Not satisfied with simply adding splashes of colour and lifting a room out of the gloom, houseplants naturally filter out toxins and microbes that lurk in our houses. The chemicals associated with paint, dry cleaning, carpet manufacturing and cigarette smoke are absorbed into their leaves, while mould spores and bacteria are suppressed by the release of phytochemicals. They also humidify the dry air in centrally heated dwellings. Some are better than others at doing this job, so we’ve compiled a list of the ones that work hardest to make your rooms more breathable.
According to NASA, the evergreen ivy tops the list as best air-filtering houseplant. It is also the most effective at absorbing formaldehyde. It is robust, easy to care for and acclimatises to most conditions. It is best grown in moderate conditions, out of direct sunlight.
This is the most effective plant at removing the common household chemicals found in paint, carpets and cigarettes. It is also very easy to care for and lets you know when it needs watering by drooping its leaves slightly.
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, the bamboo palm has the extra benefit of keeping a room humidified.
It can grow up to six feet, so choose its position well and make sure it is where the 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 dracaena can grow up to 15 feet and is best in sunlight. All dracaenas need moist soil and benefit from a monthly feed with an all-purpose liquid fertiliser.
Known as ‘The Plant of Immortality’ by the 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.
Virtually indestructible, this plant is great if you are prone to forgetting to water them. It is considered one of the best all-round air purifiers with its ability to absorb many toxins. It has a trailing habit, so works well in indoor hanging baskets. The only thing it won’t tolerate is direct sunlight.
A beautiful plant that makes a statement in a room but it can be temperamental. It is great at filtering out pollutants that typically accompany carpet and furniture manufacturing, but the conditions have to be just right.
It is best grown in bright, but indirect light and it doesn’t like temperature fluctuations.