Plants may have a negative effect on asthma due to allergy-triggering pollen, dust accumulation on leaves, and possible mold development in overwatered plants. However, some indoor plants, including peace lily and Devil’s ivy, are generally safer than others.

When different plants release pollen into the air, it may cause asthma symptoms. This can cause allergy symptoms to worsen or trigger an asthma attack.

People with asthma or allergies may be reluctant to bring plants into their homes. However, while some houseplants may trigger symptoms, others may help filter the air.

This article reviews potentially well-tolerated indoor and outdoor plants, plants to avoid, and other things that may be good or bad for asthma.

A peace lily is a flowering plant. It is a common name for various plants in the Spathiphyllum genus.

Peace lilies are commonly used as houseplants or for indoor use in general. Experts indicate that they may help to clear the air of toxins and chemicals, making them a potentially good addition to the home. However, it may not be likely that a person will have enough in their home to make a difference.

It is also important to note that peace lilies are extremely toxic to cats. A person should explore other options if they have a cat, or choose areas the cat will not have access to.

Dracaena, also known as false palms, is a tropical-looking plant with long stems and broad leaves. A popular example is the snake plant.

Experts note they may be helpful for the home environment, in part due to their low pollen output.

However, this plant is toxic to pets. A person should explore other options if they have a pet or ways for them to avoid contact with it.

Cacti, such as saguaro cactus, barrel cactus, and old lady cactus, are also not likely to release pollen into the air.

Pothos, more commonly known as Devil’s ivy, is a vining plant that will also not contribute to pollen levels in the home, which makes it a potentially good option for people with allergies and asthma.

Although it is toxic to pets, people may have to consider other options or plant placement in their home.

In the late 1980s, NASA conducted a study looking at how plants influence indoor air quality. Their study noted that some plants might help remove toxins and chemicals from the air.

This has led many people to believe that indoor plants can be an excellent way to improve indoor air quality. While some plants can be aesthetically pleasing, add some oxygen to the air, and not spread pollen, more recent evidence suggests a person likely does not have nearly enough indoor plants in their house actually to filter the air.

In a 2019 study, researchers noted that while indoor plants can help remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air in an enclosed chamber, a person would need around 10 plants per square foot to clean the air at home suitably.

Therefore, a person will not likely benefit from cleaner air by adding a plant or two to their home. They may want to consider air filtration systems or other methods to improve indoor air quality.

When making an outdoor garden or living space, people may want to avoid plants that can trigger their allergies or asthma. Some considerations when making an asthma-friendly outdoor space, a person may want to:

  • avoid grasses and rye grasses
  • discuss plant options with a local botanist or expert
  • avoid strong smelling plants
  • weed frequently
  • replace some or all of the lawn with nongrass features
  • avoid making a compost heap
  • garden in the morning and on low wind days
  • choose plants native to the area

A person should avoid bringing certain plants into their home. Some plants release pollen, while others can collect dust or cause mold to grow in their pots if overwatered.

Considerations for plant care in the home to keep them safe for asthma include:

  • cleaning dust off leaves with a damp cloth
  • avoid overwatering plants to prevent mold development
  • not bringing pollinating plants into the home, though ones that use insects as pollinators are better than wind-pollinators

Grasses, trees, and weeds often spread pollen through the wind. The pollen is lighter and more likely to become airborne, which means a person is more likely to breathe the pollen in.

A person can take steps to help improve their indoor environments for asthma. Some tips to help keep asthma symptoms from flaring include:

  • keeping heating and cooling systems clean and free of dust
  • avoiding smoking in the house
  • making sure wood-burning furnaces and fireplaces are well-ventilated and not leaking smoke into the house
  • using an air filter to help clean the air

Several things found around the home, office, school, or other indoor spaces may trigger or worsen asthma symptoms. Some common triggers include:

  • Dust and dust mites: These typically collect on flat surfaces throughout an indoor space; a person can clean them with a damp cloth for the best results.
  • Pollen: This may come in through the windows, doors, or on people’s clothing.
  • Pets: This may include pet fur, fluff, or dander.
  • Pollutants: These may include smoke, perfumes, air fresheners, and other chemicals that become airborne.

Read more about common asthma triggers.

Some plants are better than others for people with asthma due to the low likelihood of releasing pollen into the air.

A person should avoid using heavy pollen-generating plants in or near their home. If they do, they should avoid overwatering them and clean the dust with a damp towel.

People can also take other steps to improve indoor air quality. This can include avoiding smoking in the house, keeping the environment clean, and using an air filter to help clean the air.