also known as Spathiphyllum sp.) is a perfect air purifier plant for those who don’t have green fingers. Peace Lilies are often found in malls because they are so easy to grow.

If you scared you might kill your new house plant then I recommend you go for this one.

11. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Costa Farms Aloe Vera Live Indoor Plant Ships in Grow Pot, 10-Inch Tall, Green
  • Is this a gift? Please choose "this is a gift" At check out to add a personalized message
  • The Aloe Vera plant is known for its cool Gel inside of its thick, toothed leaves
  • Great addition to modern and contemporary decor; Perfect for desks, tabletops, credenza cabinets, and more
  • These sun-lovers grow best in a sunny window. Drought tolerant, only needs water once every two to three weeks
  • Height at shipping is approximately 10 Inches tall, measured from the bottom of the pot to the top of the plant

Aloe vera was proven to be a lot more effective at the elimination of formaldehyde at lesser concentrations when compared with Philodendrons. Aloe vera is likewise famous as being a healing plant acknowledged for its therapeutic qualities, giving it the majority of its nicknames.

Andrea-plant-air-purifier-aloe

The Aloe house plant was also used in the initial photography used for the Andrea plant air purifier – probably due to the plants purification properties.

12. Spider Plants

Spider Plants

The spider plant was used by Dr Wolverton in his 1985 study that examined the plant’s removal of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. In a room with many spider plants, the amount of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide dropped to near zero after only 24 hours.

Source

13. Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

This particularly attractive house plant was shown to be effective at removing the VOC compound – benzene which has been known to cause cancer.

Many tobacco products contain high levels of benzene so it would be helpful to have one of these plants in a smoking household. However no house plant can ever negate the effects of tobacco smoke.

Remember to be careful with Chrysanthemum as it is poisonous when ingested or with prolonged skin exposure.

14. Heart leaf philodendron

Heart leaf philodendron

The N.A.S.A. study showed that the Philodendron house plant was one of the best house plant for elimination formaldehyde from the surrounding air, especially when working with higher concentrations.

15. Snake Plants or Mother of Law Tongue

snake-plant-purifier

Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law's Tongue - Sanseveria - 6" Pot/unique-from jmbamboo
  • 10-12'' inch live plant.Extremely hardy house plant, difficult to kill
  • Commonly called Snake Plants or Mother-in-law's Tongue
  • In China, it was kept as a treasured houseplant because the Eight Gods bestowed their eight virtues on those who grew them
  • Will grow in dime light, water when dry
  • The plant you will receive is growing in a 6" pot

Snake house plants — these types of plants tend to be incredible growers and also extremely tough. They’re excellent at eliminating the majority of toxins plus they are quite happy to grow in areas where other plants may decline and perish ( say for example a hot window ledge). Also, they are great bathroom and darker area plants.

16. Sago Palm Air Purifier

Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law's Tongue - Sanseveria - 6" Pot/unique-from jmbamboo
  • 10-12'' inch live plant.Extremely hardy house plant, difficult to kill
  • Commonly called Snake Plants or Mother-in-law's Tongue
  • In China, it was kept as a treasured houseplant because the Eight Gods bestowed their eight virtues on those who grew them
  • Will grow in dime light, water when dry
  • The plant you will receive is growing in a 6" pot

There is a large number of air-purifying palms on this list for good reason and the sago palm was a great plant for cleaning the air.

One Final Point:

Make sure to Maintain your house plants in a good condition and make sure you have enough of them. The NASA research advised that there should be a six inch plant for every 100 sq feet of interior living space

Update from author “it’s not true to say that house plants can clean the air”:

Last update on 2021-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API