Houseplants instantly add color and texture to any space — whether they’re used to decorate your bedroom, spruce up an office or add some pizzazz to a bookshelf. It’s no secret that being surrounded by greenery does wonders for our physical and mental health. Certain greens have been found to not only purify the air, but provide allergy relief, improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels.
According to NASA’s landmark 1989 study, a number of popular houseplants — like English Ivy and Bamboo Palm — diffuse toxic chemicals including Formaldehyde, Benzene and Trichloroethylene. Keep in mind that plants with larger leaves (think: palms) purify air quicker, while trailing plants (think: ferns and ivy) take up the most surface area.
When shopping for houseplants, it’s important to consider more than just aesthetics. Don’t forget about the safety of your dogs, cats and small children, too! To help you out, we’ve complied the best air-purifying houseplants — including a ton of pet-friendly greenery and low-maintenance picks for beginners. And, don’t worry: all of these plants will also elevate your home decor.
NOTE: When decorating with greenery, it’s suggested to have at least two plants per 100 square feet.
How do plants purify air?
During photosynthesis, plants convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and remove toxins from the air we breathe. Popular houseplants that have been found to purify indoor air by filtering out toxic chemicals like:
- Formaldehyde, which can cause irritation to nose, mouth and throat.
- Benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness and headaches, and can eventually cause harmful effects on the bone marrow and a decrease in red blood cells.
- Trichloroethylene, which can cause dizziness, headache, confusion and weakness.
1) Aloe Vera
From the office to the bedroom, this tropical succulent works well in any space — so long that it has a lot of sunlight. It doesn’t require frequent watering, so it’s a great houseplant for beginners. Plus, those fleshy leaves contain aloe vera gel that you can use to make your own skincare or haircare products.
2) Queen Fern
This easy-to-grow fern prefers bright, indirect light, but can survive in the direct sun if the soil is kept moist. It also loves the humidity, so it will do well in the kitchen or bathroom. If you want to keep it elsewhere, you might want to set it up next to a small humidifier.
3) Rubber Tree
Not only is it easy to care for, the Rubber Tree creates a bold aesthetic with its dark, glossy green and burgundy leaves. Also known as Ficus Burgundy, it can grow between eight and 10 feet tall when cared for properly. Be careful: if you have pets or small children, the Rubber Tree is toxic if the leaves are ingested or if the sap sits on the skin for too long.
4) Snake Plant
This striped green can survive with little water and light. Because it can go weeks without care, it’s known as one of the most low-maintenance houseplants for beginner gardeners. Not to mention, it’s a beautiful deep green that will make your space feel so lush.
5) English Ivy
Elevate any interior with this trailing plant, whether in a regular or hanging planter. The fast-growing plant is easy to keep healthy — just place it in low to bright in-direct sunlight and water it when the soil feels dry. Plus, it’s super easy to propagate so you can fill your entire home with greenery.
6) Weeping Fig Tree
This large indoor tree should be in a well-lit room and watered regularly. Keep in mind that you may need to repot this plant annually, as it can grow between 3 and 6 feet in height.
7) Bromeliad Vriesea Vogue
Pet owners, this one’s for you. Also known as the Flaming Sword Plant, the dramatic and non-toxic houseplant adds a pop of color to any space with its cone-like red and yellow spikes. It prefers bright sunlight and you’ll need to provide water to the plant’s central reservoir and mist it often.
8) Red-Edged Dracaena
With its red, spiky leaves, this evergreen is tropical in appearance and will add a punch of color to any space. It can survive with or without sunlight, and also requires very little water.
9) Philodendron Heartleaf
With glossy, heart-shaped leaves, the Philodendron Heartleaf is a fast-growing and super forgiving houseplant that thrives in low to bright light. Put the trailing plant on top of a bookshelf or tall cabinet and allow the vines to drape down the side.
10) Peace Lily
A symbol of sympathy, this budded plant works well in partial sunlight and humid climates, and blooms for about two months in the spring. If you have pets, keep in mind that peace lilies are poisonous to both cats and dogs.
11) Calathea Pinstripe
With dark green leaves and thin stripes that can range from light green to bright pink, the Calathea Pinstripe stands out in any space. The tropical plant is a bit more difficult to care for, so it’s best for experienced plant parents. Its soil should be kept moist and it thrives in high humidity — making it a great option for kitchens and bathrooms.
12) Gerbera Daisy
Add cheer to your interior with this colorful daisy, which has been found to remove formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air. While growing the plant indoors can be tricky, you can also grow them in your backyard and display the cuttings in a vase.
13) Spider Plant
Another great option for beginner gardeners, spider plants flourish in bright, indirect sunlight with lots of water. Some mature spider plants produce white flowers, which then mature into baby spiderettes that can be removed and rooted in water or soil.
14) Devil’s Ivy
This plant loves indirect sunlight and only needs to be watered when dry. It gets its name due to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to kill and stays green even when kept in near darkness.
15) Money Plant
With distinctly round leaves, the Chinese Money Plant adds intrigue to interiors. It does best in bright, indirect sunlight and it’s the perfect size for a window sill, end table or plant stand. Also known as Pilea Peperomioides, the low-maintenance plant is a popular Feng Shui plant as it’s widely known to bring luck and positivity.
16) Flamingo Lily
Naturally found in rainforests, this plant needs indirect sunlight, humid temperatures, and water to grow. It can bloom year round and produces stunning red flowers that will beautify your space.
You’ll find these colorful flowers everywhere, especially in the fall. According to NASA, chrysanthemums are among the best air-purifying houseplants as they remove most indoor pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. The flowering plant requires very little care, but it’ll only stay alive for a few weeks indoors.
18) Chinese Evergreen
With its ability to tolerate low light and drought, the Chinese evergreen is an easy plant for beginner indoor gardeners. If your plant gets enough sunlight, it might even produce a calla lily-like bloom.
19) Bamboo Palm
If you have the space, try a bamboo palm (these trees can grow from 4 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide). Place the palm in a well-soiled planter in indirect sunlight and water it when the surface feels dry.
20) Broad Lady Palm
Perfect for indoors or outdoors, this plant can grow up to 14-feet tall (although it can also be pruned back to a more manageable height). Lady palms prefer indirect light, moist soil and can thrive in almost any temperature.
Amanda Garrity is a lifestyle writer and editor with over seven years of experience, including five years on staff at Good Housekeeping, where she covered all things home and holiday, including the latest interior design trends, inspiring DIY ideas and gift guides for any (and every) occasion. She also has a soft spot for feel-good TV, so you can catch her writing about popular shows like Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias, Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart and more.
Associate Lifestyle Editor
Alyssa Gautieri (she/her) is the associate lifestyle editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers all things home and interior design. Prior to joining GH in 2022, she wrote for publications including ELLE Decor, Chairish, BobVila.com, Unique Homes Magazine and LODGING Magazine, in addition to crafting product copy for home brands like BrylaneHome and VIGO Industries.