Hey plant fans! I hope you are all doing great.
I was just sitting the other day caring for my Boston Fern, noticing how big and beautiful it grew.
Every time I see one of my plants growing, It’s like I have a tiny switch in my head that makes me automatically think “Imagine how much oxygen this baby gave me while getting this big”.
But if you are really curious about it, it’s really hard to get an answer to the question, how much oxygen does a plant produce?
The average indoor plant will produce 900 ml of oxygen/day or 27 litres of oxygen a month, if we say the average growing plant has 15 leaves and each leaf gives an average of 5ml oxygen/hour for 12 hours a day. It will take the average person around 3 minutes to consume that amount of oxygen.
There, that wasn’t that hard now was it? The truth is there are so many species of plants with different shapes and sizes that the answer to this question can get as complex as you want it to be.
Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis, so in order for a plant to give excess oxygen, the plant needs to be growing.
There are plants, even houseplants that store that energy from the sun and photosynthesis 24 hours a day. There are also plants that don’t use photosynthesis at all. Yep, there is such a thing and they are called parasitic plants, they feed on the energy taken from the host in order to survive.
Oxygen is tightly linked to photosynthesis, which on its own is tightly linked to sunlight.
If you are curious on this subject and want to read more about the relationship between plants and sunlight, check out this article. Here, I also talk about plants that feed on other plants and don’t give oxygen at all.
Have you ever thought, why are plants green?
Plants contain a molecule called chlorophyll, responsible for absorbing light.
Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light, and reflects green light back which is the exact reason why plants appear to be green, it’s because the molecule that they use to absorb light reflects the color green. This light absorption process is what gives the plant energy to photosynthesise.
So, this means that only the green parts in the plant give oxygen, meaning the leaves.
Going back to my Boston Fern and my thought experiment, only the green part of the plant gives oxygen back, and they do so while growing.
A good way to think of how much oxygen my plant gave me is by thinking how much the leaves have grown in weight, which might not be that much.
Another big help we must take into account are bacterias in the soil, particularly fresh soil. They are extremely helpful at creating oxygen and cleaning the air, sometimes even more so than the plant itself.
Lastly, we think of plants as the ultimate air cleaners. You have a few in your house and they clean the air, but that actually means 2 things:
They give more oxygen.
They remove harmful pollutants.
Speaking of harmful pollutants, if you or someone you know has asthma, I have another article where I talk about the link between asthma and living with houseplants.
Both points above are extremely important and there are studies with clear data on how beneficials plants can be. But studies can be hard to read, long and boring.
Most likely, if you start writing studies to justify your hobby, you might be in the wrong hobby.
We all want to get as much oxygen as we can, that’s the fresh air. Well, today I bring some good news: there are houseplants that give oxygen even at night and remove harmful chemicals from the air.
All good so far but still, there are thousands of species to choose from when it comes to indoor plants, each greener or prettier than the next.
They all give oxygen, they’re plants, that’s what they do.
But if we were to choose just one, which indoor plant produces the most oxygen?
The indoor plant that produces the most oxygen is the Variegated Snake Plant (Dracaena Trifasciata) also called mother-in-law’s tongue. This plant has a high leaf mass compared to other parts, it grows fast and it produces oxygen even at night.
Another big advantage of this common plant is that it removes harmful chemicals from the air like benzene and formaldehyde.
There are 3 rules that the plant has to follow if you are looking for a high oxygen producing plants:
Has a lot of leaves or high leaf volume compared to its other parts. Wood doesn’t not produce any oxygen.
Has room for plenty of soil, because a big part of oxygen production happens in the soil bacteria.
Not only the variegated snake plant excels at all 3, but it filters out harmful chemicals, it gives oxygen during the night and it’s tough as nails.
They also grow vertically without occupying much space, so what you have is essentially tall, oxygen-producing machines
An argument to the contrary is that a big indoor tree will have more total leaves volume thus giving more oxygen.
While that might very well be true, you can grow 5 Variegated Snake Plants in the same space with the same resources that will have much more air purifying qualities.
If you don’t like Snake Plants for whatever reason, here are the next 5 highest producing indoor plants, ranked:
Like the Boston Fern mentioned above, they have really high leaf volume.
Ferns are known as the most efficient at removing formaldehyde from air.
The thing with Ferns is they usually need a lot of water for their size and even misted once or twice a week. They can also shed.
I know these trivial things don’t matter for plant geeks anyways and if you are here, you are probably a plant geek.
4. Areca palm
As with every plant on the list, it is excellent at removing dangerous chemicals from the air, but what sets the Areca Palm apart is its size.
It needs proper watering but it can live up to 10 years and it grows shoulder height, like an oxygen producing sky scraper.
3. Spider plant
Spider plants are all leaves that have the advantage of growing so long they hang down. It means they take up less space and are also excellent for filtering pollutants out of the air.
They were even tested as part of a NASA study and they were shown to remove up to 90% of the harmful chemicals like adhesives, new furniture and other things in your house produce constantly. They are easy to grow and maintain, you can even grow one in the bathroom. If you want to read more about the study you can find it here.
2. Gerbera Daisy
The flashiest on the list, you usually find these plants in gardens as decorating purpose. However, the Gerbera Daisy has a secret superpower, it produces high levels of oxygen during night time. People with sleep apnea swear by this plant and have found that even keeping one on the night stand alleviates sleeping disorders.
Also, like with every plant on our list it removes harmful chemicals from the air.
It needs bright rooms and plenty of water, but if you can pull that off you will have one pretty air filter.
1. Chinese Evergreen
Really big thick leaves that grow quickly.
One of the best oxygen producers you can own. They also purify the air of toxins and are so efficient at it that the plant is kept in China for this very reason.
The Chinese Evergreen is very easy to care for, just keep it in the shade and keep the soil moist and you can have as many as you want.
Furthermore, if you’d like to learn more on the topic of air-purifying houseplants, here I talk about it in more detail, and I also answer the big question of how many houseplants do you need to purify a room.
Which plant produces the most oxygen?
Plant is a very general term. As stated above, the term ‘plant’ includes the biggest and oldest sequoia in the world all the way to moss that grows on a rock.
Surely, a really big tree has to give much more oxygen than the common houseplant?
Well, it turns out that indeed it does.
The rules about plants giving oxygen remain true. The more material engaged in photosynthesis, the more oxygen the plant will give out. So in simpler terms, more green leaves, more oxygen.
Here, take the example of the huge majestic tree sitting into the grassland. If we are talking about oxygen production, we only take into account the green parts, meaning the leaves.
Since wood doesn’t photosynthesise, it doesn’t not produce any oxygen.
So, which plant produces the most oxygen?
Eucalyptus trees can be the plant that produces the most oxygen because they have high leaves mass, grow quickly and have a long lifespan.
If we look at the highest oxygen producers compared to size, grass produces the most oxygen because a large area is dedicated to photosynthesis and it grows quickly, followed by moss.
What we are seeing here play out is something really interesting, because it mimics the way humans built cities.
Yes, grass and moss give more oxygen than a small sprout, but a tree contains hundreds of pounds of leaves and occupies much less space, because it grows tall.
Following the same rules, a skyscraper occupies as much space as 30 houses, but it grows tall so it holds as many people as a village.
Trees are nature skyscrapers and they started growing taller and being more efficient way before we could even walk upright. Let that sink in.
That’s it for today, I hope this finally answers the old question and satisfies the same curiosity I had.
Hopefully, it also means people can make better choices and get the plant that most suits their needs.