Indoor Plants,  Well Care

The Ultimate Guide to 15 Incredible Plants for a Healthier Home

Trying to keep a healthy home for your family? You’re probably wondering what’s the most effective and budget friendly way to make sure the air you’re breathing is clean.

Did you know our indoor air quality is likely 3-5X worse than the air outside? Yikes!

But what if the simplest solution is one of the best?

Our friends at NASA wanted to figure out how to keep a space capsule free of harmful toxins and at the same time boost oxygen levels for the astronauts. They discovered the most efficient way to do this was with house plants! Certain plants absorb all those nasty toxins that deprive us of healthy oxygen levels and are super efficient air cleaners.

NASA advises keeping one plant for every 100 SF in your home to clean the air. So 10 plants per 1000 SF is about right.

This means the simple house plant – which is enjoying something of an Instagram moment – is our best friend when it comes to cleaning the air in our homes. It doesn’t hurt that they’re beautiful and decorative too.

Moving into a new home? You’ll definitely want to grab some of these plants. They’ll help remove any formaldehyde that’s out-gassing from your new carpet or furnishings. Plus you’ll breath easier knowing your plants are taking care of you while you sleep.

Here’s 15 of the best toxin defying natural plant wonders you can grow for a healthier home.

1. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

boston ivy
English Ivy – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: No. Can cause skin irritation on humans too.

Removes these toxins: Absorbs benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, tuolene and lowers levels of fecal matter. Eww. Gobbles up mold and fungus spores too.

Ease of care: Prefers temps of 50- 70F. A little fussy. Doesn’t like drafts. May get spider mites.

Light levels: Medium to bright filtered light, doesn’t like full sun. Your variegated ivy will appreciate a little more light.

Water: Water 1X every 4-6 days. Prefers evenly moist soil. Mist with soft water occasionally.

English Ivy can be a little bit tricky to take care of. It either seems to thrive or can decline very quickly if it gets infested with spider mites.

If you see the leaves start to look shrunken and dried out that’s your clue the little buggers have taken up residence on your ivy. Misting with water helps to deter them. Most plants do not like to be over watered, but ivy is the one exception that likes to be moist.

2. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Snake Plant – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: Mildly toxic if eaten
Removes these toxins: Benzene, trichloroethylene, tuolene, xylene and formaldehyde
Ease of care: Requires very little maintenance
Light levels: Tolerates low light but does better with our friend, bright indirect light
Water: Don’t overwater this guy, he likes to dry out in between watering. Think 1x every 7-10 days.

The old snake plant has been around for a while and is now experiencing a bit of a renaissance along with the whole 70’s boho style revival. He fits in well with a mid century mod vibe. Why not bring one home from the plant center and get started with one of the easiest low maintenance house plants around?

Another name for the snake plant is Mother-in-laws tongue.

3. Philodendron

Philodendron Scandens

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde, carbon monoxide
Ease of care: Very easy, give it something to climb on and it will love you
Light levels: Tolerates low light levels, doesn’t like strong sunlight, think jungle canopy
Water: Water 1x per 7-10 days, let dry between watering. Clean leaves lightly with water and a cotton pad to remove dust

Looking for an easy low maintenance plant to care for? Check out our friend the Philodendron. Chances are you’ve seen these little climbers before. They’re the ones clinging to the screens in that Chinese restaurant or barber shop you go to. They’re slow but steady growers, with a low maintenance personality. Just what we love!

If you see a heart shape leaf chances are it’s a philodendron. Philodendron Scandens is one you’ll often see sold in hanging pots.

A variegated leaf variety is Philodendron Scandens Brasil.

Philodendron Scandens Brasil

Another side of the family is a big leaf variety like this Philodendron Selloum. They don’t climb but they still like a jungle vibe. Keep them from drying out, give them bright light but not full sun, an occasional mist or shower and they will be happy campers.

Philodendron Selloum

4. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

chinese evergreen
Chinese Evergreen – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Benzene, formaldehyde
Ease of care: Very easy. Doesn’t like to be cold, so ideally keep it in a room that’s no lower than 60 F (16 c) and away from drafts
Light levels: Thrives in low to medium light levels so perfect for that bedroom, study or bathroom. Doesn’t like direct sunlight.
Water: 1x every 5-7 days. Not too much or too little, drying out between waterings is ideal.

The Chinese Evergreen isn’t really an evergreen. It’s “roots” began in Asia, so technically it is Chinese. Many varieties have variegated foliage with light silvery or creamy green markings on the leaves. Variegated Aglaonemas like a bit more light to keep their stripes.

5. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)

Spider Plant
Spider Plant – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: Yes. But since they’re so tempting to cats to chew on, why not keep them up out of reach.
Removes these toxins: Filters out 90% of toxins in the room and removes mold and dust allergens! Absorbs formaldehyde, xylene and tuolene.
Ease of care: Very easy, prefers 55-80F (13-27 c) temps, think South Africa
Light levels: Prefers bright indirect light, doesn’t like strong direct sunlight
Water: Water 1x per 5-7 days, keep soil evenly moist, not too dry and not too wet.

The spider plant or Air plant is another easy to care for variety with the bonus of being a great air purifier. It may take more than one plant to rid your room of toxins so why not group a few together? Once the plant starts putting out “pups” on the end of it’s trailing stalks you may also see some small white blossoms.

Spider plant leaves are typically a variegated green and white but you can also find solid green or “lemon” two tone green stripe leaves.

6. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Peace Lily
Peace Lily – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: No.
Removes these toxins: Filters benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and tuolene. Ingests acetone vapor and keeps mold from building up on shower tiles and curtains!
Ease of care: Easy, prefers warmer temps above 60 F (16c) and out of drafts
Light levels: Doesn’t like strong direct sunlight, but prefers bright indirect light such as an east facing window
Water: Water 1x per 5-7 days, soil can be moist but not wet. Leaves turn brown if they get too dried out.

The Peace Lily isn’t really a lily at all. The white “flowers” are actually leaf bracts. What’s true is the peace lily is an easy plant to care for as long as you don’t over water it. It’s drought tolerant so just keep an eye on the leaves. If they start to droop it’s ready for watering. Keep it in medium to bright light (never full sun) if you want to encourage those white “flowers”. A “spath” will do just as well in low light but won’t bloom.

Don’t be afraid to once in a while gently wipe it’s leaves with a damp paper towel to remove dust. A quick mist in the shower will also be appreciated.

7. Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

Dragon Tree Plant
Dracaena – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, tuolene and formaldehyde
Ease of care: Easy, prefers 65-90 F temps, think sub tropical
Light levels: Bright indirect light, close to window
Water: Water 1x per 7-10 days, check top of soil and wait until it’s dry before watering

Native to Australia and Africa, the Dragon Tree plant is actually in the Asparagus family, so not too scary after all. Keep it on the dry side, don’t over water, let it have some bright to moderate light and your Dracaena will be a happy camper.

Although a type of dracaena grows outdoors in Australia, most house plants you buy will only tolerate indoor temps.

8. Boston Fern

Boston Fern
Boston Fern – Image courtesy Hortology

Safe for pets: Yes
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde and xylene, tuolene.
Ease of care: Fairly easy. But this isn’t a set it and forget it plant. Don’t let it dry out especially in warmer months.
Light levels: Bright indirect light is best, will tolerate morning sun.
Water: Keep moist, don’t allow it to dry out. Water 1x every 3-5 days depending on season and temperature. Give it a soaking once a month.

The Boston Fern is similar to the English Ivy – it likes to stay moist. It thrives in moist environments such as shaded areas in forests, so keep it cool, in bright indirect to low light and don’t let him dry out.

The fern makes a dramatic hanging plant for porches or indoor conservatories. A cool shaded porch or a shady part of your garden is ideal. The fern will happily move outside for the summer but don’t forget to bring it in before temps cool down. Ideally it thrives in 68-78F (20-25c).

9. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamin)

Weeping Fig
Weeping Fig – Image courtesy of Waitrose

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Xylene, tuolene, formaldehyde
Ease of care: These are medium maintenance. Keep an eye on the leaves. If they drop or burn, dial down water and light.
Light levels: Bright indirect light. Will tolerate morning sun. Variegated varieties especially like a little extra light.
Water: 1x every 7 days. Water thoroughly then allow to dry out. Don’t overwater or you’ll get leaf drop.

A weeping fig plant can have shiny green or variegated green and white leaves. It prefers bright indirect light in your home but will tolerate some sun as long as it doesn’t get too much. It loves to go out on your patio in the summer months, just be sure to bring it in before temps drop.

Weeping figs are grown with multiple stems for a bushy shape, pruned to create a single trunk or braided to create a topiary effect.

10. Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)

fiddle leaf fig plant
Fiddle Leaf Fig – Ficus Lyrata

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde
Ease of care: These are medium maintenance. Over watering will cause leaf browning and leaf drop. Keep out of drafts.
Light levels: Bright indirect light. Will tolerate morning sun.
Water: 1x every 7 days. Water thoroughly then allow to dry out. Don’t overwater or you’ll get leaf drop. Nuff said.

Ah the Ficus Lyrata, current Instagram darling. You really can’t ask for a more dramatic and stylish plant friend to spice up your home and clean the air at the same time.

These guys don’t like drafts or being too wet, but once you get the hang of what they crave you’ll have a lovely slow growing specimen to add personality to your space. Find these at your local big box home store and take one home today.

11. Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)

Rubber Plant
Ficus Elastica – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde
Ease of care: Easy peasy.
Light levels: Bright indirect light, will tolerate morning sun
Water: 1X every 7 days. Similar to other ficus, the rubber plant prefers to dry out between watering. Don’t let it sit in water.

The rubber plant has been around since Victorian times, and perhaps that’s why it hasn’t regained the popularity of other Ficus plants. It’s a little old fashioned. Still it makes a striking large specimen and is an easy care plant.

12. Pothos or Devils Ivy (Scindapsus)

Pothos Ivy
Pothos Ivy – Image courtesy Hortology

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Filters out benzene, formaldehyde, xylene/tuolene
Ease of care: Very easy!
Light levels: From low light to bright indirect sunlight, the pothos will adapt to many light conditions.
Water: Water well then allow to dry out. 1x every 5-7 days.

The pothos or golden ivy plant is a common house plant because it’s extremely easy to care for and hard to kill. Lush vines of heart shape leaves variegated in shades of green and yellowish cream naturally trail making it a perfect hanging plant. The pothos can also be trained up a bark pole to create a lovely floor specimen.

If your plant isn’t getting enough light, the variation of green and yellow common to the Pothos may fade. Pothos cuttings can be easily started in soil or water, but only thrive when they are kept in the same medium they were started in.

13. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea)

Bamboo Palm
Bamboo Palm – Image courtesy Waitrose

Safe for pets: Yes
Removes these toxins: Benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and tuolene
Ease of care: Relatively easy.
Light levels: Tolerates low light but will grow taller with more light.
Water: 1x every 5-7 days. Use room temperature water, and water until soil is evenly moist. Don’t leave sitting in water.

The bamboo palm likes indirect or filtered sunlight – too little light and the fronds will become sparse and sticklike. It prefers 70-80 F (21-27c) temps indoors although in Zones 10, 11 it can be grown outside. In winter when the plant isn’t active, 50-60F (10-15c) is perfect. It originates in Central and South America, so think tropical. Warmth, moisture and no drafts with good drainage.

Give your bamboo palm a little shower from time to time to clean the leaves and trim off any dead branches as needed.

14. Broad Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsia)

Rhapis Palm

Safe for pets: No
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and tuolene
Ease of care: Relatively easy.
Light levels: Tolerates different levels from low to indirect and direct sunlight.
Water: Water well and let drain. Prefers moist soil but don’t let it sit in water.

Rhapsis or Lady palms are commonly grown outdoors in Florida, and are very tolerant of temperature swings and light levels. They are slow growing, but have a pretty crown effect as their fronds branch out and upwards.

A good palm for your conservatory or sunroom, they’re a little denser than most palms so make a nice focal point in the room. The Lady Palm can reach a maximum height of 6 feet.

15. Areca Palm

Areca Palm
Areca Palm – Image courtesy Home Depot

Safe for pets: Yes
Removes these toxins: Formaldehyde. Rated as one of the very best air purifiers. Like an electric humidifier.
Ease of care: Not hard but doesn’t like neglect.
Light levels: Bright indirect light from south or west facing window.
Water: Water well in spring and summer to keep soil just moist, allowing to dry out between waterings during fall and winter.

Areca palms grow at a rate of 6-10″ a year and can reach a height of 6-7 ft. This plant prefers to be slightly pot bound and restricting the roots helps limit growth if you want to keep it on the smaller side.

Plan on repotting only every two to three years and make sure you plant at the same depth as before.

General Care Rules for Your Air Purifier Plants:

The general rule of thumb is don’t over water. Don’t water at night and when you do water, gently water the soil underneath the leaves and keep the leaves dry. It helps if you can take your plant to the sink, water it and let any excess run out of the pot before you put it back.

It’s always better to leave the plant in the plastic pot it came in or that you repot it into. Try not to plant directly into a container that doesn’t have adequate holes for drainage.

Most of these plants can still thrive  on low to medium light levels! You don’t need a sunny spot, just one that gets bright indirect light throughout the day. Some of these incredible plants such as the Philodendron and many of the palms can thrive without any direct light.

Pick up one today and start breathing cleaner air at home!

plants that clean the air