12 Houseplants to Refresh Dry Indoor Air
By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst
Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.
Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.
Yep, the right amount of humidity in the air can:
- relieve dry skin and lips
- prevent dry throat
- soothe dry sinuses and nasal irritation
- prevent nosebleeds
- reduce the likelihood of infections and allergies
Plants increase humidity in the air through a process called evapotranspiration.
Water from the soil makes its way up through the roots of the plant, through the stems, and up to the leaves (transpiration), where it's evaporated into the air through pores on the leaves, called stomata.
Ready to work on your green thumb? We'll cover which plants to get and which ones to avoid, and even throw in a few pro tips to help you make the most of your plants.
Spider plants are one of the best plants you can buy for increasing indoor humidity, according to research from 2015.
Even NASA agrees. It did a study in the '80s that found spider plants are able to remove toxins like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from indoor air.
Perhaps the coolest part of all? They're super easy to grow.
Their stems grow long. A hanging container is best so the plant has room to cascade.
Spider plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight, so try to keep them near a window that gets a lot of natural light. Aim to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
Research shows that a jade plant can increase the relative humidity in a room. Most of its evapotranspiration happens in the dark, making it a good option for increasing humidity during darker months of the year.
To help keep a jade plant thriving, keep it in a bright spot, like near a south-facing window. As for watering, how much you give it depends on the time of the year.
The spring and summer is its active growing time, so you'll want to water it deeply, and wait till the soil is almost dry to water it again.
In the fall and winter, growing slows or stops, so you can let the soil dry completely before watering again.
Palms tend to be great for adding humidity, and the areca palm — also called the butterfly or yellow palm — is no exception.
They're relatively low maintenance, but they do require lots of sun and moist soil. Keep them near a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Water them enough to keep their soil moist, especially in the spring and summer.
They can grow up to 6 or 7 feet tall and don't like crowded roots, so you'll need to repot it every couple of years as it grows.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is easy to care for and gives you a lot of bang for your buck because it grows like crazy.
It's also been shown to have one of the highest transpiration rates. This makes it a good option for increasing relative humidity AND removing carbon monoxide from indoor air.
A hanging basket is best for this small-leafed ivy. It'll grow as long and lush as you let it. To keep it controlled, just prune to the size you want.
English ivy likes bright light and soil that's slightly dry. Check the soil to make sure it's almost dry before watering again.
The lady palm is a dense plant that's low maintenance when it comes to sunlight and water needs.
It does best in bright light, but is adaptable enough to grow in low-light spots, too, though at a slightly slower pace.
Lady palms like to be watered thoroughly once the surface is dry to the touch, so always check the soil before watering.
The rubber plant isn't as finicky as other indoor tropical plants, making it really easy to care for. Rubber plants also have a high transpiration rate and are great for helping clean indoor air.
Rubber plants like partial sun to partial shade. They can handle cooler temps and drier soil (perfect for people who tend to kill every plant they bring into the home).
Let the soil dry before watering again. In the fall and winter months, you'll be able to cut watering in half.
The Boston fern has air-purifying properties that add moisture and remove toxins from indoor air. Did we mention they're lush and gorgeous, too?
To keep a Boston fern healthy and happy, water it often enough so the soil is always moist, and make sure it gets a lot of indirect sunlight by placing it in a bright part of the room.
Occasionally misting the fern's leaves with a spray bottle of water can help keep it perky when you have the heat blasting or fireplace going.
Peace lilies are tropical evergreens that produce a white flower in the summer. They usually grow up to around 16 inches tall, but can grow longer in the right conditions.
A peace lily feels most at home in a room that's warm and gets a lot of sunlight. It takes its soil moist.
No need to stress if you forget to water it on occasion. It'll handle that better than being overwatered.
If you have cats, you'll want to keep this plant out of reach or avoid it. Lilies are toxic to our feline friends.
Golden pothos is also called devil's ivy and devil's vine because it's pretty much impossible to kill. You can forget to water it and even forget to give it light for long periods, and it'll still be green whenever you finally remember.
That said, it thrives in brighter spaces and does like some water. Let it dry out between watering.
Its trailing stems grow as long as you want it to, so it's perfect for hanging planters or setting on a higher shelf.
The higher the better if you have pets, though, since some of its compounds are toxic to dogs and cats… and horses, if you happen to live in a big apartment with really relaxed pet rules.
Dwarf Date Palm
Dwarf date palms are also called pygmy date palms. They're perfect as far as plants go. They're basically mini versions of the palm trees you see on tropical postcards.
They can help keep a room's air clean and increase humidity, and are super easy to maintain.
They can grow to be anywhere from 6 to 12 feet tall with bright, indirect sunlight and moist — not soaking wet — soil.
They also prefer a slightly toasty environment, so avoid placing them near a drafty window or source of cold.
The corn plant won't give you an endless supply of corn — just leaves that look like corn leaves and the occasional bloom if you treat it nice. It also helps humidify indoor air and remove toxic vapors.
Maintenance is easy. Let the top inch or so of soil dry before watering, and keep in a well-lit room where it can get a good amount of indirect sunlight.
This is another high-transpiration palm that doesn't take any real skill to grow. You're welcome.
Parlor palms like partial sun, but can manage in full shade, too, as long as you keep the soil consistently moist with a couple of waterings per week.
To help it grow, make sure it's got enough space in the pot by sizing up every year or two, or whenever it starts to look crowded.
Plants to Avoid
Plants are generally good for your environment, but some do have the opposite effect when it comes to humidity.
These plants tend to draw moisture in instead of letting it out. This doesn't happen instantly, and a couple of plants won't have enough of an effect to really zap the moisture out of your home.
Still, if you're looking for maximum moisture, you may want to limit these.
Plants that fall into this category are those that require very little water to survive. Think plants that you find in dry climates, like the desert.
These include plants like:
- aloe vera
- euphorbia, also called "spurge"
If you really want to take advantage of all the moisture and purification these plants offer, here are some tips to consider:
- Size matters. Plants with bigger leaves typically have a higher transpiration rate, so go bigger to humidify and purify a room.
- The more the merrier. Have at least two good-sized plants per 100 square feet of space — more is even better.
- Keep 'em close. Group your plants closer together to increase the humidity in the air and help your plants thrive, too.
- Add pebbles. If you're dealing with dry indoor air, put your plants on a pebble tray with water to create more humidity for your plants and your room.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking to combat dry air in your home and have some space, consider stocking up on some houseplants. Just keep in mind that this is one area where less definitely isn't more.
For a noticeable impact on the air in your home, try to have at least several plants in each room. If you only have room for a few plants, try to go for larger ones with big leaves.
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