12 Great Houseplants for the Kitchen

terracotta planter of thyme on kitchen sink

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

What makes a houseplant good for the kitchen could be its ability to clean the air—prone, in cooking environments, to becoming smoky or smelly—its burn-healing properties (ehem, aloe vera), or its function as an ingredient itself. Now, to survive such an unforgiving space, with its fluctuating temperatures, occasional fumes, and, in some cases, little natural light, vegetation must also be exceedingly hardy and resilient to thrive.

From edible flowers to herbs and natural air purifiers, here are 12 houseplants fit for the kitchen.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
of 12

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

golden pothos cutting in glass jar in the kitchen

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

This common vine, also called devil’s ivy or the money plant, has been touted for its air purification qualities since NASA's famous 1989 Clean Air Study verified its benzene-, formaldehyde-, trichloroethylene-, xylene-, and toluene-removing powers. A more recent study has found that one would need a high concentration of houseplants—10 to 1,000 per square meter—to really affect air quality, but one golden pothos may at least slightly thwart harmful fumes emitted from gas cooking and cleaning products.

Better yet, the vine is extremely forgiving in terms of care. It thrives in a range of conditions, from direct sun to low light, in soil or a jar of water.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Bright indirect light to low light.
  • Water: When the top half of the soil is dry, every one to two weeks.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil or plain water.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
2
of 12

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller)

aloe vera plant in kitchen on butcher block

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Also known as the burn plant, lily of the desert, elephant’s gall, and the “plant of immortality,” aloe vera is perfect for the kitchen because its gel provides proven quick relief for minor burns. According to the NASA study, it also helps remove benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Like most other succulents, aloe vera is super hardy and easy to care for.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Bright, indirect.
  • Water: Sparingly, once every week or two.
  • Soil: Well-draining, sandy.
  • Pet Safety: Mildly toxic to dogs and cats.
3
of 12

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)

Person reaching for cast iron plant in terracotta pot

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Apart from its very cooking-centric name, the cast iron plant (aka bar room plant) is fit for the kitchen because it's durable, able to endure a variety of extremes, and hard to kill. It was, in fact, one of the only houseplants that could survive in Victorian-era homes after gas lighting was introduced in the late 19th century.

This member of the lily family is a native of China and will reach a height of about two feet, so it's best for those blessed with spacious kitchens only.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Dim and low.
  • Water: Once weekly or when the top inch of soil is dry.
  • Soil: Average, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.
4
of 12

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)

Person holding nasturtium flowers clipped from plant
Westend61 / Getty Images

Consider nasturtium your new favorite dinner party trick: Simply pluck a few of its brightly colored blooms, throw them into a salad, and commence the oohing and ahhing. This herbaceous flowering plant is a popular garden companion, but will also thrive in a pot in the window of your kitchen given the proper care. The edible flowers are vibrant and peppery. Its leaves, too, can be thrown into a salad, and even the seed pods can be pickled for "poor man's capers."

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Full sun.
  • Water: Once or twice weekly, when the top inch of soil begins to dry.
  • Soil: Moist, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.
5
of 12

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

rosemary and other plants in kitchen near city window

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Herbs are an obvious choice for kitchen greenery. Rosemary, specifically, is not only beautiful and fragrant, but also delicious in a variety of dishes—from roast potatoes to stews to pasta dishes. Growing rosemary at home is more economical and less wasteful than buying entire cut bunches from the market. Like nasturtium, rosemary produces tiny purple flowers that are also delicious.

The downside? Rosemary can be a little tricky to grow inside. It tends to have a large, deep root system, so containing it in a small pot can cause it to dry out quickly. If you're not up for the challenge, consider delicious thyme or oregano instead.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Full sun.
  • Water: Every one to two weeks.
  • Soil: Light, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.
6
of 12

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy plant next to kitchen mitt and hot plate

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

English ivy is another plant that performed well in NASA's Clean Air Study, as it warded off contaminating benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene. Its glossy green, umbrella-shaped foliage is pretty to look at, and it's relatively easy to grow inside. English ivy looks especially nice in a hanging basket; this is also a good way to keep it away from cats and dogs, to whom it is toxic.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Medium to bright.
  • Water: Only when the top half inch of soil dries out.
  • Soil: Fertile, moist, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
7
of 12

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Cilantro in terracotta pot on windowsill

Robert Ingelhart / Getty Images

Cilantro is a great candidate for a windowsill pot or even a kitchen window box—that is, unless you're one of the 10% of people who can't stand the taste of it. Every part of the plant is edible: the leaves, the delicate white flowers (although once cilantro "bolts," the leaves lose much of their flavor), and the seeds (also known as coriander seeds). If you are of the cilantro-is-disgusting-and-tastes-like-soap persuasion, basil, mint, or parsley make great alternatives.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Full sun.
  • Water: Weekly.
  • Soil: Light, well-draining, moist.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.
8
of 12

Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae)

bromeliad plant next to oven range in kitchen

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

A 2016 study on plant purification conducted by students of The State University of New York Oswego and presented at the American Chemical Society's annual conference proved bromeliad to be a workhorse for removing six of the eight VOCs—volatile organic compounds—tested. The plant sucked up more than 80% of each over a 12-hour sampling period, making it the most effective VOC-scrubbing plant of the five tested (the jade plant, spider plant, Caribbean tree cactus, and dracaena were also included in the study).

Plus, their showy flower displays are great for adding a hint of the tropics to your kitchen. Note, however, that they only bloom once in the plant's lifetime. Any other time, the colorful and variegated foliage provides cheery decoration.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light:  Bright, indirect.
  • Water: Weekly.
  • Soil: Light, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.
9
of 12

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas)

ZZ plant on a sunshiny windowsill
aapsky / Getty Images

The ever-resilient ZZ plant belongs in the kitchen because it almost refuses to die. Its hardiness and ease of growing make it an ideal beginner's houseplant, requiring little water (due to the H2O-storing rhizomes from which it grows) and thriving even in the low-light corners of a kitchen.

This tropical flowering perennial, native to Africa, contains tall stems covered in waxy, oval-shaped leaves resembling feathers. When they begin to dull, remove dust with a damp washcloth.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Low to bright, indirect.
  • Water:  Only once dried out completely.
  • Soil:  Light, well-draining.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
10
of 12

Lavender (Lavandula)

Kitchen interior with lavender flower in front
Happycity21 / Getty Images

A more colorful herb choice, lavender is handy both for its practicality as a kitchen ingredient and its aesthetic value. The deep violet flowers atop its greenish-gray stems can be used in baking, savory dishes, teas, and lemonade. The plant belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae, and has a sweet, floral flavor.

Lavender should be grown in a well-lit kitchen only—preferably propped next to a south-facing window where it will get a few hours of direct sunlight daily.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Water:  Once or twice weekly.
  • Soil: Well-draining, sandy, loamy.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
11
of 12

Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

Snake plant with golden pothos in a bright window
Grumpy Cow Studios / Getty Images

A 2018 study on air-purifying plants called this evergreen perennial "one of the best houseplants for absorbing airborne toxins." Its swordlike leaves—often adorned with yellow edging—suck formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, benzene, xylene, trichloroethylene, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is especially helpful in the kitchen, where fumes are perhaps most present. Another upside of the beloved snake plant is that it's exceedingly low-maintenance, able to tolerate low light and mild droughts.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Partial shade to bright, indirect.
  • Water: Only when the soil is dry.
  • Soil: Well-draining, chunky.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to dogs and cats.
12
of 12

Air Plants (Tillandsia)

Two airplants with no pots in windowsill

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Air plants are perfect for small kitchens because they don't require pots and can be placed in the tiniest places. Use these soil-free evergreen perennials to add a pop of color to your spice rack, hang them from your window, style them as wall art, or string them under your cabinets. While they do require a well-lit space, they're incredibly low-maintenance and resilient. Simply soak them in water for a couple hours every two to three weeks.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Bright, indirect.
  • Water: Two-hour soak every two to three weeks.
  • Soil: None.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to dogs and cats.