Plants can do so much more for a room that just make it look pretty – many will purify the air you breathe and some can even add much-needed moisture.
As well as adding splashes of colour and lifting a room out of the gloom, many houseplants naturally filter out microbes and other nasties that lurk in your home. Toxins associated with paint, dry cleaning, and carpet manufacturing are absorbed by their leaves, while mould spores and bacteria are suppressed by the release of phytochemicals – biologically active compounds found in plants. They also humidify the dry air in our airconditioned houses. Some are better than others at doing this job, so here’s a list of the ones that work hardest to make your rooms more breathable.
According to NASA, varieties of ivy top the list as the best airfiltering houseplants, because they’re robust, easy to care for, and acclimate to most conditions. They’re best grown in moderate conditions, out of direct sunlight. Golden pothos – also known as devil’s ivy – is virtually indestructible, and ideal if you’re prone to forgetting to water them.
An evergreen that originates from India, the rubber plant is a good all-rounder with excellent toxin-eliminating qualities. It thrives well in cooler, shady corners, but may require some pruning to stop it from getting too big.
A beautiful plant that adds elegance to any room – and has the extra benefit of keeping a room humidified. It can grow up to 1.8m, so choose its position well and make sure it is where air circulates freely to deter spider mites.
This group of plants is wide and varied, offering a solution to pretty much any condition. The red-edged variety can grow up to 4.5m and does best in sunlight. Dracaenas benefit from a monthly feed with an all-purpose liquid fertiliser.
This is the perhaps the most effective plant at removing the common household chemicals found in paint and carpets. It is also very easy to care for and lets you know when it needs watering by drooping its leaves slightly.
Known as the ‘plant of immortality’ by the ancient Egyptians, this easy-to-grow succulent is happy to sit on a sunny windowsill. If brown spots appear, it is letting you know toxin levels are getting too high. The gel inside has the added benefit of helping to heal cuts and burns.
A beautiful plant that makes a statement in a room – but it can be temperamental. It’s great at filtering out pollutants that typically accompany carpet and furniture manufacturing, but the conditions have to be just right. It’s best grown in bright, but indirect light and it doesn’t like too many temperature fluctuations.