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By Faith Richardson

Indoor plants have been having a bit of a moment recently. You only need to scroll through Instagram to see them spilling from bookshelves, filling an empty corner and bringing some life to an otherwise minimal space. However, one of the many hidden benefits of indoor plants – apart from being visually appealing – is they can actually help purify the air in a room and detox your surroundings, something I think we can all agree we would benefit from at the moment.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s done wonders for your mental health, giving you a break from being inside your house without breaking lockdown. Pottering in the garden, planting flowers and enjoying the fresh air is something many of us have been taking advantage of on sunnier days. However, if you only have a yard or live in an apartment, your outdoor space is somewhat limited. Don’t despair though; NASA released the findings of its ‘Clean Air Study’, where they identified the best indoor plants that help to purify the air within your home – and they’re all surprisingly easy to get your hands on.

How to grow indoor plants

Before you rush to the shops and grab every indoor plant you can get your hands on, it’s important to remember that some are easier to grow than others. Each plant requires slightly different care, and what works for one might end up killing off another. Every plant should come with a little card which tells you how much sunlight they need, how often to water them, and when to feed them. If you’re already despairing at the thought of trying to keep something thriving when it can’t tell you what it wants (maybe like me, you never quite got the hang of a Tamagotchi in the 90s) don’t fret – some of these plants are super-easy to keep alive with minimal stress.

Easy to Grow Plants

If you’re not so much green-fingered as black thumbed, sticking with plants such as succulents and philodendrons is going to be your best bet, as they readily adapt to most environments and won’t immediately shrivel up and die if you miss a watering.

Boston Ferns

These are definitely up there in the easy to grow category. Often flourishing best in bathrooms, the Boston Fern also helps cleanse your air of xylene and formaldehyde so you can rest safe in the knowledge that every time you have a relaxing bath, you’re breathing in some extra-clean air, too.

Keep them out of direct sunlight and preferably in a room with high humidity, like your bathroom or shower room so you have to do minimal upkeep to keep them alive.

Aloe Vera

Proven by NASA to remove benzenes and formaldehyde in the air, aloe vera is also known as one of the easiest indoor plants to grow. Apart from cleansing your air, aloe vera can be used to treat burns when applied directly from a cutting, or used in cooking to improve digestive health.

As it’s a succulent, it thrives best in drier conditions, so if you’re notorious for forgetting to water your plants, aloe vera is going to be your new best friend. Keep it in a sunny spot, like a kitchen windowsill or on your desk, and leave the soil to dry out in between watering’s to prevent the roots from rotting.

Monstera Plant

This Instagram classic is, you’ll be pleased to hear, surprisingly easy to keep alive. Also known as the split-leaf philodendron, it’s one of the most successful plants at purifying your air, and due to its large leaf size, you only need a couple spaced throughout your home to keep your home free of toxins. You can even grow new ones from cuttings, so once you’ve grown one, you’ll never be short of monsteras again. Be wary though – the leaves can be toxic to animals and small children, so make sure they’re kept out of reach of curious mouths.

They thrive best in high humidity and indirect sunlight, so your monstera would do best in a bathroom or kitchen environment. However, you can have them anywhere in your home, and instead, simply take them to the bathroom once in a while for some much-needed humidity. They only need watering when the top 1/3 of their soil feels dry, too, so you don’t need to be hyper-vigilant with the watering can.

Unusual Plants

If you’ve successfully been keeping your succulents alive and feel ready to brave something more advanced, these are some truly unique and unusual plants for you to try your hand at.

Weeping Fig

Still scoring relatively high on the hard-to-kill-off chart, a weeping fig is a wonderful house plant. It looks exotic and unusual, whilst simultaneously eradicating airborne toxins like xylene and toluene which tend to be left behind from carpet and furniture cleaners, making this the ideal plant to keep in a living room or bedroom.

They do best out of direct sunlight and can grow up to 6ft tall indoors. They require a more consistent watering schedule that leaves the soil moist at all times – but don’t let them sit in water or they may develop root rot. Occasionally spray the leaves with water too to replicate their humid native climate.

Broadleaf Lady Palm

If you’re looking for a plant that makes a statement, the broadleaf lady palm is the indoor plant for you. They can grow up to 1.8m tall, making a great statement piece to fill an empty corner. Aside from looking impressive, they’re also capable of purifying the air of everything from ammonia to formaldehyde.

They do best in indirect sunlight, so they can be placed in almost any room of the house, but do require regular watering to keep their soil moist.

Broadleaf Lady Palm – £122.95

Yes, very expensive for a house plant. No, we don’t know why. We researched to find the cheapest and this is it! If you can find a cheaper version, please let us know. 

Peace Lily

Aside from their ability to detoxify your air, peace lilies are also amazing at soaking up mould spores. They even soak up their water and re-release it back into their environment, making them ideal if you find the air in your home is often dry.

To encourage them to flower, try to keep them in a room that gets morning light but not evening – if you have a room that is East facing, for example, these will thrive in it. Another plant that requires moisture to grow, try to maintain consistently damp soil, and mist the leaves occasionally to encourage healthy growth.

For the Kids

If you’re looking for something to help keep the kids busy, growing plants is a great project to teach them responsibility and give them something that’s theirs to take care of. These plants are easy to care for and grow quickly to help encourage them.

Venus Fly Traps

These are always a bit hit with children and can be used to help teach them about any number of things to do with wildlife, insects and nature. The only plant on our list not on NASA’s air purifying index, however, they do have the added bonus of keeping your home fly and spider free – what more could you ask for!

They tend to grow best when watered with filtered or bottled water, so if you have a fridge that filters your water, or some bottles of water spare, use these. They can be left outside on warm days to help keep them humid and provide insects for them, or in more humid rooms indoors.

Spider Plant

These are both incredibly easy to keep alive and help cleanse the air of carbon monoxide – truly the plant that does it all. They also grow relatively quickly and produce offshoots that can be transplanted into another pot, making them perfect for teaching your little ones how to pot their new mini spider plants.

These also thrive in humid areas, out of direct sunlight, so can be placed on a bathroom counter where it’s easy to clean up any over-enthusiastic watering or spilt soil. They do however cope well with bright rooms as long as they’re not directly in the sunlight, so can be placed on a child’s desk or bookshelf to make it feel like it’s their plant. The soil should be kept damp without being soggy – perfect for teaching consistency to your youngsters.

Gerbera Jamesonii

These are especially popular with children as they produce beautiful brightly coloured flowers in a range of colours, including orange, pink, purple and red. They’re very easy to keep alive and can flower at any time of the year with flowers lasting around six weeks, making them ideal for children to grow. These flowers are also excellent at purifying the air, so you can ensure your children’s rooms are just as clean as the rest of the house – well, the air is anyway.

These flourish with direct sunlight, so if you have a windowsill or desk below a window in your kids’ bedrooms, this would be an ideal place for them to grow. They require plenty of water, so you don’t need to worry about them being heavy-handed with the watering can.

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