Before San Francisco’s stay-at-home order was issued, I suddenly found myself with a strong desire to acquire more plants for my tiny apartment. I became desperate to find houseplants that are easy to take care of, would bring life to my small living and now full-time workspace, and would bring other benefits such as improving air quality by removing toxins. I wanted to create an urban oasis from the cold, concrete world outside.
I’m not alone. Recently, demand for plants among urbanites has soared, according to retailers—especially among millennials and genz consumers. Especially now as we’re forced to spend most of our time indoors, plants brighten and benefit spaces by reducing harmful toxins by purifying the air. In urban areas, the harmful effects of pollution are well documented outside as well as indoors. Formaldehyde, benzine, and other toxic chemicals are released from soft furnishings, paint, cleaning products, and paraffin-based candles; and can lead to respiratory problems and allergies.
When NASA needed the most effective air-cleaning plants for their space stations the snake plant, parlor palm, and the devil’s ivy came top of the list. I’ve bought a few of these plants for my tiny apartment. Below I share some plants that are easy to care for that I recommend for improving air quality and livening up your indoor space.
1. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
Queen of the air cleaners, this bulletproof plant has been shown in NASA tests to remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air. It also refreshes the indoor environment with life-giving oxygen. Few plants say “set it and forget it” like this succulent. This plant’s long, sturdy, spiky leaves are striking. If you were to choose just one plant to aid respiratory problems, this is the one to pick.
2. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
Popular since Victorian times, this elegant palm has lush, feathery foliage. Like other indoor palms, it can help to give your space tropical oasis vibes. As well as being highly effective in removing formaldehyde, this palm is also very easy to grow and can reach over 10 feet (3 meters), creating a pleasing focal point in your indoor space.
3. Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum Aureum)
This tough little plant is perfect for beginners—very forgiving if neglected, and can handle poor light conditions and erratic watering. In its native Polynesia, the vine can grow to 65 feet (20 meters) as it clambers up into the forest canopy. Thankfully, it grows at a far more moderate pace in the confines of a pot. Display this plant up high on a shelf so its glossy yellow and green leaves can cascade elegantly to the floor, while also filtering benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from the air.
4. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
The peace lily will bloom gorgeous flowers reliably for many months, and can withstand poor light levels. The plant removes volatile organic compounds, such as solvents from the air. Tests have also shown that the plant is capable of removing airborne mold, which can alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms.
5. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
This lovely fern prefers light shade and looks its best displayed in a hanging basket or macramé hanger. The Boston fern loves humidity and thrives in bathrooms. It removes formaldehyde and xylene and ease symptoms associated with these pollutants, such as headaches and respiratory ailments.