If you’re an allergy sufferer (grass pollen, tree pollen, pet dander, being common activators) you’ve probably tried all sorts of over the counter remedies. But did you know there are plants that aid allergies too? Seems kind of counter-intuitive doesn’t it? However, it’s true and in this post I’m sharing the 15 best indoor plants for allergies, and how to care for them. Want some more good news? They’re nearly all perfect indoor plants for beginners (or for those like me, whose house plant game is not strong), win win.
The best indoor plants for allergies
Before we take a look at which indoor plants are good for allergies, it’s worth clarifying exactly what is an allergy. Common signs include:
- Irritated, red, itchy or watery eyes
- Puffiness or darkness under the eyes
- Runny nose
If you’re a hay fever sufferer or flare up on contact with certain animals (ginger cats being a renowned trigger, sadly), you’ll recognise these symptoms all too well. Which is why it’s important to choose allergy friendly plants. Because your reactions might not always be caused by pollen, it could be mould spores in your house plant’s soil. So you need to choose plants that don’t need much water, or else at least give them plenty of light and air. Another good tip is to go for plants with large or smooth leaves that don’t trap allergens and dust mites so easily. And it goes without saying that plants with lower pollen counts will be the best indoor plants for asthma and allergies.
How can indoor plants help with allergies?
So, just how do indoor plants help allergies? Back in the 1980s, NASA carried out a study and found that the best indoor plants for allergies can remove formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and other toxins from the air. And by purifying the air in offices and homes, these plants help prevent sick building syndrome. Researchers found one plant per 100 square feet can efficiently clean the air, although the study was conducted within a sealed Space Station, where air is more concentrated.
So, for your average sized homes and offices, you’d be looking at around 15 – 20 plants to purify the air you breathe. And the more large broad-leafed foliage the plants have, the more effective they are in improving allergy symptoms. NASA also found the plant root-soil zone was the most effective area for removing volatile organic chemicals such as mould spores, which are prevalent in bathrooms. Hence achieving clean bathroom decor becomes a whole lot easier with the right plants.
Which plant or tree purifies the air the most?
As previously mentioned, low pollen plants with large smooth leaves are the best indoor plants for air quality. In no particular order then, you could choose from any (or all!) of the following allergy-alleviating, hypoallergenic indoor plants.
Sansevieria laurentii is among the easiest of all house plants to grow. According to NASA, it has one of the best surface area-to-chemical removal rations too. It will thrive in bright, warm locations, although it can cope with shade as well. And it requires a loose, sandy potting soil very little water (to avoid root rot) so ideal for the forgetful among us… Click here to buy your own Snake Plant*
Hedera helix is another NASA favourite and it’s hard not to love this tumbling display. Indoor ivies prefer plenty of light but again, loose soil and not too much water. You need to let the soil dry out in between watering times but she will need a wash every so often, to clean her leaves of any dust. The easiest way to do this is pop her in the shower!
Are succulents good for allergies? Yes they are, and succulent aloes need very little water and maintenance, although they do need plenty of light. And they make really fun plants for kids’ bedrooms, teaching them how to care for a plant that’s interesting to look at, but not too demanding. Flora has two in her room, one brought all the way back from Lanzarote a couple of years ago. Click here to buy your own Aloe Vera*
Popular in the 1970s, spider plants are making a comeback now, and no wonder, they’re cheap to buy and easy to propagate. Provided your parent plant is placed in a light room, and the soil kept moist (not soggy), she should produce lots of babies. Simply cut them off and plant them up into new containers. Then, instead of just one spider plant for allergies, you’ll have lots of little allergy fighting plants for free. Just remember to give the mother plant a fertiliser feed now and again, to replenish her energy. Click here to buy your own Spider Plant*
Ficus elastica is a tropical plant from South East Asia, with gorgeous deep green glossy leaves. In the wild, as a tree she can grow up to 100 feet, but as an indoor house plant, she’s much easier to keep at a smaller size. To stay happy and healthy, all she needs is light, warmth and her soil kept moist, plus the occasional wipe of her leaves to keep them free of dust. And you may need to offer some support as she gets taller, such as a stake or plant ring. Click here to buy your own Rubber Plant*
Another tropical plant, philodendrons have two types, climbing plants that need a support structure such as a trellis, and non-climbers, which are perfect for pots and baskets. To keep her vibrant green leaves, she needs sunlight, moist or humid air such as a bathroom, a fortnightly water, and an occasional feed. Bearing in mind her natural habitat is dappled forest shade, she’ll appreciate the occasional sojourn outside in a damp, shady spot too.
Often mistaken for philodendron, pothos are equally popular as they’re very easy to care for being happy in bright indirect light, low light, dry soil, or even in vases of water. Pothos plants are ideal plants for bathrooms or a home office as they don’t mind low light. That said, if you have a variegated plant, they may lose their white colour if the light is too low. If you find your pothos turning green, she’s telling you she needs more light.
Yes, I did say that the best indoor plants for allergies were non-flowering or low pollen, but Gerbera jaimesonii is another top allergy alleviating plant that NASA highly recommends. I think if you have a pollen allergy, then avoid Gerbera, but if you don’t then go for it and add some cheerful colour to your home. They need plenty of bright, indirect sunlight and good air circulation, moist soil, and an occasional liquid feed. And keep deadheading to encourage lots of new blooms.
Spathiphyllum are a very popular choice for offices and homes as they’re among the easiest and most striking indoor air cleaning plants to look after. And you can choose your colour too – want a darker green leaved lily? Place her in a low light spot. Want more white “flowers”? She needs more light. Just be careful not to overwater this drought tolerant plant – only do so when the surface of the soil is dry to touch. And give her leaves an occasional wipe to remove dust, or pop her in the shower if that’s easier. Peace lilies produce pollen that’s stickier and heavier than other flowers so peace lily allergies are rare. Click here to buy your own Peace Lily*
Another of our 15 best indoor plants for allergies, Dracaena marginata is also known as dragon tree, so it’s one of Flora’s favourites 🙂 She needs to be planted in well-draining soil and watered regularly during the growing season. Although as another drought-tolerant plant, you’ll know if you’ve overwatered as her leaves will turn yellow or brown. She does well in most light conditions but is happiest in indirect bright light. And although she can grow up to 20 feet in her native Madagascar, she’s easy to keep pruned to around 6 feet or less as an allergy-alleviating indoor house plant. Click here to buy your own Dracaena*
Slightly higher maintenance, Dypsis lutescens or Areca lutescens, a native of Madagascar, is a graceful plant with smooth trunks and narrow fronds. A great air purifier, she does best in bright light, humid conditions, planted snugly in her pot, in a well-draining soil. Water sparingly and only when the soil feels dry, don’t leave her to get soggy. If the air is too dry, the leaf tips will turn brown, so mist them a few times a week with distilled water or collected rainwater. And wipe her leaves occasionally to remove dust, or even better, stand her outside in some summer rain. Click here to buy your own Areca Palm*
Another tropical palm, Kentia is usually sold with up to five plants in a pot. She’s shade tolerant, cold tolerant, and doesn’t grow too large either. So she’s ideal for pretty much any room in the house, although as a tropical plant, she does prefer warmth and humidity. Fun fact: Queen Victoria loved these palms and added them to all of her homes. Easy to care for, you only need to wipe her fronds clean from time to time, and be careful not to overwater – yellow leaves indicate too much water, brown tips signal not enough.
Also known as a fan palm, with larger, thicker, blunt tipped fronds, Rhapis excelsa is a great choice that’s easy to care for. She’s not too fussy about light or humidity and is great at removing airborne pollutants, according to that NASA study. As a tropical plant, she only needs moist soil – if in doubt, let the top soil dry out completely, so the roots don’t sit in a puddle.
Another palm plant that can grow up to seven feet in lower light levels is Chamaedorea seifrizii, although she will grow taller with more light. A native of Mexico and Central America, to maintain her lush dark green leaves, she needs a rich potting soil and water about once a week, until the soil is evenly moist. As with all palms, it’s really important not to overwater as their roots can rot if left in standing water.
The last of the best indoor plants for allergies, and ideal for hanging baskets, Nephrolepis Exaltata does well indoors in bright, indirect sunlight, but out of draughts. They do need watering regularly to keep the soil moist, and they’ll never say no to some extra humidity, so you can mist the leaves as well. By all means prune her when she starts to look scraggly (and give her a liquid feed) but otherwise try not to touch their fronds, they don’t like it, and it can turn them brown. However, although she’s a great air cleaning plant, ferns do produce spores, so if you’re already prone to breathing issues, maybe best to give ferns a miss. Click here to buy your own Boston Fern*
Do indoor plants cause allergies and if so, which are the worst indoor plants for allergies?
Playing Devil’s Advocate for the sake of completeness in this post, yes, unfortunately there are some house plants that cause allergies. These include orchids, marigolds, chrysanthemums, African violets (their fuzzy leaves trap dust and you can’t wipe it off), bonsai trees of the juniper or cedar variety, and fig trees. In fact, fig trees are some of the worst plants for allergies as fig tree leaves give off a sap that includes latex in its chemical makeup. So extremely bad news for latex allergy sufferers.
Which indoor plants are best for bedrooms?
Harking back to that NASA study again, and because I’m always happy to take sleeping tips from NASA, luckily you’ll be in safe hands (fronds? leaves?) with any of these air purifying plants that help with allergies. When you’re trying to improve your quality of sleep, clean, fresh air has to come at the top of the list, doesn’t it? And not only are these 15 plants purifying the air you breathe, they’re releasing oxygen too. Regular readers of my blog will know I’m a keen gardener, and in truth, I do prefer outdoor plants over house plants. But I think I could probably manage to keep a few of these allergy-busting indoor plants alive – after all, if my 11 year old can do it, there’s really no excuse for me!
Did you realise that indoor plants are good for allergies? Have you got any allergy-alleviating house plants in your home? If not, which of 15 best indoor plants for allergies would you choose, and which rooms would you have them in?
* This post features affiliate links but all opinions are my own (see my Disclaimer).