Interior Design

For a Cleaner, Less Smelly Bathroom, Add Plants

June 21, 2016

When we think of houseplants, we generally think bedroom, living room, or kitchen. But there are some plants that crave—and even thrive in—bathrooms.

The right bathroom plants will reduce smells (a major plus), as well as absorb some of the excess moisture and dust. Plus, they create the impression of showering in a forest waterfall or bathing in a hidden pool.

To make a plant happy, you have to recreate its natural environment. Since bathrooms are frequently moist and wet, the best plants for the space are generally mist-lovers like ferns, mosses, air plants, bromeliads, and orchids.

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But the kind of plants that you can have in your bathroom will also depend on what kind of light your bathroom gets.

  • Full sun or north-facing windows:

If your bathroom gets full sun, or lots of indirect sunlight (north-facing), then we recommend hanging air plants and staghorn ferns. These guys love moisture and high light. If there are more than three people taking a shower per day in that bathroom (for example, roommates or a family of four), you may never even have to spritz your air plants (which is typically recommended for care). Staghorn ferns should be soaked once a week in warm filtered water.

Air plants don't need to be misted if they live in the bathroom. Photo by James Ransom, The Sill

Bromeliads and orchids will thrive in this situation as well, although most orchids must have direct sun for a good portion of the day. Soak orchids once a week in deionized, distilled, or filtered water and water bromeliads once a week.

  • Indirect light:

If your bathroom is like many city bathrooms and gets indirect light through a window facing another building, then a Boston fern will be a better pick, as will many other types of ferns. Mosses will also thrive in these high humidity conditions (and moss terrariums are an especially popular choice).


  • Boston fern
  • Bird's nest fern
  • Plumosa fern
  • Reindeer moss
  • Many other mosses
Aloe and a Boston fern (left) and a bird's nest fern (right).
  • No windows:

If your bathroom has no windows, sadly, you can't have a plant in there. You could try taking a fern into your bathroom while you shower so that it can absorb the mist, then placing it back by a window.

  • And for all tight-spaced bathrooms...

Hanging options are optimal. Bird's nest and staghorn ferns can be make into hanging plants wrapped in moss known as Kokedamas, and other types of ferns will be happy potted in a hanging planter or chilling out on a shelf.

Bird's Nest Fern Kokedama (left) and Staghorn Fern Kokedama (right).

Airplants can be hung up with string or placed in hanging terrariums, wall-mounted holder, or on shelves.

Got your plants picked out? Now give them a happy home!

What plants do you keep in your bathroom? Share with us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Laurette Giardino
    Laurette Giardino
  • HelloThereNicole
  • PHIL
  • The Sill team
    The Sill team
  • 702551
Houseplant Experts


Laurette G. December 30, 2019
Can you recommend plants that are pet safe and can be used in the bathroom?
The S. December 30, 2019
Hi Laurette! Most varieties of ferns and peperomia are considered non-toxic - and can thrive in the higher humidity a bathroom provides. We'd recommend trying out a pet-friendly bird's nest fern, ripple peperomia, and parlor palm in your home.
HelloThereNicole June 28, 2016
For those of us with no windows, I have kept unwatered pussywillows in my bathroom without sunlight and they still look as fresh as the day I bought them. I think the shower steam is keeping them fresh!
PHIL June 28, 2016
Get a pothos , they will grow very little light. the bathroom light or light from the adjacent room will work
PHIL June 21, 2016
how about the lowly pothos, so easy to grow and propagate, or a nice spath?
702551 June 21, 2016
Pothos is an excellent choice and one of the top ten plants for air filtering according to a NASA clean air study.

702551 June 21, 2016
Note that many of the plants on the NASA list are also good near/in the kitchen as they absorb chemicals that are more common in the kitchen from cleaners, etc. Plus, the kitchen frequently has sources of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

A little more info plus a handy table from the Wikipedia page: