Most indoor spaces have a few neglected areas that receive less attention because of the lack of windows, fresh air or natural light. Wouldn’t it be great if you could populate those areas in your home or office with low-light houseplants that also purify the air? Do such plants exist?
What are some low-light plants that clean the air? The following indoor plant species clean the air and tolerate low light:
- ZZ plant
- Peace lily
- Boston fern
- Snake plant
- Chinese evergreen
- Arrowhead plant
- Spider plant
- Cast iron plant
- Dumb cane
- Rex begonia
- Prayer plant
- Bird’s nest fern
- Swiss cheese plant
Owning a few low-maintenance plants that make it healthier to be at home or at work is truly like having your cake and eating it too. Ahead, I’ll discuss more on these great houseplant species so you can decide which to populate your indoor areas with!
17 Low-Light Indoor Plants That Clean the Air
If your lighting conditions aren’t the best, then choose the heart-leaf philodendron in particular. This cute cultivar of the philodendron with its memorable heart-shaped leaves does especially well with minimal lighting.
NASA’s classic Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Pollution Abatement report is still the basis for determining which houseplants are the best at warding off health risks in the air.
According to NASA, the heart-leafed philodendron can clean the air of formaldehyde as well.
Even inhaling formaldehyde in small doses could cause your eyes to water and burn. Increasing levels of exposure to this chemical compound might lead to breathing troubles, coughing, and throat and nose burning. You’ll have none of that with your heart-leafed philodendron!
A healthy ZZ plant has smooth leaves with a waxy coating, but how you get your Zamioculcas healthy can happen in a lot of ways. Owning to its reputation that it’s difficult to kill, the ZZ plant won’t balk at low light, although indirect to moderate light is the ideal growing condition if you can replicate it.
The ZZ plant also landed a coveted spot on NASA’s recommended list of indoor plants for purifying the air.
You can reduce levels of benzene, toluene, and xylene in your home or office with the ZZ plant.
Benzene is a chemical compound that doesn’t dissolve much in water and is incredibly flammable. It might cause dizziness, headache, and fast heart rate. It can even be fatal if you breathe in very significant quantities.
Toluene or toluol is a lot like benzene in that it doesn’t dissolve easily in water and it also has no color. At the very least, it can cause insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and strangely, euphoria.
More severely, toluene could contribute to kidney and liver damage.
Finally, xylene or xylol can lead to nausea, dizziness, and headaches if you inhale even a bit of this chemical compound. It too can be fatal if the exposure levels are seriously high. You’ll be happy to own a ZZ plant.
As the days get longer and the sun more intense, the peace lily quite appreciates you moving it somewhere where its light is more moderate. For the rest of the year, indirect light works best to cause that faux white flower to bloom.
For more about Peace Lilies you’ll want to read my article: Peace Lily Leaves Turning Brown? Here’s Why
Of all the plants on NASA’s list, the peace lily hovers near the top, and rightfully so. It removes toxicity from the air by either neutralizing it or breaking down the chemical compounds entirely.
You’ll have less formaldehyde and benzene at home, not to mention carbon monoxide, which the peace lily can also clear from the air.
I don’t even think I have to tell why that’s such a good thing, as carbon monoxide can be deadly very fast if you inhale too much. While having a peace lily in the home or office doesn’t replace a carbon monoxide alarm, you’ll be happy with the extra protection.
The pothos is also a stellar addition to your indoor garden if your lighting conditions are a little less than exemplary. Besides its capacity to live in lower lighting, the pothos can also withstand colder air and reduced humidity than what it usually requires.
The golden pothos in particular will grow in low light, medium light, and even bright light.
Known for being especially effective at cleaning the air, the golden pothos will clear your apartment or cubicle of xylene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene.
Now that you know a bit about these chemical compounds and what they can do to your health, you’ll quite like having a golden pothos around.
The times of year that the Boston fern will be most receptive to lower lighting are the autumn and the winter, when natural light begins dwindling anyway. Even still, the Boston fern isn’t a light hog, requiring just two hours of indirect light every day.
That’s doable whether your Boston fern sits on your desk at work or in a windowsill at home.
For more about indoor plants for low light offices, you’ll want to read: 22 Low-Light Succulents for the Office
The Boston fern will reward you by making the air around you cleaner. It can rid the air of toxins and also act as a natural humidifier, producing more moisture at home.
Ah, the Sansevieria trifasciata, a great part of any indoor garden. The snake plant doesn’t care much if your lighting isn’t the greatest, as it can grow in low light and full sun alike.
The best conditions for the longest life out of your snake plant (which might be around for 10 years) is indirect light.
The snake plant is one of those houseplant species that releases oxygen from carbon dioxide during the day and at night, and it’s on a pretty short list of plants that can do it.
On top of that, the Sansevieria’s long leaves are adept at absorbing dangerous toxins that linger in the air.
The appealing anthurium produces stunningly red flowers, but you might not see as many of those flowers if your lighting conditions are dimmer.
The growth of your flowers will also be decelerated, but low light is better than direct light for the anthurium. Too much light will scorch this houseplant’s leaves.
Besides its noteworthy beauty, the anthurium also deserves acclaim because it will clear the air of formaldehyde and ammonia.
Like many dangerous gases, ammonia has no color but a distinct smell, and quite a bad one at that.
It’s a hydrogen and nitrogen compound that may irritate your throat and your nose while making you cough.
In high quantities, ammonia can lead to burning of your respiratory tract, your throat, and your nose. Prolonged exposure might even cause respiratory failure, destroying your airways along the way. It’s time to add some anthurium to your indoor garden, stat.
Most of the houseplants I’ve discussed thus far are merely tolerant of low light. Not the Chinese evergreen!
Of all the lighting conditions you could offer, low light is this indoor plant’s favorite. Also, you only need to boost the temperature at work or at home to 65 degrees Fahrenheit even though the Chinese evergreen is considered a tropical plant. Talk about easy houseplant care!
NASA recommends the silver queen cultivar, also known as the Aglaonema crispum, if you want cleaner air. This variety of the Chinese evergreen is quite pretty, as the leaves grow in silver and green patterns.
Unlike the silver queen Chinese evergreen that’s decorative and appealing, you want a simpler arrowhead plant if your lighting options are sparse.
You see, the more variegation or plant patterning the leaves of the arrowhead plant have, the more light they need.
Those plainer but still nice-looking arrowhead plants with unadorned green leaves won’t begin wilting in minimal light.
They’ll also clean the air just as well as their more variegated cousins. The arrowhead is especially adept at removing formaldehyde.
Studies have claimed that you might have a decrease in formaldehyde by as much as 67 percent over just 24 hours with an arrowhead plant according to Green the Map.
Sure, the ZZ plant gets most of the attention as being a houseplant species that grows in all sorts of conditions, but the same is true of the spider plant.
Maybe not to the same extent, but the spider plant is versatile in where it grows (from a pot to a basket) and in how much (or little) light it gets.
Even primarily artificial light can’t rattle the spider plant.
NASA ranks the spider plant very high on its list of air-purifying houseplants. If you’re worried about formaldehyde in the air, you’ll want a spider plant or two ASAP.
According to NASA, the spider plant can clear formaldehyde at an astonishingly high rate of 90 percent.
If you find that your spider plant is struggling, I’d suggest reading: Spider Plant Looking Pale & Limp? Here’s What to Do!
Cast Iron Plant
If you’re still looking for houseplant species to add to your indoor garden that likes low light and can clean the air, why not give the cast iron plant a try?
Cast iron plants can do well in either filtered bright light or low light.
Just make sure you avoid overdoing it on the light, which can cause some of its leaves to begin browning.
Also, do be aware that you should not water your cast iron plant often if it doesn’t drink in much light.
The cast iron plant is also on NASA’s approved list of houseplants for cleaner air. The Aspidistra elatior will reduce the levels of formaldehyde and benzene at home and in the office.
Lots of Dieffenbachia or dumb cane cultivars do well in filtered low light, but definitely check your particular cultivar before you just assume it’s okay without too much light.
You might also notice that your dumb cane doesn’t grow as quickly with minimal light. Growth can even cease altogether in extreme low-light conditions, but if your plant is otherwise healthy, then all is good.
The thick leaves of the dumb cane will make your air cleaner. It’s funny considering those leaves can also cause vocal cord numbing if you try to eat them, so don’t do that!
The calathea with its delicate leaf patterns might look like it needs to spend hours each day absorbing the sunlight, but that’s actually not the case.
Strong and direct light is a no-no for this plant species. Indirect but bright sun is better, but low light suits a variety of cultivars, so have fun growing all sorts of calathea.
If you put your calathea in your bedroom, you might notice that it seems like this plant closes up shop for the night. Indeed, the leaves do retract overnight, but they’ll open up at the first sign of morning light.
In the meantime, the calathea will clean the air for you, even with its leaves retracted and closed.
The begonia family is an expansive one, but since you have low-light conditions, you want to focus on the rex begonia specifically.
Not like there’s much wrong with that considering this plant grows in pretty patterns with shades of maroon. You can also try tuberous begonia cultivars, as these will be fine in low light as well.
Many cultivars of the begonia are adept at keeping your air clean, the rex begonia among them. That said, it may be worth increasing your light and adopting a wax begonia, which is super-efficient in clearing benzene from indoors.
The tiny prayer plant will thrive the most in indirect bright sunlight, but periods of low light won’t be a detriment to the plant’s growth and progress either.
After all, the prayer plant comes from Brazil’s rainforests, where thick blankets of foliage can sometimes block or limit the sun for long stretches of time.
Like the calathea, your prayer plant may close its leaves as the sun goes down and then bloom in the morning.
This is normal behavior and does not impede the prayer plant from cleaning the air through filtration.
Bird’s Nest Fern
Here’s a second fern to incorporate into your indoor garden: the bird’s nest fern. It’s another one of those houseplants that actually prefers low light.
Medium light is also okay, but you don’t want to make things too much brighter than that. Excess light will cause the bird’s nest fern’s leaves to become crinkly like a French fry.
If your bird’s nest fern is getting the right amount of light, the leaves will stay smooth and flat.
Say goodbye to toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde in the air, as the bird’s nest fern is an efficient remover of all these toxins.
Swiss Cheese Plant
The last plant species I want to discuss is the Swiss cheese plant or the Monstera deliciosa. If you want to limit the growth of this often-gargantuan plant, then low light works well.
Brighter light will let growth of the Swiss cheese plant run rampant, where it can get to 10 feet or taller.
Since its leaves are so generously-sized, the Swiss cheese plant has no issue absorbing toxins from the air such as formaldehyde.
NASA puts it high up on its list of air-purifying plants with the philodendron because of those large leaves.
If you’re searching for a houseplant that can live in low light while cleaning the air around you, look no further than the indoor plant species I listed above.
Many of the plants I mentioned above actually thrive in low light conditions and yet still provide us with a cleaner air environment indoors, allowing us to breathe easy.
To these plants and their symbiotic nature I say, THANK YOU!