The Best Air Purifying House Plants

Thanks to the research of NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), we now have proof that many commonly grown indoor houseplants can scrub the air of noxious household gases such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The study's list includes 15 plants of 9 different types, and recommends that 15 to 18 good-sized house plants in containers at least 6 to 8 inches in diameter be used to improve air quality in an average house of 1800 square feet.

English Ivy

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a charming plant that will trail from a hanging basket, or can be trained to grow up a support. There are dozens of varieties of leaf shapes and colors to choose from. Ivies prefer bright light and cool temperatures, and appreciate an occasional misting.

Spider Plant

Commonly grown in hanging baskets, spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) grows in a rosette of foot-long leaves and produces multiple tiny plantlets at the ends of long stems. Leaves may be solid green of variegated with cream.

Golden Pothos

Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum aureum) looks similar to the Philodendron, with heart shaped leaves marbled with yellow. It is an easy-care plant that looks good in a hanging basket.

Peace Lily

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum "Mauna Loa") is a compact plant about 2 feet high that produces white blossoms that resemble the calla lily. It does best in the direct light of a north, east or west window.

Chinese Evergreen

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is a very easy plant to grow, and is tolerant of low light, preferring the exposure of a northern window. The foliage, which may be silver with dark green streaks, or dark green with light green streaks, is decorative.

Snake Plant

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is famous for its toughness, and will grow just about anywhere, even in the interior of a room. The upright leaves of green marked with yellow are sword-shaped and reach 18 to 30 inches high. This plant should never be over-watered.


Three types of philodendron made the study's list: heartleaf (Philodendron scandens "oxycardium"), selloum (Philodendron selloum) and elephant ear (Philodendron domesticum). Philodendrons are an excellent plant for the beginning indoor gardener, and will tolerate a wide variety of exposures. They do best in bright, indirect sunlight, warm temperatures and low humidity.


Included in the study were four types of Dracaena: red-edged (Dracaena marginata), cornstalk (Dracaena fragrans "Massangeana"), Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis "Janet Craig") and Warneck (Dracaena deremensis "Warneckii"). Dracaenas are slow growing and known for their long slender trunks and leaves.

Weeping Fig

The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) can become a large and stately indoor tree. It prefers indirect light and grows best when slightly potbound. It is normal for the plant to shed some leaves when it is moved.

Keywords: air-cleaning plants, plants that remove gases from the air, plants for indoor air pollution

About this Author

Gwen Bruno has 28 years of experience as a teacher and librarian, and is now a full-time freelance writer. She holds a bachelor's degree from Augustana College and master's degrees from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin. She writes articles about gardening for