Best indoor plants: 10 best air-purifying house plants

The best indoor plants for clean air – boost health and wellbeing with the best air purifying indoor plants for reducing VOCs and indoor pollutants

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Unsplash Vadim Kaipov
(Image credit: Unsplash Vadim Kaipov)

Our edit of the best indoor plants will help you to extend the greenery from your garden into the home, bringing all the health and mood-boosting benefits of nature into your interior. We’ve focused on the best air purifying plants; house plants that breathe in the harmful Volatile Organic Compounds that are released over time from our flooring, walls and fire-retardant fabrics and then ‘clean’ the air by filtering and releasing oxygen.

The wellbeing enhancing benefits of plants are well-documented, from studies which show hospital patients heal faster when they have a view of greenery whilst they recover, to research showing a significant increase in care home resident’s happiness levels when given a house plant to care for, and NASA’s Clean Air Study which scientifically tested the best indoor plants for eliminating toxins from an indoor environment.

As if making us healthier and happier wasn’t enough, the best indoor plants also create a feel-good visual focal point in a room. They can bring vibrant ‘aliveness’ into our man-made spaces, providing plenty of green - the colour known for its restful, relaxing psychological properties - and of course, for those of us who have small courtyard or balcony gardens, indoor plants offer the perfect way to maximise our plant-growing space.

Inspired to form your own oxygen-boosting plant gang? Read on to discover the best air purifying indoor plants for your home, and once you’ve amassed your own indoor jungle, make sure to check out our guide to the best gardening gloves for optimal repotting wear!

The best indoor plants and air-purifying houseplants

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying House Plants - Peace Lily Patch Plants

(Image credit: Patch Plants)

1. Peace lily / Spathiphyllum

Best indoor plants: the easiest to care for air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia
Care level: Easy
Price: Affordable
Pet safe: No, mildly toxic if eaten
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic all-round air purifier removing widest range of toxins from air +Easy to look after+Happy in low light to bright indirect light +Likes the humidity in bathrooms or kitchens +Releases oxygen throughout the night so good for bedrooms 

The peace lily or Spathiphyllum is recognisable for its dark green glossy leaves and contrasting white teardrop-shaped flowers. The peace lily is tolerant of shade, easy to look after, and best of all it's one of the best indoor plants for air purification earning the top all-round results in NASA’s Clean Air Study, removing high quantities of formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the home. 

How do you care for a peace lily? 

The peace lily is top of our best indoor plants list because it’s one of the easiest house plants to take care of. Unlike other plants where you might need to guess when you should water, the peace lily is incredibly helpful at communicating its needs by drooping dramatically when it requires water. But don’t worry, a quick hydrate and it will soon perk back up again. 

Where should I place a peace lily in my house? 

Most plants release oxygen during the day, but the peace lily is one of a small number of indoor plants which continue to release oxygen at night - making it a great indoor plant for the bedroom. However, as a fantastic all-rounder, the peace lily will be happy almost anywhere in the house. It’s especially useful for rooms that don’t get huge amounts of light, like bathrooms or hallways, and as it’s happy in shadier spots it will still be content in trickier north or east-facing rooms.

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Parlour Palm, Crocus

(Image credit: Crocus)

2. Parlour Palm | Chamaedorea elegans

Best indoor plants: the best tropical air purifying plant for an indoor jungle

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia
Care level: Easy
Price: Small plants are affordable, larger plants get expensive
Pet safe : Yes
Reasons to buy
+Removes a wide range of toxins from the air +Elegant architectural leaf fronds +Great for adding height to a room or grouping of plants 
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't grow particularly quickly

As well being one of the best indoor plants for adding a touch of the tropical to your interior, the parlour palm or Chamaedorea elegans scores very highly on Nasa’s Clean Air Study for its ability to remove large levels of toxins from the air. On top of its health benefits, it has great aesthetic value with elegant arching leaf stems and an impressive freestanding habit which will add height to an interior; group several different sizes together to create  verdant indoor garden ideas to retreat to. 

The parlour palm prefers bright indirect light but as long as it has a spot out of the shade it makes an easy-to-care-for indoor plant. And for pet owners - seeing as its swaying fronds can be particularly appealing to cats - the good news is it’s non-toxic. 

How do you care for a parlour palm? 

Hailing from tropical climates, the parlour palm prefers it warm and humid, so it will thank you for a light misting on top of your regular watering, and for keeping it away from cold draughts, or too close to radiators where it will dry out. Find it a comfortable spot and it will grow happily for many years though. 

How long does a parlour palm take to grow? 

The parlour palm can reach heights of up to 150cm in maturity, but it’s slow-growing, so it won’t outgrow your home too quickly. This does mean larger plants can be expensive - after all they’ve taken years of care to grow that tall - but smaller specimens are usually very affordable if you have patience. 

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Flamingo Lily Anthurium Patch Plants

(Image credit: Patch Plants)

3. Flamingo Lily | Anthurium

Best indoor plants: the best flowering air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia
Care level: Easy
Price: Expensive
Pet safe: No, sap is toxic to skin and harmful if ingested
Reasons to buy
+Long-flowering blooms +Architectural shape 
Reasons to avoid
- Fairly expensive to buy - but its long-lasting spathe flowers will outlive any cut flowers offering long-term value for money! 

Most of the best air purifying plants are all about the foliage - after all, it’s a plant’s leaves that absorb carbon dioxide and other toxins and then release clean, filtered oxygen back into the air - so generally the more leaves, the better the air purification. The flamingo lily or Anthurium is a welcome exception to this rule, and is one of the best indoor plants for delivering the best of both worlds; filtering out VOCs formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia whilst displaying beautiful long-lasting blooms of red, white, yellow or striking black flowers. It manages this because its waxy colourful ‘flowers’ are technically spathes - a brightly coloured leaf designed to attract wildlife in its natural tropical habitat.

How do I take care of my Anthurium

The flamingo lily is native to South America and the Caribbean where it lives in the rainforest on the branches of trees or underneath the tree canopy. As such it's familiar with bright but dappled light, so will be happiest in a room with good light levels, but away from direct light - a few metres away from a sunny window somewhere the rays don’t fall directly on the leaves is ideal. It likes moist but not waterlogged soil, and loves humidity - so will thank you for a light misting with water every now and then, or being grouped with other plants to increase the humidity levels. 

How often do Anthurium’s bloom? 

A healthy Anthurium is likely to have around six spathe flowers a year with each flower lasting between two to three months; a far more cost-effective and sustainable investment than short-lived cut flowers. 

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - English Ivy Patch Plants

(Image credit: Patch Plants)

4. English Ivy | Hedera helix

Best indoor plants; the best hanging or trailing air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene
Care level: Easy
Price: Affordable
Pet safe: No, toxic if ingested
Reasons to buy
+Quick growing +Easy to care for +Happy in almost any location 

Most people in the UK will be familiar with the English ivy as a native outdoor plant; its strong climbing and fast-growing habit mean it spreads easily across walls, buildings and fences in gardens and outdoor spaces - a boon for covering unsightly architecture and greening man-made buildings, sometimes not so welcome to those who have tried to prevent its vice-like grip from strangling trees and shrubs. 

Its prolific outdoor performance is down to its hardy resilience, which also makes it an easy success story indoors. As a house plant, the English ivy is one of the best indoor plants for easily adapting to almost any light conditions, and it won’t put up too much fuss about slightly too dry or slightly too wet soil. Whilst its climbing habit makes it one of the best indoor plants for hanging planters, bookshelves or not-too-sunny window ledges where it trails beautifully. 

Best of all the English ivy ranked top of all hanging or trailing plants in NASA’s Clean Air Study, filtering out substantial amounts of nearly all indoor VOCs, and making it a brilliant addition to your oxygen-boosting plant gang. 

How fast does English ivy grow indoors? 

Although this quick-growing plant will thrive in almost any light condition, it will grow fastest in bright indirect light where its trailing stems can grow up to 9 feet annually once established! Don’t worry if it starts to get out of hand though, the ivy can easily be trimmed to return it to a more manageable size, and, even better, cuttings are easily propagated; extending your plant collection or making great gifts for friends and family.

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Houseplants - Boston Fern - Unknown Wong on Unsplash

(Image credit: Unknown Wong on Unsplash)

5. Boston Fern | Nephrolepis Exaltata

Best indoor plants: a shade-tolerant air-purifying plant that’s great for bathrooms

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene
Care level: Medium
Price: Affordable
Pet safe: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for low-light corners and humid bathrooms +Great for adding lush greenery +Good for pets as non-toxic 
Reasons to avoid
- Will be happiest if misted regularly and will need keeping away from radiators in winter which dry it out 

When putting together a wish-list of the best indoor plants for air-purification it’s good to choose options that thrive under a variety of conditions, as different rooms throughout the home - and zones within each room - can have very different light levels and temperatures depending on their aspect. 

The Boston fern or Nephrolepis Exaltata has a liking for slightly lower light conditions and high moisture levels, and with its ability to extract carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air it makes a useful foil to more light-loving air purifying plants. 

As Jo Lambell, founder of online plant boutique Beards and Daisies explains: 'Coming from a rainforest habitat, these plants like indirect light and humid conditions – so whilst you could mist it regularly, homing the Boston fern in the bathroom is a great way for them to get the frequent moisture they crave.' 

How much sun does a Boston fern need? 

As a native to tropical climates where it grows amidst the lush vegetation on the rainforest floor, the Boston fern is used to being in the diffused light of the rainforest canopy. As such full sun can scorch its fronds, but it isn’t a fan of deep shade either! It’s worth the effort to find a spot that suits it however, as once content it will thank you with a wonderful mass of air-purifying foliage. In a bright room it’s a good bet to position it as far from the window as possible, whilst in a darker room it can sit closer to the natural light.

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Snake Plant Beards & Daisies

(Image credit: Beards & Daisies)

6. Variegated snake plant | Sansevieria trifasciata

Best indoor plants: a virtually indestructible air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene
Care level: Easy
Price: Mid - Expensive
Pet safe: No, toxic if ingested, can also cause skin irritation
Reasons to buy
+Often described as an ‘unkillable’ indoor plant, it’s an easy win that’s ideal for houseplant beginners +Architectural form +Releases oxygen overnight so good for a bedroom 
Reasons to avoid
-Sharply-pointed leaves - not good around children -Can cause irritation to skin if handled without gloves 

Also known as Mother in Law’s tongue, Saint George’s sword or viper’s bowstring hemp, the snake plant is one of the best indoor plants for low-maintenance air purification. In fact it's often described as almost indestructible! It reduces significant amounts of all major household VOCs and continues to release oxygen even at night time, making it a good choice for the bedroom or guest bedroom, where even if you forget to water it for a while, it won’t bear a grudge. 

Jo Lambell of Beards and Daisies says: 'It’s easy to see why the Snake Plant is one of our best-sellers – not only do its long leaves make for a striking silhouette, but it really is made of tough stuff. Low light, infrequent watering and influxes of temperature are no match for the Snake Plant. It thrives in the face of neglect.'

Hardy, architectural, and a bold focal statement once it reaches its mature height, the only downside is those pointed leaves - its multitude of names are there for a reason: this plant has very sharp leaves! Fine when handled with gloves - which is recommended for repotting as it can cause skin irritation - but perhaps not one to have around small children.

How often should I water Sanseveria? 

The snake plant is a succulent so can tolerate droughts well - making it quick to recover if you’ve neglected to water for a while. Succulents generally prefer to be underwatered rather than overwatered so err on the side of caution and follow the rule of less is more - a drink every few weeks in spring and summer and less during the cooler months should be fine. 

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Spider Plant - Unsplash Susan Wilkinson

(Image credit: Unsplash Susan Wilkinson)

7. Spider Plant | Chlorophytum comosum

Best indoor plants: a quick-growing and easy-to-propagate air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
Care level: Easy
Price: Affordable
Pet safe: No, mildly toxic if eaten
Reasons to buy
+Very easy to care for +Super easy to propagate +Looks good sitting or hanging +Releases oxygen overnight so good for bedrooms +Enjoys humidity so happy in bathrooms 
Reasons to avoid
-Leaf tips can go brown and crispy if it gets too dry - mist occasionally or keep in a humid bathroom 

This is possibly the house plant we’re all the most familiar with. Its ubiquity as the hanging-macrame-basket plant of the 1970s meant it faded out of fashion for a while, but as we all know, retro plants - monstera, rubber plants and spider plants - are back! 

This is good news as the spider plant is incredibly easy to care for, happy in low light conditions, and one of the best indoor plants for easy propagation. It also removes several toxins from the air whilst continuing to release oxygen all through the night. 

It works well sat on top of furniture or hanging from the ceiling, with its arching leaves and trailing stems of ‘baby’ spider plants adding graceful greenery to the corner of a room.

How much sun does a spider plant need? 

Spider plants grow fastest in bright indirect light but can tolerate low light conditions and shady spots too, making them suitable for almost any room as long as they’re kept away from the scorching effects of direct sunlight.

Should I cut the babies off my spider plant? 

Spider plants are renowned for sending out lots of shoots from which multiple babies or spiderlets rapidly grow. You can leave these until they are fairly large in size if you like the look of them trailing from a hanging plant or from the top shelf of a bookcase, but new growth will deplete the mother plant’s resources, so cutting them off to keep the original plant in optimum health is a good idea. The baby plants generally root easily in water or soil and will soon create a lush new plant - perfect for filtering more air in the home, or gifting to friends, family, neighbours, strangers… you’ll soon have plenty to go around! You can find out how to take cutting from plants in our guide. 

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Dracaena fragrans 'Janet Craig' Crocus

(Image credit: Crocus)

8. Corn plant | Dracaena fragrans

Best indoor plants: a low maintenance air purifying plant

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene
Care level: Easy
Price: Mid-range when small, expensive when larger
Pet safe?: No, mildly toxic if eaten
Reasons to buy
+Unusual tree-like shape+Robust and easy to grow+Doesn’t need much watering 
Reasons to avoid
-Very light sensitive

The distinctive Dracaena fragrans or corn plant looks a bit like a small palm tree, with a thick husky stem and profusion of sword-like foliage at its crown. Also known as the dragon plant for its sometimes fire red-tinged leaves, this plant grows naturally in African soils so is used to hot climates and little water - hence being one of the best indoor plants to care for as it will forgive some neglect. 

Although they grow to great heights in their native environment, indoors the Dracaena will grow slowly, but its ability to absorb a multitude of toxic chemicals as it does so remains very impressive.

How do you care for a Dracaena fragrans? 

Compared to most plants the Dracaena needs very little water and is generally low maintenance. It will benefit from a regular dusting of its leaves to unblock pores and in a dry environment, it’ll happily receive a light misting to give its leaves a renewed shine. 

Why are the leaves on my Dracaena turning brown? 

Although the corn plant doesn’t need much water, in a centrally-heated home its leaves can suffer from the dry environment. Whilst it doesn’t enjoy its soil being too soggy, it will like misting with water or being placed on a saucer filled with pebbles and water which will create a humid environment as the water evaporates.

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Weeping Fig Beards & Daisies

(Image credit: Beards & Daisies)

9. Weeping Fig | Ficus Benjamina

Best indoor plants: an elegant air purifying plant that’s great for bedrooms

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene
Care level: Medium - Difficult
Price: Mid-Range - Expensive
Pet safe?: No, mildly toxic if eaten
Reasons to buy
+Elegant leaves and eye-catching form +Can grow to an impressive height+Releases oxygen at night so good in bedrooms  
Reasons to avoid
-Can shed leaves during temperature changes or if moved around house-Requires regular watering and misting  

Delicate arching branches and a plethora of shapely glossy leaves make this one of the best indoor plants for elegant air-purification. However, as is often the case with such beauty, the weeping fig does require a little more maintenance than most of our other options. 

Its numerous leaves require plenty of moisture - both through regular watering and regular misting to keep humidity levels up. It prefers bright indirect light (although the solid dark green-leaved varieties can tolerate more shade than their variegated counterparts), and is particularly sensitive to changes in light levels or temperature, so will shed some leaves throughout the year (and generally on its arrival in a new home whilst it settles in). Although it will soon grow plenty more leaves to replace any lost, this isn’t always ideal with pets around, as discarded leaves are mildly toxic if ingested.

How big does an indoor weeping fig tree get? 

Outdoors weeping fig trees can grow to nearly 100ft, but there is no danger of that indoors where growing conditions mean at maximum it might eventually get to 6-8ft - still pretty impressive though! If you don’t want it to get this big then prune the fig tree in winter to keep it to a more manageable and healthy size. 

Best Indoor Plants - Best Air Purifying Indoor Plants - Aloe Vera Terrain

(Image credit: Terrain)

10. Aloe Vera | Aloe barbadensis miller

Best indoor plants: the air purifying plant that’s also a first aid kit

Specifications
Air purifying: Filters carbon dioxide, benzene and formaldehyde
Care: Easy
Price: Affordable - Mid-Range
Pet safe: No, toxic if ingested
Reasons to buy
+One of the few plants which can cope with the bright direct light of a windowsill +Gel can be used to soothe minor burns like sunburn 
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t like the cold -Has fairly prickly leaves when handled 

The aloe vera plant has been prized for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, and now thanks to NASA’s Clean Air Study, we can appreciate the aloe vera's value as being one of the best indoor plants for air purifcation. 

Removing benzene and formaldehyde from our homes and releasing oxygen through the night, this plant is often recommended for a bedroom, or, because of the soothing gel inside its fleshy leaves, the kitchen where the sap provides a handy ‘natural first aid kit’ that can be applied to minor burns or sunburn. 

Unlike a lot of other air purifying plants, the aloe vera loves the bright sunshine and is even happy soaking up some direct light on the windowsill, making it a great addition to a diverse collection of toxin-removing indoor plants.

How do you take care of an aloe vera plant? 

The aloe vera plant likes plenty of light, needing six to eight hours of bright indirect sunlight a day, and even being tolerant of the bright direct light of a sunny windowsill. 

Seemingly at odds with its gel-filled leaves, it doesn’t require much water, preferring to dry out nearly completely between watering. However those fleshy leaves are sensitive to the cold, so make sure to home it in a warm spot and away from drafts - ideally not in the windowsill behind heavy curtains where a cold pocket can form even on spring and autumn evenings. 

 Top tips for buying the best indoor plants online:

Convenience 

Generally buying plants online is going to be a little more expensive than buying from your local garden centre. This reflects the difficulty of shipping delicate living plants in the post and the increased costs in packaging and handling. However in terms of convenience - especially if you don’t have a car big enough or are lugging plants home via a long walk or public transport - we love the ease of online plant shopping.

Getting it right 

Sourcing the best indoor plants online gives you more opportunity for a little research into your new plant’s likes and dislikes - most reputable online plant retailers give in-depth information and ‘how to care for’ guides on their websites - a lot more than you will get on the tiny label in most garden centres! This means more likelihood of buying a plant that will thrive in the conditions you have to offer it and less chance of an expensive mistake. 

Check plant sizes 

When plant shopping online make sure to check the height of your new purchase - it’s easy to think one peace lily is equal to the next and go for the cheapest online price, but often different retailers will sell different sized specimens and your bargain plant may turn out to be much tinier than you expect. 

You will save money by going for a smaller, younger plant that will continue to grow as you care for it, but if you want the immediate impact of a mature plant - that could have taken several years to get to its mature size - then you will pay more for it. 

Creating a stylish indoor plant display 

We recommend going for a mixture of younger and more mature plants if you’re amassing an indoor plant collection as they will add variety to your indoor plant ideas - and as one plant grows and needs potting on into a larger plant pot you will always have another plant ready to move up and fill its boots!

Best indoor plants 2021 - how to repot a houseplant - Anther and Moss

(Image credit: Anther + Moss)

How to repot your indoor plants

Once you've amassed the best indoor plants for your space, you'll want to take good care of them. We asked Timothy Sherratt, founder of plant pot emporium Anther + Moss for his expert advice on indoor plant repotting:

"Repotting can be as complex as you want to make it. I always recommend just getting stuck in rather than worrying about perfection, but there are a few simple things you can do to give your plants the best chance at healthy growth: 

  • Don’t repot unless you need to. Being repotted is a lot of upheaval for a plant. Even if you’re gentle there’ll be root damage that your houseplant needs to recover from. Limit it to once a year at the most.
  • Repot during the growing season. Houseplants are mostly dormant during the winter months (approx October - Feb), which makes recovering from that root damage much harder and slower. Spring is the ideal time.
  • Use a pot with a hole in the bottom. The easiest way to kill a houseplant is overwatering. This is made much more likely if your pot doesn’t have a hole in the bottom. Too much water in the soil stops the roots getting the air they need, and ultimately leads to root rot. Using a porous pot can also help with moisture control, this is particularly important for plants that like their soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Only go up a pot size or two. This is also about moisture control - if a small plant is in a big pot it’ll never drink all the water available. The soil can stay too soggy for too long and root rot becomes a risk.
  • After you’ve repotted choose a shady spot for a week. Repotting causes root damage, which inhibits the plant’s ability to absorb water. The shady spot will help limit the amount of water evaporating from the leaves while the roots recover.
  • Bonus tip: Use a species specific compost. While general purpose potting compost will be fine in most cases, for really happy plants go the extra mile and use compost made specifically for that species. All plants have evolved to expect a certain environment, the closer we can replicate the expected conditions the happier they’ll be."

Best indoor plants 2021 - how to repot a houseplant - Anther and Moss

(Image credit: Anther + Moss)

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Amy Lockwood
Amy Lockwood

Amy writes about interiors and decoration for Livingetc, Homes & Gardens and Real Homes, bringing her design expertise outdoors into the garden for Gardeningetc. 


Initially honing her green thumb growing indoor plants in her first-floor apartment, Amy greatly appreciates the benefits we gain from coexisting with plants, including improved wellbeing, air purification, and reductions in the chemical VOCs that are slowly released into our homes from manmade materials. 


Amy’s wider interest in gardening embraces the design principles of permaculture; considering how we can best balance our valuable outdoor spaces to restore health to our own patches of soil, boost diversity for plants and wildlife, grow healthy nutritionally-dense food, and embrace outdoor living with style-conscious design that helps us to relax, entertain and improve our overall wellbeing through relationship with nature.