10 Air Purifying Houseplants

When NASA set out to determine the best, air-purifying plants for the space station, it put hundreds of houseplants though the paces. What did the inter-planetary agency find? It came up with a solid list of several plants that effectively filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Which is good news for the rest of us—these plants can also help clean indoor air right here on Planet Earth. Indoor household air has, in fact, been found to be far more polluted than outdoor air. Home air quality may be polluted by things like lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire retardants, radon, and VOCs from fragrances and other chemicals used in conventional household cleaners. While some pollutants are tracked into homes others are brought in via new furniture and mattresses, fresh paint, and conventional carpet cleaning.

To help ditch the toxins in the air you breathe, here’s a roundup of the best home-friendly vegetation to get the job done.

1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): This hard-working plant topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Best Spot: Anywhere in the house.

2. Aloe (Aloe Vera): An easy-to-grow succulent, aloe helps clean up airborne formaldehyde and benzene. It’s also spot on for helping to heal cuts and burns. Best Spot: Kitchen window.

3. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): This resilient plant is a perfect choice for those lacking a green thumb. This flowering plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. Best Spot: Anywhere in the house.

4. Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii): A colorful, flowering plant that requires a lot of sunlight, the Gerber Daisy efficiently removes airborne trichloroethylene, which can be off-gassed from clothing that has been dry cleaned. Best Spot: A sunny closet.

5. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’): This plant was found to be one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which can be found in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues, and personal care products. Best Spot: A sunny bathroom.

6. Golden Pothos (Scindapsus aures): This powerful purifier also battles formaldehyde, which is also spewed out from car exhaust. Best Spot: The garage, even if lacking light—this plant stays green even in the dark.

7. Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium): The much-loved mum’s blooms help filter out benzene, which is found in glue, paint, plastics, and detergent. Best Spot: Anywhere with direct sunlight.

8. Azalea (Rhododendron simsii): This stunning shrub also sucks up formaldehyde. Best Spot: Azaleas thrive in cool areas with temps ranging from 60 to 65 degrees—a sunny basement is perfect placement.

9. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii): This small palm packs a punch—it topped NASA’s list of plants best for filtering out formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Best Spot: Shady spots near furniture.

10. Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium): This prolific, climbing vine is a perfect choice for filtering out formaldehyde. Best Spot: Low light areas; keep away from kids and pets—this plant’s toxic when eaten.

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on away.com.

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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