best air purifying plants blog post title image

Best indoor air purifying plants for your home workspace

Introducing my shortlist of the best indoor air purifying plants for your home workspace. I’m Sue Moore, freelance copywriter and marketer. I write for other businesses, and also publish regular posts on life as a copywriter.

My copywriting workspace (remote and at home) is full of plants.

Air purifying plants suitable for the UK

I’ve tried and tested these plants indoors in the UK. They’re mainly hardy and easy to look after for beginners.

What does science say about air purifying plants?

I’ve been educating myself about the benefits of air purifying plants lately.

The science has been around for a while (the most quoted plant research is from NASA in the 1980s).

This research suggests that certain plants can purify indoor air, by removing some airborne toxins from your home.

Adding greenery is certainly a natural and cost-effective way of improving air quality.

The bonus for me is that a plant-filled home or workspace looks amazing and can make you feel more productive.

The health benefits of exposure to greenery, and the rise in forest bathing, made me want to add to my indoor greenery. After all, in the UK we often need to enjoy our greenery indoors rather than out.

Do plants improve indoor air quality?

Plants do absorb some toxins from the air, and it’s likely many can improve indoor air quality.

Obviously they’re no substitute for good ventilation and a well-constructed building. But it seems that their benefits go well beyond simple good looks.

How many plants do we need to improve air quality?

It seems to be the case that some is better than none, but the more the better.

The NASA study mentioned above suggested having up to 18 plants in an average sized home.

If you’re wondering what features you should look for, try choosing plants with the largest leaves. More surface area for purifying purposes! Size matters in the air purifying plant world.

How to look after your air purifying plants

I’m no plant expert, and have relied on trial and error, suffering the occasional casualty.

For the beginner plant parent, these are the basics you need to know –

  • Generally all plants need less water in winter, and more in summer.
  • Regular weekly watering seems to suit most plants, although in hot weather you’ll need to up this.
  • Many plants benefit from feeding.
  • You need to rotate their pots occasionally, just a quarter turn every now and then.

I’ve also tried and tested different locations in my house and workspace for these plants. Hopefully my tips on the best spot will help you find a home for yours too.

What are the most reliable indoor plants?

I’ve had all of these plants at home for several years.

Some are higher maintenance than others (yes I’m talking about you, Fiddle Leaf Fig).

If I can keep them alive and let them do their air purifying magic, then so can you.

What are the best indoor ferns?

Boston Ferns are really good for shadier spots inside your house or workspace.

  • You need to keep them warm and moist.
  • Test the soil with your finger and water accordingly.
  • Mist the leaves regularly with water.

At first I hoped my fern would be happiest in a bathroom. Probably the humidity would have been perfect, but I think there wasn’t enough light for it to thrive.

So this fern copes better in my entrance hall. It’s usually comfortably warm (underfloor heating) but never in direct, bright sunlight.

air purifying plants boston fern in green pot indoors
Boston Fern

What palms are best indoors?

Areca and Kentia Palms are easy to get hold of. They both need a decent amount of space around them, as they grow into quite a wide plant.

They bring a hint of the tropics to their location, and need indirect light.

Some humidity is ok too.

  • Water once or twice a week, depending on the season.
  • Set outside in the rain occasionally to wash the leaves.

It’s worth knowing that the ends of the leaves will go brown and crispy in brighter light. Don’t panic. I’ve given mine several radical haircuts, before shifting the palm into a shadier spot. Doesn’t seem to bother it. This palm has sat at the threshold of my workspace for more than three years.

air purifying plants indoor palm in basket in contemporary interior
Indirect light-loving Palm

What kind of plant is Mother-in-Law’s Tongue?

It’s a horrible name. Even more so when you find out it’s also known as the Snake Plant. For the record, my mother-in-law is lovely.

Mother-in-law’s Tongue can really go anywhere in your house or workspace. I’ve read that it’s particularly good in the bedroom, as it does most of its oxygen production at night.

  • This plant is very hardy.
  • Easy to care for and doesn’t need much water – just when the soil is dried out.
snake plant also known as mother in law's tongue
Snake Plant (or Mother in Law’s Tongue)

Where should you put an Aloe Vera plant?

Aloes are perfect for your windowsill or somewhere bright and sunny.

  • Only water occasionally, when soil has dried out.
  • Don’t include it on your regular weekly watering round unless it needs it. I overwatered mine and it collapsed – be warned.
  • You can break the leaves and apply the gel to burns and skin irritations.
air purifying plants indoor aloe vera in a pot on top of pile of books
Aloe Vera in a bright spot

Can I keep a Ficus or Weeping Fig indoors?

Yes, you can.

This is the most common type of Ficus. Because of its rounded shape, the Ficus looks really good in the corner of a room. It seems to soften the edges of any space.

It’s pretty hardy but, like many other plants, best in indirect light.

  • It drops a lot of leaves. Don’t worry – it doesn’t mean you’ve killed it!
  • Apparently moving unsettles it, so find a location and stick with it.
  • Water once or twice a week.
  • Mist its leaves in summer.

This is my Ficus which has sat near my bookshelves for years. I rotate it occasionally.

air purifying plants large indoor weeping fig ficus in front of a bookcase in interior
Weeping Fig

How to look after a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)

Eh, don’t do what I did.

This is the diva of my plant population. It looks like a beauty, but behaves like a beast for me.

Of all my air purifying plants, the Fiddle Leaf Fig is the most awkward to care for.

I’ve kept this one in indirect light in my workspace for around five years and tended it lovingly. It currently has fewer leaves than it had when I got it.

Sometimes it looks lusciously leafy, but at the minute it’s sulking for unknown reasons and has dropped all the leaves from the bottom half of its trunk. Still looks ok-ish though! I’m not giving up on it.

I think the key is choosing the right location. Mine likes to be well away from the window.

The problems seem to come when it’s too close to the light.

  • Needs indirect or morning/evening light, not bright sunlight beside a window.
  • Water once or twice a week.
Indoor fiddle leaf fig plant in contemporary interior
Temperamental Fiddle Leaf Fig

Do Swiss Cheese Plants (Monstera) do well indoors?

They definitely do.

My Monstera (Swiss Cheese Plant) is my plant hero. During lockdown, it was my constant Zoom backdrop while I worked.

I bought it (on Gumtree) from a lady who’d grown it from scratch for about 15 years. It’s huge!

The tallest leaves reach the (high) ceiling in my workspace. I’ve given it a trim every year, and it doesn’t mind a bit.

Somewhere a bit darker indoors is fine for a Monstera. Mine is beside a north facing window that gets virtually no direct sunlight. The room is bright, but it feels like the Monstera sits in the shady corner.

Apparently Monsteras likes humidity, and need to be kept reasonably moist. Ours takes a LOT of water at one sprinkling (but it is enormous). Depending on the season, once or twice a week seems to be frequent enough for watering.

  • Keep moist and mist the leaves occasionally.
  • Ours is very big for moving outdoors now, but they can go outside in the rain for a shower.
  • Needs regular watering – test the soil with your finger and keep it moist.
air purifying plants large indoor monstera swiss cheese plant in contemporary interior
My monster Monstera or Swiss Cheese Plant

Since this photo was taken, I’ve taken a cutting off one leaf. I kept it in a vase of water for about six months, then planted it in soil.

It’s now growing magnificently in its pot on a high bookshelf.

Plant buying tips from a copywriter (not a gardener)

Now you know which plants are hardy enough for a beginner, but also potent enough air purifiers.

Where do you get them?

I’ve bought indoor plants online. It’s worth trying, as online retailers often have a bigger range than you can find in store.

You might prefer seeing the plants in person before you buy. For that, I suggest supporting a local nursery or small business (although I have been known to load my Ikea trolley with indoor plants – all still thriving!).

Can you buy pre-loved plants?

Yes, I’ve done this. One source that might not have occurred to you is to find them second-hand.

Downsizers often sell large, well-established indoor plants. Same for businesses moving offices. If you buy directly from a plant parent, you can also get all the details of that particular plant’s needs.

And of course if you have green-fingered friends or relatives, you can also ask for cuttings from their indoor greenery.

As a copywriter, I write regularly for other businesses, as well as lifestyle articles for my own blog right here.