The Best (and most beautiful) House Plants for Cleaner Air

Hey Guys– I’ve had some requests to do a post about house plants.

I did do one post a while back which you can see here.

Aside from that– I love house plants.
However, as a rule, they don’t love me.

Oh, on occasion the odd one survives. In fact, for years I had this scraggly topiary that I got somewhere.

And now, I have kept a little tree alive that I got from Trader Joes in December 2015. I took a photo of it, but my computer is not letting me add it even though I spent 30 minutes deleting stuff earlier. Well, it’s a little evergreen and it’s still alive. Or at least it’s making me think it’s alive.

I can assure you that it’s only a happy accident since the other 15 plants I bought that day were mostly dead within a few weeks. Only one small poinsettia hung on for nearly a year until it too succumbed to my obvious ineptitude with growing anything green. Except mold. I excel at growing mold. Thank God for Tilex. That stuff is amazing!

My next life-time I will be an opera singer (or a concert pianist) and a superb gardener.

But, house plants if done right can add a tremendous amount to the decor of a room.


A terrific article on One Kings Lane about house plants

And more inspiration from the incredibly talented Maura Endres.

Maura Endres dining room with orchid house plant and cut flowers

A wonderful vignette from her dining room. Oh, the colors! The flowers!

Maura Endres house plants in the potting shed

She has a real potting shed and bench and the whole shebang. I hope that doesn’t sound like some sort of urban snob. I admire this immensely!


And there’s a blue and white Chinoiserie cache pot. I hope that y’all are following M.O.Endres on instagram. These images are from her fabulous feed.


So, because I know what I like, but don’t know how to make it work, I did a lot of studying. :]

First of all… I often hear that there are house plants that purify the air.


Well, don’t ALL plants purify the air?


I do recall from 8th grade bio that plants create and give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide.

So, in typical laurel-fashion, I went interwebbing to find out more.

Well… I found a lot of info about which plants do clean the air (better than some others, I suppose) And then I came across another article that refutes the findings unless there’s a charcoal filter around. Well, something like that.

Fine. I confess. I didn’t read every. single. word. I mean, what difference does it make if it cleans the air or not if it’s going to be dead in two weeks?

But still, for the less plant challenged, I have come up with a list of some of my favorites.

In the end, I kept seeing mostly the same plants over and over and so I made a graphic for you to save as a reminder. I did eliminate plants that I can’t stand such as rubber plants. That is not an uplifting specimen, IMO.

12 beautiful house plants that help purify the air

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12

But did you know that many flowering house plants that also smell sweet do purify the air too?

And did you know that you can grow little citrus trees indoors? Oh, I am so, so tempted.


Wisteria hand painted blue and white Chinoiserie cache pot with a meyer's lemon tree indoor house plants

These are those delicious sweet and sour Meyer’s lemons.  And how delicious that is in the blue and white cache pot from Wisteria. (hang on, more fab containers coming up!) I would love to see a little orange tree in this container too.

Wisteria Blue and White Cachepot with a weeping fig - ficus tree

And here it is again with a lovely, classic Ficus or weeping fig tree. I believe that they are the same thing? But you horticulturists out there, please correct me if that is not true.


While we’re on blue and white Chinoiserie porcelains, I found some other images to share.


Alfresco Emporium

The Source Collection

How delightful is that!

Carolyne Roehm


You must check out her beyond amazing home. It’s in the link.

I’m fascinated by growing fruit indoors. Has anyone done that?

Ballard Designs

I love these olive trees and they really can grow real olives!

Apartment Therapy has a terrific article on it plus tips for growing olives.

And here’s another article on growing olive trees indoors.


My new favorite source for everything garden and other home accents is Terrain. I brought it up in last Sunday’s post. And if you need the perfect Mother’s Day Gift, they have an amazing selection. Here are some of my favorites.

And of course, no post about house plants would be complete without Loi Thai’s magnificent myrtle topiaries.


Loi is so cute and everything he touches is golden. Please check out his blog Tone on Tone if you don’t already know it. Swedish Antiques, gardens, flowers, houses… oh my…

More fabulous topiaries by Loi Thai

Carolyne Roehm

Love the fern for the centerpiece. Everything she does is quite extraordinary!

15 planters for indoor plants

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15


And for more garden essentials, planters and inspiration, click here.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your thoughts and experience with indoor gardening.


47 Responses

  1. The fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is another tree-like plant that takes well to being indoors, though they’re even happier spending the summer outdoors. You see them (over)used a lot in modern designs, but they provide a bold accent in a traditional design as well.

  2. Laurel, I wanted to share with you my very favorite house plant. Years ago I went into my favorite antique store in Centennial, called Patina and they had this fantastic antique purple transferware gravy boat with a jade plant in it. I bought it, took it home and lovingly watered it for weeks. It didn’t die, which was highly unusual for me as plants always die… well you guessed it… the plant was fake. Hahahahahaha – Laura

    1. Oh my, I needed that laugh Laura! Too, too funny. And it definitely sounds like something I would do too. What’s also funny is that living jade plants inherently look fake. I bet that the fake one looked more real than the real ones!

  3. Hi Laurel, it’s hard to believe you could write another post so soon after the bedroom marathon, which I missed that week & just now attempted to read all the comments, but got worn out! I don’t know how you answered all of those, let alone read them!
    Just 1 more: I just had our master bath re- painted a creamy white ( BM linen), as trim in our place is all that white. Only this time I used Pearl finish. Wow. What a world of difference. Trim is now same color, but semi-gloss. Nothing vanilla about it. It came alive & it is a beautiful thing to behold. The finish made a world of difference.
    Sorry for this out of sequence comment.
    All the best to you, Laurel!

    1. Hi Paula,

      Well… I am very grateful for so much support. And what you saw isn’t everything because I always get a fair number of comments on other posts and then some people email me. But, admittedly, this one did poop me out.

      Great about your bathroom. It sounds lovely!

      1. I only said that ( about the paint) b/c of all the anxst about your bedroom color…. the rest of the issues are too complicated for me, but those things might dictate your color choice. I just wanted to share how the soft, slight sheen of a subtle color made a tremendous difference in the emotional appeal of the surface. It had been a room of too many, conflicting, contrasts. Now it’s an Ahhhh…..
        And maybe, just maybe, you need the room where you actually live to be a soothing background for your work, no?

        1. This occurs to me. Probably stupid, but….
          Is there any chance of putting some sort of drawers in your closet for your folded things, and eliminating all dressers from the room….. adding a sumptuous chair to work/ read/ do laptop. And a small desk thingy with closable storage? ( I keep my projects in an armoire.)

        2. Hi Paula,

          No, not stupid at all, but actually something I’ve considered. The closets suck. The one outside the bedroom is way too deep and the one in the bedroom is too deep from side to side making it difficult to access things.

          In other words, the entire thing should be redone, but that is unlikely to happen.

  4. You missed the ultimate plant for the inept, the peace lily.
    It’s attractive and symmetric and flowers regularly with a nice fragrance.
    It tolerates a wide range of light conditions including some pretty dark rooms.
    Best of all, it has it’s own watering indicator… you can basically wait until it starts visibly wilting, and then water it. Overwatering is one of the big causes of plant deaths.

    The other one that’s very tolerant is spider plant. Don’t wait for the obvious wilting but you can err on the side of underwatering without causing issues.

    Last but not least… don’t keep plants in an open draft, and don’t water with super cold or super hot water. You wouldn’t like that and neither do they 🙂

    1. Hey anon. Not a fan of Peace Lilies. They smack of corporate office/dentist office.

      And I actually LOVE a super steaming hot shower! When I come out, I’m all shiny and red. I wouldn’t subject my plants to that, however. Common sense. :]

  5. Hi Laurel…this post cracked me up as I too am a killer of plants. I’ve tried and tried to get a tree to grow inside because they look so pretty in the living room. But, after it struggled to survive I gave up and bought an artificial tree, and it’s doing so much better I must say. Thanks for cheering my up today!

    1. Hi Carol,

      Artificial is fine by me. Some of the artificial ones look more real than the real ones! I’ve touched real flowers before, after being certain that they are fake!

  6. A fine, change-of-pace piece, Laurel. Thank you for declaring a rubber plant “not uplifting”!! I love that categorization, and no plant deserves it more. Alexander Pope said poetry was what “oft was thought, but n’er so well expressed.” You’re a poet, lady.

  7. I am a horticularist of many years. I have grown many types of plants under many types of conditions. I was even a qualified plant judge for a while. Unfortunately, 99.9% of people cannot grow fruiting trees in an apartment. Our homes are too warm, too dry and too dark. I know, I have tried multiple times. I now have a camellia going but it is a challenge. If your houseplants are dying, it is because you are buying unsuitable plants for your conditions. I enjoy your column. I live in NYC and am happy to help with your plants if you like (gratis of course). Hope this is helpful.

  8. Hi Laurel,

    Love your blog!! Most of the plants in your graphic are not easy to grow indoors, except the fern. Most of us have houses that are too dry with too much heat. I do have a green thumb and have found that inattention is the best for house plants. If you have a plant that is not doing well move it to another location, usually it is a light issue, see if it responds after a week or so, if not try another location. Don’t over water!! or let them sit in water! There is a house plant out there for everybody.

  9. One time I rented part of a Colonial style house and my bathroom was on the 2nd floor above the front door with a lg. Palladian window. It was so beautiful and had great morning light for plants. I had a jasmine tree, a ficus tree, and a very large peace lily in front of the window and some other plants around the room.

    The colors were white (most of the bathroom & planters), green (plants & plush towels) and black (lg. wrought iron curtain rod with finials & accessories, window & shower curtains). The window drapery was a heavy black Waverly fabric with large white magnolias. When it was closed, it looked & glowed like stainglass when the sun shone on it. It was the most strikingly beautiful room I have ever had & the plants grew great with the humidity & light.

    Then the owners got divorced, lost the house in foreclosure, & I had to move out. I cried over that house more than they did.

  10. I love Maiden Hair Ferns if you can even find them. They don’t last but a few months for me. But its worth it even as a short lived plant to have it in my kitchen on the counter.

    1. These are very happy–and look quaint to boot–underneath a cloche, at least while the heater is on. They require a great deal of humidity and can’t be left to dry out. The cloche essentially acts as a mini greenhouse.

  11. Love all the pots here, there are some real beauties. Alas, I’m completely hopeless with indoor plants. A friend recently told me I should try a bamboo plant because they’re so incredibly hardy. I might just give it a try!

    1. Hi Maggie,

      If you do, please let us know how it goes! I tried to put in mostly plants that are easy to maintain. (they say). But not sure about the fruit trees. I just think that they are so cool!

  12. I have house plants mostly in the winter. Spring time I take them out. I live in northwest Florida so most tropicals do OK outside even in winter. We grow Myer Lemons outside and they are a treat. I do bring in plants to filly corners etc but be sure to hose them off first. Always feel something living – besides me – in a room is nice.

  13. Good Morning- These photos and your entertaining prose brightened up a The gloomy morning. I may proudly say that I have a green thumb for which I can take no credit- it just is. I have 2 enormous plants that are 35 years old, orchids that have produced 40 blossoms and currently, an orange tree on its third crop with 3 huge oranges finishing up! But your interiors are miles ahead of mine. Happy Spring

    1. Hi Merridy,

      Wow! I’m so impressed! My mom too had a green thumb and had plants decades old. She’s still with us but her dementia and frailty put her in assisted living and maybe she has a few of the plants but most were given away.

      For the first 55 years of her life, her name was Blossom, but she never liked it and changed it to Lee.

  14. I love plants! I’m known amongst friends and family as a plant hoarder! Lol. I have more than 30 but less than 40 so that’s ok, right? Most of my plants like the same light so as much as I would like to have them arranged all over my home, it’s not reality. I do have some good fake ones in areas most plants would struggle and since I have so many real ones I’m hoping I’m fooling some! ; )

    I’ve learned that good drainage is important, the right lighting and some fertilizer. Most people kill their plants by overwatering. I check on my plants twice a week to see how they are doing so I’m aware if I need to make changes. My most rewarding plant is my fiddle leaf fig. It’s grown five leaves in less than 2 months! It looks happy too. I used a self watering container for it. I’ve never read anyone doing that and I wasn’t sure it would work but mine likes it. My most demanding plant is my Fern. Succulents are so cute and easy if you have good light. I use fertilizer sticks and most plant gurus would have a heart attack but they work for me.

    I clicked on one of the pots and it was 400.00 of pure beauty that I cannot afford! Lol. Thanks always for the beautiful posts!

    1. Hi Ann,

      I think whatever you have to do to make the plants thrive is okay by me. One trick I read about that works is if you’re gone for a while, you can bundle up the plants and loosely lay plastic over them and they’ll be fine for several days. It makes a little mini green house.

      That never caused any of them to die. And really it was only the two last year. The surviving little evergreen and the frail poinsettia (may she rest in peace).

  15. Hi Laurel,
    My mother was quite ill in 1992, shortly before she died she told me she had a favor to ask. I had 100 things in my mind that she could be coming…Never did I think she would ask me to take care of her miniature spathiphillum in a blue and white cache pot. Phew…Of course, I would have done anything, but that was an easy promise. 25 years later it is still healthy with a big white flower on it right now. Your post brought back a sweet memory. XO

    1. Wow Nancy! That is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever heard. Of course you took care of the plant! But that it’s still living and blooming!

      THAT white flower is your mother!!! Oh man, I’m crying now…

  16. Such an inspiring post. I am definitely the grim reaper of plants but am thinking of trying the Meyer lemons. They look so fresh and pretty with their natural pops of yellow …which I will never see happen in my house

    (…unless they comes from the dogs…ew).

  17. OMG on the ants Rachel! Yuk! I have an outdoor green thumb, but I grew up in a house full of spider plants in macrame hangers with orange wooden beads so I became averse to indoor greenery. I do have one indoor plant, however. I had the loveliest tenant in my condo. Fresh out of high school – one of those wiz kids, little league hockey coach, champion wake boarder and blazing a trail through university. You know the sort. When he moved out, he gave me a gorgeous little orchid. It proceeded to lose its blossoms and go dormant. It sat there with 2 leaves for 2 years. Then I had a rat infestation and they chewed the leaves – both of them. Still, it sat there because I was too busy (lazy) to throw it out. Then I read that orchids like a west-facing window. I moved it and lo and behold, it’s been blooming ever since. Now I just need it to grow new leaves so I can pinch off the rat-chewed ones. They ate my books too. EEEWWWWW!

    1. Good God Guys! Armies of ants and rats. In the fall, I get these ginormous water bugs. I mean, they are HUGE! Well, lo and behold, I was chatting with a neighbor who had taken a pic of one of hers with her phone. (I did the same but can’t bear to look at it) It is the BIGGEST BUG you’ve ever seen– like from a sci fi movie.

      Well, my lovely neighbor told me that she had just heard that in October to put a little bleach down the kitchen drain. I’m definitely going to be doing that!

      Great about the orchid! What a dear plant to have hung on like that!

  18. Laurel, plant #5, the Majesty Palm (aka Ravenea palm), in your list of 12 Beautiful House Plants is probably not the best choice for indoor growing because it can be a challenge even for more experienced indoor gardeners, and it gets buggy (spider mites, scale) pretty easily.

    Far easier and with better chance of success/survival is the Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans), which you can also find at big box stores and Ikea.

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Aha! I knew it was not a good idea to put the names on the graphic. I’m going to go in and change it to the Parlor Palm. Obviously, you are an expert. Wow! I’m impressed! Thanks for saving me!

  19. Okay, so I have to share my indoor houseplant horror story.

    Years ago, we lived in a chic little loft in California. It had lots of cool features including this amazing corner shelf over the fireplace. I put an enormous framed painting up there and surrounded it with houseplants. Looked fab.

    About a year later… we have an ant problem. At first it was just a few here and there. Whatever. And then they started getting more numerous. And then I’d fine ant trails in my chic little loft. And I could not figure out where they were coming from. You’d think I would have looked right at those plants but I didn’t.

    Well we came home from a few days away to find literally thick streams of ants roving across the concrete floor, along the walls, on the counters. This time, I noticed one stream headed up the wall and in the direction of the collection of houseplants (in large and very heavy containers, might I add.)

    We somehow got one down on the floor, I pushed back the leaves and thought, ‘wow, that’s kind of a lot of ants.’ I then decided that I didn’t want houseplants any more and proceeded to rip out the plants (because I’d paid good money for those containers!)


    As I dug down into that soil to remove the plants, I found millions and millions millions of ants. I swear it was like there were more ants than potting soil. It was frightening. They were angry at this point and crawling all over everything at this point. Including me.

    We vacuumed furiously, dragged all the pots out to the street corner with a FREE sign.

    I shudder still when I think of it.

    Sorry so long. Houseplants are lovely, but not for me.

    1. Oh my Lord! That is too gross for words. They do make lovely silk plants. Some of them are so good, like when they make some of the blooms look like they are just about to expire. I don’t supposed the ants would be interested in them.

  20. Good Evening, Laurel.
    What a beautiful post. I love all of the pretty cachepots you featured…such a treat.
    I look forward to receiving your blog posts in my inbox and have such a great little break from my workday when I read them.
    Thank you for putting such prettiness out into the world….

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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