Researchers reveal the best living wall plants to reduce air pollution

A study has named three plants the most effective to use on a living wall to clean up the air in your home and yard

Green wall research at University of Surrey
(Image credit: Mamatha Tomson/University of Surrey.)

Lavender, marjoram and ivy have been revealed as the best air-cleaning plants to include on a living wall, according to a new study by the University of Surrey in the UK. 

Researchers planted 10 different species on a 1.4 meter-high green wall beside a busy road to see which were most effective in capturing pollutants from the air. Plants help reduce pollution by catching particles on their leaves before rainfall safely washes them down to the ground. By using a mixture of species, the researches were able to see which leaf shapes and plant properties were most effective. 

The study found that out of the 10 plant species tested, lavender, marjoram and ivy captured and washed away the most pollutants from the air.

Best living wall plants for cleaning the air

Ivy trailing down shelf

(Image credit: Kseniya Ovchinnikova via Getty Images)

It's no surprise to plant experts that these three plants, which are often grown by home gardeners both indoors and outdoors, were the most effective at capturing pollutants.

'Ivy and marjoram are known for their air-purifying qualities, making them beneficial additions to indoor spaces,' says Autumn Hilliard-Knapp, houseplant expert from Perfect Plants.

In particular, ivies have been found filter out airborne toxins. 'This includes formaldehyde, mold spores and allergens,' says Autumn.

Julie Bawden Davis, plant expert at Healthy Houseplants, notes there is another way these plants help reduce pollution. 

'They absorb pollutants into their foliage and those pollutants make their way to the plant roots where they are transformed into useable food for the plants,' she says. 'Ivy is especially good at purifying air, although marjoram also does a good job,' she adds.

A modular living wall system planted with herbs

(Image credit: Future)

Other plants used in the study included aromatic herbs like Breckland thyme and sage. Having a range of leaf shapes and textures has proven to be the best way to create a living wall for air purification.

'We think a good mixture of species will produce the most effective green walls,' says Mamatha Tomson, postgraduate researcher at the University of Surrey.

This news comes after another recent study from the University of Surrey which revealed yew (Taxus baccata) to be the best tree for reducing air pollution.

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp
Autumn Hilliard-Knapp

Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.

Julie Bawden-Davis of Healthy Houseplants
Julie Bawden Davis

Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden author and University of California Certified Master Gardener, who has written several gardening books, including Indoor Gardening The Organic Way. In addition to running, she shares indoor gardening advice on her YouTube channel @HealthyHouseplants.

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Tenielle Jordison
News Writer (Gardens)

Tenielle is a News Writer in the Gardens team at Homes & Gardens with five years of journalistic experience. She studied BA Journalism, Media and English Literature and MA Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Before coming to Homes & Gardens, Tenielle was in the editorial department at the Royal Horticultural Society and worked on The Garden magazine. She is passionate about sustainable living and the role gardening has to play in tackling the effects of climate change. Tenielle is also a houseplant lover who is slowly running out of room for her ever-growing collection. She has experience successfully propagating indoor plants and overcoming common houseplant problems.