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Young boy with allergies sneezes and holds houseplant

Best and Worst Indoor Plants for Allergies

Indoor plants are commonly thought to improve air quality by bringing more oxygen into your home. It’s true that indoor plants provide benefits beyond being attractive, leafy décor, but not all houseplants are created equal—when it comes to improving indoor air quality that is. Some houseplants filter harmful toxins and pollutants out of the air (like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene) that come from everyday substances like certain detergents, wood products, and paints. On the other hand, certain indoor plants can make it more difficult to breathe—especially if you have pollen allergies or mold allergies.1 Here’s a look at some of the best and worst houseplants for allergy sufferers.

Best Plants For Air Quality Indoors

Do you have allergies? Getting an indoor plant may improve your ability to breathe by filtering the toxins in your home. Read more to find out which houseplants can benefit your indoor air quality.

Peace Lily

Scientifically known as Spathiphyllum, the Peace Lily is a popular perennial houseplant that looks beautiful while improving your air quality. The Peace Lily does best indoors and enjoys warm conditions.2 This plant cleans indoor air of environmental contaminants such as benzene and formaldehyde.1

Janet Craig

The Janet Craig plant is a type of corn plant and a slow-growing shrub that thrives in tropical climates.3 Its long green leaves can help clean your home of toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, as well as trichloroethylene.1

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

Also known as the snake plant, the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is one of the most durable indoor plants and improves indoor air quality. If you often struggle keeping houseplants alive, this easy-to-grow plant tolerates most light conditions.4 As an added bonus, this plant also works to freshen or purify the air.1,4

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese evergreen is a popular indoor plant to improve air quality because it adds visual interest to a room in low-light areas.5 The tough and versatile plant can filter your indoor air of benzene.1

Marginata

Sometimes referred to as the Dragon Tree, marginata is a tough and drought resistant houseplant.6 Marginata is especially good at removing formaldehyde, one of the most common toxins found in indoor air. It also has been found to remove xylene and tricholorethylene.1

Worst Plants For Allergies

Although some indoor plants can improve air quality at home, others should be avoided or limited if you have allergies. These plants can make it more challenging to breathe if you have certain allergies to pollen or mold.

Ferns

Ferns are commonly chosen as an indoor houseplant because they aren’t toxic, making them a good option for people with children and pets. However, people with allergies may have a bad reaction to ferns. Breathing in fern spores can aggravate allergies and cause sneezing and itchiness.7

Weeping Fig

Also known as ficus benjamina, the weeping fig is a relatively common indoor allergen.8 The weeping fig can exacerbate allergies and asthma.

Yucca

Some people who suffer from allergies or asthma may also be sensitive to yucca.9 Although this plant is attractive indoors, it’s best to avoid if you have allergies.

Ivy

While English ivy is not as dangerous as the similarly named poison ivy, it can still cause mild allergies and irritation.10

Palm Tree

Although palms are generally considered to be safe houseplants for people who have allergies, some palms produce large amounts of pollen and should be avoided.11

Sources:

  1.   Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930073077.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  2.   Spathiphyllum. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/spathiphyllum/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  3.   Dracaena fragrans. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/dracaena-fragrans/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  4.   A Houseplant Anyone Can Grow…Mother-In-Laws Tongue.
      https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/rhonda-ferrees-ilriverhort/2015-01-25-houseplant-anyone-can-  growmother-laws-tongue.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  5.   Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema). https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/houseplants/chinese-evergreen.html.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  6.   Dracaena marginate. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/dracaena-marginata/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  7.   Ferns and their allergenic importance. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2735563/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  8.   Ficus benjamina—the hidden allergen in the house. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9522185/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  9.   Allergic sensitization to ornamental plants in patients with allergic rhinitis and asthma. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24717779/.
      Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  10.    English Ivy. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/english-ivy/.
       Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  11.    Desert Plants Causing Havoc for Arizona Allergy Suffers. https://allergyarizona.net/desert-plants-causing-havoc-for-arizona-allergy-suffers/.
       Accessed 7/08/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.