Plants are well-known as great decoration units and natural air purifiers, but it is not too easy to keep one alive, is it? Light, humidity, water amount needed, there is a bunch of information that you should keep in mind in order to manage a plant. That is what many of us believe in, however, it does not always have to be a reality. We know a bunch of low light air purifying plants that would require minimum care yet their help with the air purification is at least as good as those requiring special rituals for keeping them alive. And as beautiful as those delicate flowers are, is it worth purchasing them, if you would struggle with them later, only to end up with a lifeless flowerless stalk? That is why we collected for you the best indoor plants that need low light and clean air.
What do we need them for?
First of all, to stay up on the window sill or shelf all pretty and make the mood in the room cozier and more home-like. Plus, many of them are evergreens, and green is proved by many psychological studies to have a calming and soothing effect on our nervous system. But also to make the air in the space cleaner and fight off the air pollutants.
We usually think about air pollutants as a problem of the outdoors – Ozone layer with smog, or power plants, or car exhausts, or maybe cigarette smoke. Of course, they are all there, all present, and all influencing our lives quite significantly, irritating our immune systems and causing various diseases, especially with respiratory symptoms. Yes, your coughing, breathing difficulty, or even wheezing can be caused by them.
But if you think that the problem exists just outdoors, you cannot be more wrong. There are many pollutants living inside our houses and ruling our lives without us even realizing it!
Who are these invisible enemies?
The first type we should mention is VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds – these are the chemicals that are released by off-gases and are often found in household products. As we clean our houses and do daily household chores, these elements get emitted into the air, them making their way into our lungs, and in case of large amount concentration causing substantial problems to our health.
Among these you might have heard about formaldehyde; it is present in your leather carpeting, various cleaners, paints and varnishes, and even toilet paper! In a very small amount, it comes from your gas stove too.
Xylene is the second popular chemical that you may be aware of – people use it in leather industries, in the production of rubber or paint, and in printing where it acts as a solvent.
Benzene can end up in your lungs in the process of furniture production, carpeting, painting, or household cleaning.
Trichloroethylene will help you with removing the paint or make your stripper work, as well as it can be found in various spot removers, rug-cleaning products, and adhesives.
What did NASA have to say about it all?
As scary as all these pollutants sound, you should not panic – we have managed to survive next to them, and surely still will be able to do so with them present around. Plus, we have an easy way to make things better for us! And that would be – grow an indoor plant.
An indoor plant is a great natural air cleaner. A question we all were wondering though, are some plants better for this job than the other ones? Well, NASA conducted a study during which they found the answer to this one; after all, when we talk about bringing plants to space stations, we want them to be as efficient as possible. The study revealed several plants that are able to remove chemicals that cause eye irritation and headaches, including ammonia, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and xylene from the air. Isn’t it amazing?
How does it work?
The cleaning process is quite easy to understand if you have some basics knowledge of biology. Even if you don’t, there is no reason to fret – we will explain it right now.
Low light air cleaning plants absorb pollutants through their stomata – very small openings in the leaves. The pollutants then go down the plant body to the root zone, where they get biodegraded into food for microbes and bacteria that keep the soil healthy and nourishing for the plant. Water from the soil, on the other hand, gets released into the air through transpiration.
Before we start
We all have stories about killing a plant; most of those are about our first plants, that we got for some holiday when we were little – little enough not to be able to take good care of them. What we did not know then, is that every plant needs different care, and there are those plants, that you, even as a kid, could easily keep safe and sound. So, shall we?
11 Best air purifying plants low light
Number 1 – Boston Fern, or Nephrolepis Exaltata
This little fella does a pretty good job at removing toluene, and xylene from the air in your room. It does the best work with formaldehyde too, better than any other plant, in fact, and it also is able to capture car exhaustion gases, which you can find in your house, especially if it has an attached garage.
As for decorative purposes, it would look just perfect in a hanging basket, as well as in a planter, or a pedestal, or at the top of a shelf. Boston Fern is living to its best in moderate and indirect sunlight, as well as mild humidity. This is why it would be best if you could provide additional humidity to them; it would need your special attention during winter. What you can do to provide proper humidity is run an air humidifier, or place stones and a tray with water.
Number 2 – Spider Plant, or Chlorophytum Comosum
Spider Plant may look sharp and unfriendly, but it needs just a bit of care to be your best helper in removing toluene, formaldehyde, and xylene from the air in your house.
As our number one, it likes indirect moderate sunlight but prefers cooler temperatures. Spider Plant does not need much attention and is quite forgiving to living conditions. So, if you are really scared to mess things up, this would be the best choice for you – it is really hard to make things go wrong with this one. The only thing you indeed should remember is to wait until the soil dries up before the next watering.
Number 3 – Pothos, or Epipremnum Aureum
This little one likes living in shade, but also is quite known for its ability to grow in relatively hostile environments, which is why you may know Pothos as “the cubicle plant”. With its beautiful evergreen vines and little leaves in the shape of a heart with a hint of yellow, they are often sold in hanging baskets (and indeed freely hanging down they do look their best), and people love buying them for decorative purposes. Although, this little snarl of vines and leaves also purifies the air from formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene.
The only precaution you should know about Pothos is that it can cause health problems with digestion if being eaten. So, if you have pets or little kids, make sure they never get their little hands – or paws – on this plant.
Number 4 – Peace Lily, or Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’
Peace Lily is easy to recognize with its white “flowers” – that are leaf bracts in fact – and their deep green leaves. This evergreen beauty is doing its best in low to moderate sunlight, so you can keep it in shade. Even for people without a green thumb, it is fairly easy to take care of and it takes quite a little water.
The study conducted by NASA revealed Peace Lily to be one of the best low light houseplants to purify the air from Volatile Organic Compounds, including benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. It also does a good job with ammonia, toluene, and xylene.
All in all, with a cozy corner in shade, watering once a week, and lots of love, Peace Lily will rise and shine to purify the air in your room.
Number 5 – Chinese Evergreen, or Aglaonema Modestum
Despite its name, Chinese Evergreen carries inputs of silver, white, red, or pink, depending on the variety you decide on. And yes, there is plenty of visually appealing choices!
These little colorful low light houseplants that clean air only need a shady place (read “indirect low light”) and a little water, and then they will be able to help you to get rid of formaldehyde and benzene in the air. Chinese Evergreen is quite easy to grow thanks to its high tolerance to various indoor conditions. If you are a beginner, this plant can be the one for you. If you are simply “too busy to keep an eye on plants”, this may be the answer for you too.
Number 6 – Snake Plant, or Sansevieria Rifasciata
Snake Plant only needs watering once a month and dim indirect light, which makes it one of the easiest plants for a beginner to manage. These thick leaves are number one in surviving with very little sun, humidity, and water.
A peculiar thing about Snake Plant is that it turns carbon dioxide into oxygen not only during the daytime but also at night; most plants can do it only during the day. It also purifies the air from toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene.
You can also find this plant under the name “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”, however, we believe Snake Plant suits it way better.
Number 7 – Heart Leaf Philodendron, or Philodendron
You can easily recognize Philodendron by its rounded heart-shaped leaves. Like many other indoor plants, they do their best in shady spots, kept away from strong direct sunlight, and like many other indoor plants, it cleans the air from formaldehyde.
It is too quite an easy one in maintenance and is quite an exquisite decoration piece. Called, besides its official name, a parlor ivy or sweetheart, it sure deserves all the compliments to its elegant appearance.
The part you should be aware of before buying this plant is that it is classified as “toxic”, so if you have any pets or little children, keep the plant far away from them.
Number 8 – Lady Palm, or Pharpis Excelsa
This Lady is one of the top-10 best removers of carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde. Another name for her is Broadleaf Lady Palm that comes from the fan-shaped leaves this bamboo-like plant has.
Lady Palm is a survivor, tolerating low-level light and various temperatures, however, she does like high amounts of water. Especially if keeping her in a warm environment, make sure she gets enough of it.
Lady Palm grows slowly, and usually is sold as a small spire, but it can grow as tall as 14 feet, or who knows, maybe even taller.
Number 9 – Calathea, or Calathea Makoyana
Otherwise known as “Rattlesnake Plant”, “Zebra Plant”, or “Peacock plant”, Calathea is a popular choice for indoor decorations. It joins many other air plants low light in its love of shady spaces and the ability to purify the air from toxins.
It requests very little care and offers in exchange cleaner air and a lovely view of the green and brown-ish combination. The plant is relatively big and often would require a floor-standing pot, which makes it a popular choice for office recreation areas.
Number 10 – Cast Iron Plant, or Aspidistra Elatior
Cast Iron Plant must have earned its name from the survival skills – there are few plants as resistant to water scarcity and minimal maintenance as this one. Even if you have never ever had a plant before, or if you leave for business trips too often and have no one to look after your plants, you would hardly have any chance of killing this little one.
While being so tough, it is also great in combat against formaldehyde and benzene, safely absorbing these chemicals from the air. It loves shade and can grow up to three feet tall, which makes it a perfect candidate for the position of your companion in the office or living room, or even bathroom if you want.
We would not recommend eating it, but Aspidistra Elatior is considered non-toxic for cats and dogs, so you do not need to worry about your pets getting hurt by the plant.
Number 11 – Jade Plant, or Crassula Ovata
With its fleshy and thick leaves, the Jade plant may remind you about cactus, or maybe aloe; after all, it is a succulent, one of their closest relatives. Some people believe the Jade plant to be a friendship plant, some see it as a symbol of prosperity and luck.
Crassula Ovata is quite easy to take care of, it will do just fine both under the burning sun and in freezing shade, and if you give it proper care, it can grow quite big. The only thing that you really need to remember is this: let the soil dry before watering the plant again. It is extremely important since overwatering can kill a plant.
Jade plant is ranked as a champion in removing toluene (it absorbs around 91% of the chemical in the space around), you can find this chemical in paint thinners and easily recognize it by its strong smell. Apart from that, toluene is emitted from lacquers, kerosine, and gasoline, so if you work with these substances, the Jade plant can become your number one assistant.
After all, plants indeed do a great job
These eleven champs may be the most popular choices for air purification and indoor decoration purposes, but there is a huge variety out there of those plants that we cannot even imagine. So, if you couldn’t find your perfect partner among these ones, please feel free to continue your research.
In addition to being pretty and really lighting up the overall mood in the house, the option of purifying air can have a tremendous impact on our health, such as getting rid of some allergies, reducing headaches and fatigue, minimizing asthma flare-ups, and many others.