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The best indoor plants for cleaner air

Adding plants to your home doesn't require a green thumb. Here are a few best bets for your space.

Josh Miller/CNET

Spring is on the way and with it allergens, dust and all the germs you don't want in your home. If you're not interested in adding air purifiers to your decor, a few hard-working houseplants can help keep your air cleaner.

A simple set of houseplants add color, style and an earthy warmth to interior spaces, and contrary to popular belief, you don't need a green thumb to keep indoor plants alive. 

Read more: Building a garden and growing your own food | Do air purifiers protect against COVID-19? What about wildfire smoke?

The key is selecting plants that thrive in your specific environment. Whether you're working with limited natural light, a busy schedule or musty air that needs purifying, there are plenty of plant options out there to meet your needs.

Plants for cleaner air

Multiple studies have proven certain plants are able to absorb polluting, organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene through their leaves and roots. That absorbing purifies the air around the plant.

NASA study even highlighted several plants that excelled in cleaning the air around them. If you're looking to breathe easier, but don't want to purchase an air purifier, opt for one of these plants for their ability to improve indoor air quality.


Peace lilies are a good choice for homes without much direct sunlight. 

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Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

Named for the white blooms reminiscent of a surrender flag, these budding beauties remove formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air around them. Peace lilies can grow up to 16 inches tall and don't need direct sunlight, but they do require regular watering. 


English ivy can reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter in your home. 

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English ivy (Hedera helix)

According to NASA's study, English ivy is a fantastic plant to grow indoors if you're looking for air-filtering ability. 

English ivy absorbs formaldehyde, found in some household cleaners and can reduce the amount of airborne fecal matter. However, it should be kept out of the reach of any pets, as it can be poisonous if ingested. 


Gerbera daisies add color and pack an air-cleaning punch. 

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Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

This bright and colorful flower packs a pollutant-absorbing punch, filtering out trichloroethylene and benzene, chemical compounds found in cleaners and solvents. Gerbera daisies do need plenty of direct sunlight, so keep your plant in a well-lit area and be sure to water frequently. 

Plants for low light

Just because you live in a space with limited natural light that doesn't mean you can't enjoy plants inside your home. These shade-loving varieties make the perfect addition to any home, especially if it's low on sunshine.


Snake plants release oxygen at night, unlike most other plant species. 

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Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Named for its long, straight leaves, this super-tolerant plant doesn't need direct sunlight or frequent watering to survive. It's easy to keep alive and can grow up to 12 inches tall. 

The snake plant also releases oxygen at night, unlike most plants, which release it during the day. That makes it a great plant for a bedroom, and it could even help you sleep better.


These blooms can last up to four months even in low light conditions. 

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Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis Blume)

These exotic-looking flowers are actually quite simple to grow. They don't require direct sunlight and you should allow the soil to dry out in between watering. That means you won't need to remember to water very often.

These plants come in two standard sizes, an under 12-inch variety and a variety that reaches between 18 and 24 inches tall. Moth orchid blooms can last for up to four months and are perfect for low-light locations.


A golden pothos in the wild can grow up to 40 feet long. 

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Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also known as devil's ivy, this strong-willed climbing plant can survive in plenty of indoor lighting conditions. In the jungle, it can grow up to 40 feet long, but will probably do better in your home as a hanging or potted plant.

Golden pothos don't require a lot of light and prefer partly shady environments. They're exceptionally hardy and add bright, cheery greenery to any interior.

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Plants that need less watering

Let's face it, keeping anything alive is a time-consuming responsibility. Sometimes watering your plants will simply slip your mind. Not to worry.

If you forget to water your plants for a few days or take a vacation, these plants will forgive you. They can withstand a few days, even a week in some cases, with no harm done.


Spider plants don't need frequent watering. 

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Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

The sprawling spider plant is rarely thirsty. In fact, it can go a week or more without H2O, thanks to its tubelike roots that store nutrients. Still, if you see the leaf tips begin to turn brown, it's time to give it a drink.

The best way to store and display a spider plant is in a hanging basket or a tall planter, so the long leaves can dangle over the side. When it comes to light, the spider plant prefers indirect light, not too bright and not in complete shade.


Thick and waxy leaves help ZZ plants conserve water.

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ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

This tongue-twister of a plant is nearly indestructible. It can tolerate plenty of different lighting conditions and go without water for long periods of time. Its bright green leaves are thick and waxy to help conserve water. Overwatering could be this plant's biggest enemy.

It's also important to keep the leaves free of dust, so an occasional wipe with a damp cloth or paper towel will go a long way in keeping your ZZ plant healthy. Perfect for interior spaces, and it's a great plant for travelers. 


Succulents require little watering. 

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Succulent family (Echeveria)

Succulents are mega-popular in interior design these days, accenting desks, kitchens and everywhere in between. While they do require a decent amount of natural light (most prefer full, direct sun), plants in the succulent family don't need much water at all.

Like the ZZ plant, there's more risk in overwatering than underwatering. Succulents come in dozens of varieties with a wide array of beautiful colors, shapes and sizes.

Even if your thumb isn't the greenest, these indoor-friendly plants will thrive in your home's climate, maybe even improve it and look good, all at the same time.