If you’ve heard the hype on the media and about NASA studies, you may be wondering: do house plants give off oxygen?
The answer is actually yes. In fact, houseplants do use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. However, the amount of oxygen a room contains will depend a lot on the number of people and pets in the room.
Plants generally aren’t going to be a cure-all for poor quality air. Good ventilation is still a key factor in ensuring a good level of air-quality.
Houseplants Produce Oxygen (Most of the Time)
Still, besides being aesthetically pleasing, houseplants also improve the air-quality of the room somewhat.
Most plants actually switch things around and start using oxygen at night, however, so it’s unclear how much benefit you’re actually going to get from most plants if you’re purely getting them because they’re going to make air for you.
There are some exceptions, though.
One of the best plants for cleaning the air is the snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue. These plants have high leaf mass, and they can emit oxygen even at night. (This makes them somewhat unique among plants. It almost makes up for their unappealing shape.)
The variegated, silver and green version is my favorite, because frankly I find the yellow border snake plants have to be ugly.
If you’re looking for a plant with some culinary or medicinal uses, aloe is another plant that gives off oxygen at night. Another (without the extra uses) is the areca palm.
Houseplants Purify The Air (Somewhat)
In addition to producing oxygen, indoor plants improve the air quality of a room.
Specifically, the leaves also help to eliminate harmful chemicals in the air.
These plants absorb airborne pollutants, including benzene, toluene, and xylene, which come from paint, memory foam, and carpet.
The microorganisms that live in the soil around a houseplant’s roots also help in removing these pollutants from the air. Hence, a well-chosen plant is an excellent choice for improving the air quality in a home.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can stick a potted plant in a room after giving it a fresh coat of paint and expect not to fall over from the fumes, but it does help increase the air quality of the room they’re in by a bit under normal circumstances.
How Do Houseplants Produce Oxygen?
In order to survive, plants take in carbon dioxide and break it apart so that they can use the carbon to grow.
Photosynthesis helps plants get at the carbon and release oxygen as a byproduct. In turn, plants make glucose, a simple sugar, which contains six carbon atoms. The oxygen is then released into the atmosphere.
Most plants can produce oxygen during the day. However, plants that produce oxygen during the night are rare. Plants that can release oxygen at night (such as the snake plant) do not rely on the photosynthesis cycle to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
At night, they use an alternate process. This means that the amount of oxygen produced by a snake plant at night is still lower than what’s produced during the day.
How Much Oxygen Do Plants Produce?
The amount of oxygen plants produce is difficult to quantify because of the variety of factors that affect the process. (Especially since the process mostly relies on photosynthesis, which relies on the amount of light in the room.)
In general, an average plant (if there is such a thing) produces just shy of 1 liter of oxygen per day. But it’s still impossible to determine exactly how much oxygen an individual plant produces without having a chance to study that specific plant and the conditions it has.
To put that 1 liter estimate into context, though, an average person uses around 550 liters of oxygen per day. That means you’d basically need to turn your house into a jungle to produce all of your own oxygen inside of your house.
Still, a few plants will help improve the quality of the air in your house, so it doesn’t hurt to keep them anyway.
Do Houseplants Give Off Carbon Dioxide?
Houseplants do give off some carbon dioxide when they start metabolizing (eating) the glucose they store up during the day.
They use a lot more carbon than they give off, since they use carbon to make more plant matter, but they don’t use all of the carbon that they take in. This is why they will take in some oxygen and release some carbon dioxide at night.
I don’t think this is something that should really be worried about, however, as plants are a net benefit for the quality of your home’s air overall.
Houseplants do indeed give off oxygen. Most of them give off oxygen during the day while they’re photosynthesizing and end up taking a bit of oxygen at night.
They don’t give off a lot of oxygen compared to what the average human uses (you’d need like 600 average house plants to make up what an average human uses), but they do still improve the quality of air in the home.