Plants are a great addition to your home. Research has shown that they increase mood and productivity, but did you know that plants can do more than that? A famous NASA study has shown that certain plants have the ability to purify the air in our homes.
That’s all great, but which air-purifying plants are safe for your pets?
There is no clear answer since most toxic houseplants are toxic because of several toxins, not just one. However, there are some safe plants that will also purify the air. A few are palms (like the Areca or lady palm), a few are ferns (like the Boston or Kimberley Queen fern), and a few are flowering plants (like the Barberton daisy, or moth orchid).
Keep reading for the full list.
9 Air-Purifying Plants That Are Safe for Pets
You can use the following list of plants as a resource. This list is a compilation of the plants that have shown to be most potent at cleaning the air around them. The list has been verified for toxic and non-toxic information from known resources like ASPCA, PetMD, Pet Poison Helpline, and others.
The areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) is a good choice if you’re looking for a safe way to introduce palm plants into your home. While the areca palm doesn’t remove certain chemicals like benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, or ammonia, it does a great job of removing formaldehyde. In all fairness, it’s difficult to find a plant that can detoxify all those chemicals from the air anyway.
I wonder if the broadleaf lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) is even a plant, considering what a formaldehyde-removing machine it is. If you have a newly-built home that’s still giving off the gases from the building materials, or you have a lot of pressed wood in your home environment (like laminate or furniture), then this plant will be able to clean those chemicals.
In the now-famous NASA clean air study, the lead scientist has said that the lady palm not only removes the toxins from the air, it even improves the air to better than before levels.
Want to know what the other plant that the NASA scientist mentioned actually improves air over time? It was the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’). This plant is able to remove even more formaldehyde than the lady palm. In addition, it also removes xylene and toluene.
And if you hang this plant from the ceiling, your cats and dogs shouldn’t be able to get to it anyway (hopefully). The Boston fern is a very lush plant and can grow quite large and wide. It does require plenty of water to mimic its original humid habitat, so it isn’t for those who have little time to care for it.
The Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii), often called just the African daisy or Gerbera daisy, is a colorful flowering plant. The flowers are available in virtually any color, including yellow, pink, purple, orange, red, and white.
It’s hard to imagine that this playful, harmless plant is tough on the chemicals in the air. In fact, it ranked near the top of the list when tested for removing benzene and trichloroethylene from the air.
Benzene is commonly found where gases are found. You can put this plant near the entry of your home if you have an attached garage to absorb the fumes from your car exhaust, near a wood-burning fireplace, or near ashtrays if you or someone in your home smokes.
As unfortunate as its common name sounds, the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is perfectly safe for you and your pets. This plant is able to remove formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. NASA reported that this plant was able to remove 90% of formaldehyde in the surrounding air. Granted, those studies were performed in closed chambers, but the results are still impressive.
This plant is visually interesting with its light green and dark green variations in the long leaves. It also comes in two types of leaves – variegated and curly. Keep the plant watered, or else the leaves will start to brown and sag down.
Cats have a tendency to chew on spider plants. While not toxic to cats, you may wish to hang the plant instead of placing it on the surface just to keep it out of reach.
This grass-like plant is often seen outdoors and is often used by professional landscapers to add curb appeal. Actually, the lilyturf (Liriope spicata) isn’t a grass at all – it’s a lily. It works as an indoor houseplant as well, provided that it’s watered frequently.
The lilyturf does something that most of the plants on this list don’t do. It’s able to remove ammonia from the air. For more information on purifying ammonia from indoor air, read this post. Combine it with the other plants suggested here to create the most well-rounded air-purifying group of plants.
Kimberley Queen Fern
This plant (Nephrolepis obliterata) looks very similar to the Boston fern. The two plants are similar in their abilities to purify the air, with the Boston fern performing slightly better when it comes to removing formaldehyde. The Kimberley Queen fern tends to do better in dry air, while the Boston fern prefers slightly more humidity in the air.
When talking about the moth orchid, there is no single species that the NASA studies used. Instead, all the plants in this genus (Phalaenopsis) should be considered equally capable of purifying the air unless proven otherwise. The moth orchid has been shown to be capable of removing xylene and toluene from the air.
I particularly like moth orchids because they’re so modern and simplistic. And if you want them to even be more simple on the eye, just go for the ones with white flowers, planted in a plain white ceramic pot.
While this plant wasn’t part of the 1989 NASA study, it was tested in a more recent study. The spike moss was found to be among the best plants in a group of 86 when it comes to removing formaldehyde from the air. The good news is that plants belonging to this genus (Selaginella) are safe for cats and dogs, according to ASPCA.
Although this plant is known more in the Eastern hemisphere than in the West, the spike moss (Selaginella tamariscina) deserves attention. It’s a commonly used plant in Eastern folk medicine. Modern research is even showing this plant to have anti-cancer effects and anti-toxicity effects in the body, so the finding that it can remove formaldehyde from the air isn’t surprising at all.
14 Air-Purifying Plants to Avoid if You Have Pets
Now that you know what some of the safer air-purifying plants are, it’s a good idea to also avoid those that are highly toxic to your pets. Here’s a list of 5 plants that ought to make you think twice before you bring them into your home.
Aloe plants, in general, are toxic. Whether it’s the aloe vera or aloe barbadensis, you’d be wise to keep this plant away from your pets. Even though the gel inside the plant is known for its healing properties, it’s the sap around the gel that’s toxic.
If your cat or dog chews on an aloe, you may notice some odd symptoms. Aloe plants have chemicals in them that affect the digestive system, so your pet may start vomiting or having diarrhea. Some pets will also display tremors.
Dumb canes, or dieffenbachia plants, are beautiful with their two-colored, wide leaves. Sadly, there aren’t many dumb cane plants that aren’t toxic. This plant is notorious for its toxicity. That’s because it has calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves. If your pet chews on the leaves, it will cause a burning sensation and inflammatory reaction. The chemicals in this plant will start irritating the mouth, throat, and digestive lining of your pet. The inflammation may also cause swelling, so your pet may have difficulty breathing.
This warning applies to most dumb canes, but when it comes to commonly available air-purifying plants, you may come across the dieffenbachia “Exotica Compacta” or dieffenbachia camilla. Make sure to keep them out of reach so your cats and dogs don’t accidentally chew on the leaves.
These endearing plants are commonly gifted on mother’s day because of their cheerful daisy flowers. Sadly, these flowers aren’t so kind when it comes to cats and dogs. The mum goes by many common names, so make sure to look for the scientific name for the genus, which is Chrysanthemum.
If you manage to put the plant high up on a shelf and out of reach so your pets won’t be able to swallow it, look for the Chrysanthemum morifolium, or florist’s mum. It’s one of the best flowering plants when it comes to purifying the air in your home.
Otherwise, avoid it if you have pets. Chrysanthemums contain pyrethrins, the same chemicals used in insecticides and flea shampoos to kill bugs. Vets tell us that large dogs can live with these chemicals, but think again if you have a smaller dog or cat.
In the NASA studies, the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) removed the most amount of formaldehyde among all the plants tested. The difference was quite large – the bamboo palm removed two to three times as much formaldehyde compared to any other air-purifying houseplant on the list. It was also able to remove benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene from the air. Sounds like a great plant to keep in your home, but is it toxic to pets?
If you search through multiple sources, you’ll find mixed information on the bamboo palm. Some say it’s toxic, while others say it’s perfectly safe. That’s because the bamboo palm, for the most part, isn’t toxic, but the small berries that it produces are. These berries shouldn’t be touched with bare hands.
If you think you’re able to keep your pets away from the berries, the bamboo palm would be hard to pass up considering how many chemicals it’s able to remove. But if you think your pets will be able to nibble on the berries, it’s best to go for another palm like the lady palm or areca palm.
Dwarf Date Palm
The dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is able to remove formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from indoor air. When shopping, you may see it being referred to as a pygmy date palm as well sometimes.
The good news is that this plant is non-toxic and won’t try to grow past your 8-foot ceiling (it grows to about 5 feet tall). The bad news is that this plant has sharp spines at its base. So while it may not poison your cat or dog, it will cut them if they get close.
More Air-Purifying Plants to Keep Away From Your Cat or Dog
Sadly, the list of toxic plants is longer than the list of non-toxic plants. I’ll complete this post by sharing some more air-purifying plants that have been identified as toxic to pets.
- Devil’s ivy, or golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), along with any other pothos plant belonging to the Epipremnum genus.
- English ivy (Hedera helix), along with any other plant belonging to the Hedera genus.
- Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), rubber plants (Ficus elastica or Ficus robusta), Ficus “Alii” (Ficus macleilandii), along with any other plant belonging to the Ficus genus. A ficus is notorious for causing dermatitis in pets, so keep this plant away.
- Anthurium, or flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum).
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’), along with any other plant belonging to the Spathiphyllum genus.
- Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum), red emerald philodendron (Philodendron erubescens), lacy tree philodendron (Philodendron selloum), heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium or Philodendron cordatum), selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), along with any other plant belonging to the Philodendron genus.
- King of hearts (Homalomena wallisii), along with any other plant belonging to the Homalomena genus.
- Mother-in-law’s tongue, or snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), along with any other plant belonging to the Sansevieria genus.
- Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata), cornstalk dracaena or corn plant (Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’), Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”), warneckei (Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”), along with most other plants belonging to the Dracaena genus.