Our complete guide to air-purifying indoor plants

16 plants that will help you breathe easy

Home to office to home via the gym or a stop at a restaurant; given that you spend so much time indoors, ever wondered how much stale air you’re breathing? We have, and that’s why we spoke to the experts to bring you a shortlist of plants that will do some air cleaning for you.

MONEY PLANT

Need to know: Grows well in bright, indirect sunlight and indoors; use a pot with good drainage and water only when soil feels dry
Tip: According to Dr Akshay Joshi of Nursery Live, “It is extremely easy to grow and is perfect for indoor hanging baskets.” An important point to keep in mind about the money plant is that it’s believed to be harmful to animals. 
Toxin warrior: Helps remove all sorts of volatile organic compounds* found in paint

SNAKE PLANT

Need to know: Also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Sansevieria, this plant is easy to care for as long as you bear in mind some thumb rules—don’t water the leaves, leave them alone (they grow best when they’re ignored), and place them in indirect light. 
Tip: This is known as the bedroom plant as it produces oxygen at night. Plant expert Adrienne Thadani of THRIVE garden design studio says that this plant can be used in AC rooms too. (But remember, all plants do need some amount of fresh air.) If you have pets, be sure to check if the snake plant can be harmful to them with the nursery you buy from.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde, xylene and toluene

ARECA PALM 

Need to know: Grows well in indirect sunlight but cannot take too much of it directly; too much of sun straight on and the leaves will turn yellow. Use a well-draining soil, though these palms prefer remaining moist in the summer months. In winter, ensure the soil stays dry between bouts of watering.
Tip: According to Joshi, areca palms can grow in bright artificial light as well, and apart from their functional value, make for decorative additions to the home. Thadani cautions that these plants don’t do too well in rooms where the AC is on all the time.  Green entrepreneur Kamal Meattle of TED-talk fame considers the trifecta of the money plant, the areca palm and the snake plant as the easiest one to put together to gain the full benefits of air cleaning. The per person requirement is “four shoulder-high” areca palms and six to eight “waist-high” snake plants and two money plants.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove carbon dioxide 

PEACE LILY

Need to know: Likes humidity and grows well in tropical regions. Keep the soil moist but make sure you don’t overwater. It likes warmth, so keep it away from apertures through which you might get cool breeze; grows well in indirect, bright light. 
Tip: It also works well as a decorative indoor plant. Try to occasionally mist the leaves, to maintain humidity levels; and if possible, use filtered water—peace lilies don’t react well to the chemicals in tap water.  
Toxin warrior: Helps remove trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, alcohols, acetone

ALOE VERA

Need to know: Needs a dry environment, indirect sunlight (can even grow in artificial light) and only sparingly needs watering. It cannot tolerate standing water, so a well-draining pot is a must. 
Tip: Thadani finds the plant to be hardy: “It can be placed in a sunny window or a shady outdoor balcony.”
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde

GARDEN MUM 

Need to know: Also known as Chrysanthemums, this plant requires bright, indirect sunlight. Remember to check the soil moisture every day and when the top layer feels dry, water the plant. 
Toxin warrior: Helps remove ammonia, as well as VOCs like benzene, formaldehyde and xylene

BAMBOO PALM

Need to know: They grow taller when exposed to more light but can adjust to low-light conditions too. Use filtered water when the soil begins to feel dry and ensure it drains well.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde

CHINESE EVERGREEN 

Need to know: Commonly known as Aglaonema, this plant can survive dry air and less water. It’s so self-reliant that it will make your gardening seem better than it is! But do make sure you use well-draining soil and don’t overwater as it will cause the roots to rot.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene

DRACAENA WARNECKII 

Need to know: This plant, also called Lemon Lime. needs indirect sunlight and less water—only when the soil is completely dry to the touch. 
Tip: The large striped leaves can accumulate dust, so wipe to keep them clean. 
Toxin warrior: Helps remove benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene

ENGLISH IVY

Need to know: Likes humidity but favours cooler temperatures (so mist regularly). Grows well in bright, but indirect light (too much direct sunlight can cause leaf burn, and not enough light can invite pests).
Tips: This climber will look great as a hanging plant.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. It is believed to also remove mould in indoor spaces.

WEEPING FIG

Need to know: A good amount of the sunlight and moderate watering—only when the top layer of soil is dry.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde, xylene and toluene; this plant helps raise oxygen levels

RUBBER PLANT 

Need to know: Grows well in indirect, bright light and likes the water, but not too much. Needs less water during cooler weather and more frequent watering in the summers. Be sure you wipe the leaves clean occasionally.
Tip: One of the easiest indoor plants to maintain—doesn’t need too much attention. If the lower leaves start dropping off, consider it a cry for more light.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde

JANET CRAIG

Need to know: This plant needs indirect bright light, but could survive in low light conditions. Let the soil dry out in-between watering schedules; too much of it will cause the roots to rot.
Tip: If you see brown spots on the leaves, it means it is getting a bit too much light and pale leaves mean too little. Try and use filtered water.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde and xylene

DRACAENA MARGINATA 

Need to know: Also called the Madagascar Dragon Tree, this plant likes the light to be bright and indirect. Water only when the top couple of inches are dry and even less often in cooler climes. Enjoys humidity.
Tip: They grow slower in colder places.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and xylene

FIDDLE LEAF FIG

Need to know: Likes water, but not sitting in it; use well-draining soil. Water only when the top layer of the soil is dry.
Tip: If the leaves start looking limp, it means the plant’s thirsty. The heat of the afternoon sun could be bad for it.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove a variety of VOCs

ZZ RAVEN PLANT
Need to know:
Like its lighter-hued sibling, this self-reliant plant is great plant for beginners. Low light, more light, less water, lesser humidity—it bears it all with typical stoicism.
Tip: It scores high points on the decoration scale because its darkly purple leaves (due to which it gets its name) make for a stunning counterpoint to the green colour of other plants.
Toxin warrior: Helps remove toluene and xylene

 

Meet our experts:

1.    Dr Akshay Joshi of Nursery Live: +91 9319212233; care@nurserylive.com

2.    Adrienne Thadani, plant expert and co-founder of farming and landscaping consultancy THRIVE garden design
       studio: @thrivegds; thrivegds@gmail.com 

3.    Shaan Lalwani of Vriksha Nursery, Mumbai: @vriksha_nursery; +91 98207 04069

4.    Interior designer Pavitra Rajaram: @teaonthebluesofa

5.    Interior designer Mangesh Lungare: @mangeshdl

6.    Landscape architect Hemali Samant: @arhemali



All images were shot at Vriksha Nursery, Mumbai

 

*Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) include chemicals like formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene and trichloroethylene which are found in a variety of commonly used home products such as detergents, building materials, furniture, thinners, cigarette smoke, rust preventers, gasoline, heating and cooking systems.

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