Ten House Plants That Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

Back in 1980 NASA started investigating ways to provide clean air in enclosed spaces. And after years of research they confirmed that house plants improve air quality in a variety of ways. It’s pretty amazing to think that you can actually grow fresh air. And knowing that house plants can do everything from aiding with depression and removing harmful VOCs from the air to alleviating seasonal allergies and ridding the air of volatile substances like formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia means they’re definitely worth the three minutes a week of watering that they require.

Many people are shocked to learn that the air inside their home can be anywhere from 3 to 10 times more polluted than the air outside- even in a big city! And seemingly innocuous things like carpets, cleaning products and nail polish remover give off vapors that contribute to some seriously polluted indoor air. Of course we do our best to bring natural (and chemical free) jute rugs into our home, use eco-friendly green cleaning products, and I’ve actually sworn off nail polish for the past few months (and maybe forever)- but we’d be fools not to recognize that plants can clean things up even more around the house, especially since the NASA geniuses say so.

And although any kind of plant is beneficial to the air you breathe, those NASA brainiacs actually pinpointed the most effective air-cleansing plants out there. So if you’re in the market for some nice fresh air, try picking up these especially purifying varieties.

  1. Bamboo Palm
  2. Rubber Plant
  3. Spider Plant
  4. English Ivy (one of our favs)
  5. Janet Craig Dracaena
  6. Dwarf Date
  7. Boston Fern (another one of our favorites)
  8. Peace Lily
  9. Corn Plant
  10. Schefflera

They’re all super hardy plants, so you don’t have to worry about having a black thumb with these guys. And you don’t have to pop a plant in every spare inch of your home, two or three per room is plenty. Placing them beside your bed, on your desk, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time (near the TV!) helps you fully reap their air-cleansing benefits. Oh and if you have a puppy who likes to dig, we’ve found that a layer of river rocks atop the soil in each planter is an effective (and attractive) way to keep puppy pawing to a minimum.

What about you guys? Do you have any house plants that make your day (bonus if they’re impossible to kill)? Any other tips for cleaner indoor air and happier lungs?


Update: We chatted about what plants we can manage to keep alive in our own house here, so feel free to check those out. 


  1. says

    I have a bamboo palm and a peace lily (didn’t realize they were on the plant A-list, though!), as well as asparagus ferns throughout the house. I also have a couple small bamboo shoots in glass tealight holders with pepples in the bath and kitchen. Other fresh-air efforts include regular filter replacement and vent vacuuming, and swapping a houseful of carpet for hardwoods.

  2. Kari says

    my only worry about some plants is how toxic they are to pets. we have 2 dogs and 1 cat and i’m so afraid they’re going to eat the leaves and get sick. any suggestions for less toxic house plants?

  3. says

    I have a mother-in-law plant that I love, among others. It belonged to my GREAT grandmother, who passed away 30 years ago. She had it since my dad was a little kid. After she died, my mom split it up and keep some for herself and gave the rest to my sister and me. I truly cherish it!

    And it is nearly impossible to kill!

  4. Kim says

    I just bought two Bamboo palms for my bedroom. And they look great on either side of our bed. The wall color behind the bed is brown and really helps these guys pop! They are officially my new favorite accessory to the new house!

  5. erica says

    I was given a Christmas Catus for Christmas one year, and it’s sucha tough little sucker! I also has the neatest pink flowers every winter.

  6. Sara says

    Yea, I have a very large cat with a sweet tooth for anything plant/flower related. I can’t put a vase of flowers any lower than on top of the entertainment center (the only reason this works is because he can’t superman jump off the couch that high..thank you gravity). I can imagine how he would destroy a house plant. Oh, how I dream for the day to enjoy fresh plants in my home! Between the puppy and 4 yr old cat..it’s gonna be awhile!

    • Alison says

      I combatted a house-ful of animals by hanging my plants from strong hooks on the ceiling! It looks great and provides an out-of-reach decorative touch. Keep a tiny step-stool tucked away for easy watering. Voila!

  7. says

    I’ve had the best luck with philodendrons even though they aren’t my aesthetic first choice. I live in a basement apartment with poor lighting and these are the only plants that have maintained health long enough to be considered a fixture in my decorating.

  8. TD says

    I haven’t read the NASA findings about house plants in homes. But from what I understand about the Biology of the plants, it is not completely safe to sleep near or underneath a plant. Plants release Oxygen gas during the day and Carbon dioxide at nights. So the air purification is only happening during the daytime. Keeping plants in bedrooms could potentially concentrate CO2 in the sleeping area and any biologists would say that breathing in too much CO2 during sleep cannot be good. I personally don’t care for plants near my bed, but those of you who do might want to research this a little bit. Again, I am not an expert at this. I just wanted to share what I learnt in high school biology, that’s all.

    btw, the list is great and very helpful. I plan to get the Dwarf Date plant in a few months. Does anyone know of a good place to get these plants online?

    • Erik says

      I’ve heard the opposite. I’ve specifically seen the Gerbera Daisy being highlighted for absorbing CO2 during the day and releasing O2 at night.

  9. Jen says

    As for the river rock suggestion…my dog is not much of a digger, but he has found great joy in carefully extracting river rocks to bat around the house. (So far, he hasnt ingested any.) If anyone has any suggestions about how to cover the pots, please post. I have thought about having plexiglass cut to go on the top of the pots (around the stems).

  10. Larissa says

    I love putting plants in my home, but after repotting my ficus tree, I’ve had an infestation of gnats that live in the soil! Gross!! The current solution is to kick all the plants outside. I want to bring them back in, so does anyone have an organic solution to ridding the soil of these pests?

    • Alison says

      One easy and non-toxic way to prevent and kill earth-bound parasites and bugs is a substance sold at many gardening shops called “diatomaceous earth”. Mix it with the top couple inches of soil and it organically takes care of business.

  11. says

    Thanks for the link about the plants safe for animals, my cats are terrible about eating anything I bring into the house! As far as plants releasing CO2, it is true that they do, the same as humans and animals do, but they release much more oxygen than they do CO2. I would personally not be uncomfortable with having plants in my bedroom. It is also not a bad idea to have a CO2 detector in your home, whether or not you have plants.

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