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Top Plants To Clean Indoor Air Quality

Updated on February 14, 2011

Would you like to know which top plants clean indoor air quality? Did you know that house plants can help clean your home’s air quality? Did you know that plants can also help to improve your psychological well-being and offer health benefits alongside their passive beauty and indoor air cleaning abilities?


Studies have shown that people who are surrounded by plants and nature report feeling better, have reduced stress and maintain better health overall (Roger Ulrich 1993, 1984, Parsons, 1991). Hospitals have even begun to use plants in patient therapy plus installing real plant on most floors for air quality improvement.

These positive effects seem to increase with tropical house plants, and even more so with particular tropical house plants. Researchers believe that tropical plants are not only visually striking thus affecting our mood, but that they are also very efficient at using the minimal resources available to them to complete their photosynthesis. Tropicals tend to absorb more light, moisture and gasses through their leaves than other plants, thereby doing a better job of purifying the air around them as they change the carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen.

How many tropical plants are needed to clean the air?
In general, an average 1500 square feet home, needs 16 or more house plants contained in eight inch pots to clean the air. Studies even recommend using up to 20 plants; NASA 1989. Keep in mind that good air circulation in the home will greatly improve the plants' abilities to cleanse the air properly.

Which indoor tropical plants work best?
You can breathe well and help improve your health with these easy to find, top five, tropical house plants listed in no particular order.

1) Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica robusta)
This attractive, medium to full light plant has large, thick, glossy, almost plastic appearing, leathery leaves situated on a fat, tall trunk. In the tropics, it can grow to over 100 feet, but potted and contained, grows to ten or more

Rubber plant
Rubber plant

feet indoors. A calming, no fuss plant with its sleek lines and modern aura, it comes in a wide variety of colors from deep burgundy to vivid, dark green and even variegated, with pink, yellow, cream, or white veins to suit every décor and palate.

Rubber plants are very hardy, preferring warm, humid conditions, well-drained soil, thorough watering, and bright light. It grows fast, and is one of the best, indoor plants for the removal of formaldehyde and other toxins from the indoor air. May be poisonous if ingested, but its sap is considered to be only a minor skin and stomach irritant.

2) Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii erumpens)
Named for its long, bamboo-like stems, this elegant, upright, clustering, medium light, palm plant is one of Mother Nature’s fastest growing plants absorbing pollutants and emitting more oxygen and moisture into the atmosphere than most other plants; a natural humidifier.

It's also excellent at improving air quality by removing formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene among other pollutants from the air.

The Bamboo palm plant looks pleasantly exotic with its short, narrow, jewel-green leaflets bunched together on graceful, curving stems. With leaves and stems Jumbled together like a puzzle, this is a good plant to use to help increase mental acuity. Grows up to 8 feet indoors.

A bit finicky and needy, it requires continuous care. It dislikes soggy soil, cold drafts, and very dry air. Fertilize this lovely palm three times a year in order to maintain its green leaves. All parts of the Bamboo Palm are poisonous to pets and humans if ingested.

Boston Fern
Boston Fern

3) Boston Fern Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')
This ancient, leafy, cascading plant looks feathery and appealingly dramatic adding much interest and texture to any indoor garden. The fern’s gorgeous fronds, light to medium green in color, are made up of numerous leaflets on reddish stems. They can grow up to six feet long while spreading up to three feet wide darting in clusters in all directions from the base of the plant.

Each fern variety portrays attention-grabbing characteristics that stimulate interest every time they are looked at. Like most tropicals, this graceful plant loves bright, indirect sunlight, tolerates shade, prefers well drained, moist soil, good air circulation, and blossoms in very humid conditions; mist frequently. Boston ferns grow quickly, and do an exceedingly good job of removing common indoor pollutants and humidifying the air.

4) Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
This medium to bright light loving palm is a real miniature palm tree.

Pygmy Date Palm
Pygmy Date Palm

A slow grower reaching heights up to eight feet, it is the smallest of the date palm family, and is also called a Dwarf date palm or a Miniature date palm. It has a thick trunk ringed with the rough scars of fallen off, old leaves forming a diamond pattern. An interesting aspect of this palm is that sometimes one plant grows two or more trunks. It has very long, tapered and arching fronds which grow thick and lush out of the center of the trunk's crown.

These palms are relatively easy to care for indoor plants. It dislikes drafts, prefers moist but well drained soil at all times, thrives in high humidity and needs regular fertilization during growing seasons. Spray palms regularly with warm water to increase moisture. Pygmy date palms effectively remove formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

5) Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Though considered a common houseplant, there is nothing “common” about this gorgeous tropical plant originating from the floor of rain forests.

Getting Lilly To Bloom

Loving low-to-medium light, its downward curved, naturally shiny, wide, dark green leaves regularly bloom closed, long-lasting, pale green "flowers" that turn white and open up with age. It grows shrub-like and fast, and may need to be separated every couple of years.

Peace Lilies are tolerant of cold drafts, are pest-resistant, release lots of moisture into the air and do extremely well at removing indoor air pollutants including benzene, formaldehyde, and acetone. This plant is poisonous to humans and pets, especially cats, if ingested.

Tropical plants provide you with a spectacular structure against which to create a striking focal point in your home. They are soothing to the soul, a benefit to your health, and also a good, green way of cleaning the polluted air in your surroundings. Be sure to consider the specific environment in your home, such as its temperature, available lighting, and humidity, in order to select the best tropical plants for your home, health and improved indoor air quality.

___________________________________, my pen is a mighty sword!

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    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      The pygmy date palm is so cute! I've got to get one. Excellent hub that I'll bookmark and come back to before I visit the garden center next. It sounds like you need what I would consider an overabundance of plants (15+!) in house to meet the quality improvement guidelines, but hey: one plant is better than nothing. I'll start somewhere and progress from there. Boston ferns at least hang and don't take up table space... Great hub indeed, you've got me thinking.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      hey! would you mind telling me what your real name is because i need to reference you for a biology project i am doing. this would be really helpful. thank you xx

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Great information thank you!

    • visionandfocus profile image


      7 years ago from North York, Canada

      What an awesome hub, and a subject very close to my heart. Will link to this from my hub on how to improve air quality by growing indoor plants. Love the photos! Voted up, useful, beautiful and awesome, 'cos it's all those things! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That was an interesting thing about Peace Lilies. Did not know you could grow them under fluorescent light. Thanks for the great information. I like Peace Lilies.

    • callmefoxxy profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi christy, thanks for your feedback. Funny enough, I just went out recently and bought a date palm tree, lol. I have to say that along with its cleaning abilities, it is a beautiful addition to the plants in my family room.

      callmefoxxy, my pen is a mighty sword!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very Nice indeed! Every hub you put out is always well done. I like the rubber plant a lot and now have to go shopping for one. That pygmy date palm looks good too. Thanks for the info callmefoxxy.


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