This Common Plant Produces the Most Oxygen (It’s Not The One You Think)

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Ok, so we all know now that adding house plants to our homes does very little in terms of increasing the amount of oxygen.

And house plants certainly don’t purify the air in any real sense.

They might suck up the odd microgram of formaldehyde, but it won’t make any tangible difference.

That being said, there is a ‘plant’ that does produce a decent amount of oxygen (about 70% of all of it in the world) and that’s…

Algae

Yeah, that gross green stuff we try to get rid of is the most efficient oxygen producer we have access to AND it’s easy to keep in our homes.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hardly aesthetically pleasing, but it’s doing a job!

When I was researching this article I’d never really considered that algae produced oxygen, and was staggered when I saw the amount it produced.

Obvs most of the world’s algae is in the sea, but I have a not unsubstantial amount in my ‘pond’ (it’s a glorified bucket full of water and plants) and it’s producing oxygen! Look:

algae producing oxygen

BUBBLES

Here’s the pond in all its glory:

If I had my pond indoors it wouldn’t produce as much oxygen because the oxygen comes from the chemical reactions that occur during growth.

No growth, no chemical reactions, no oxygen.

Qualities we look for when it comes to producing more oxygen

I do appreciate that perhaps a bucket full of green sludge doesn’t fit everyone’s home decor aesthetic so I’m gonna go through how to get your current house plants to produce more oxygen, and, going forward, pick ones that will produce the most oxygen in the future.

Species isn’t that important when it comes to producing oxygen.

Sure, some plants produce more oxygen than others in optimal conditions, but we need ones that suit our homes.

If we have a mouse problem, we don't think 'what animal is best suited to catch all these mice?' and then go out and buy a snake. 
No, we buy humane traps, fill them with peanut butter and cross our fingers.

We need to balance optimal with attainable.

And, you know, not ridiculous.

Fast growing

If the plant’s not growing, they won’t be releasing much oxygen, as it’s a byproduct of photosynthesis.

Therefore, select plants that can grow quickly in the environment you can provide for them.

For me, that’s Epipremnum and Philodendron. They grow super quickly in my house. and in a manner that doesn’t get in the way, because I can train them to grow vertically (ish) up a moss pole.

I often see snake plants heralded as one of the plants that produces the most oxygen and it CAN be IF you're keeping yours in such a way that it's growing quickly. 

If you're keeping it in a dark corner somewhere where it can't photosynthesise, it won't be releasing any oxygen.

Large leaves

Bigger leaves photosynthesis more, so more chemical reactions and therefore more oxygen. Again,

Epipremnum and Philodendron are both winners here. 

If you grow your Pothos in bright light, keep it well hydrated and fed and grow it up a moss pole, it'll quickly produce bigger leaves. 

Philodendron with mid-size leaves are a good bet because they strike a nice balance between fast growth and big leaves. Think hastatum, subhastatum, Florida green, and Golden dragon.

Lots of leaves

It’s the overall surface area of leaf available, rather than the actual size, so plants with a LOT of tiny leaves can be as effective oxygenators as those with a few larger leaves. Think fast growing plants like peperomia, ivy*, and dracaena marginata.

*I do not endorse buying ivy. It’s a pest magnet. Avoid avoid avoid. Or, you know, keep it outside.

Why peace lilies are the GOAT of oxygen-producing plants

If you google ‘which house plants produce the most oxygen?’ peace lilies often dominate the list and that makes sense.

Now, despite peace lilies producing more oxygen than most other plants, they still don’t produce much oxygen. At all. And they won’t clean your air. You will NOT notice a difference in your air quality. I have hundreds of plants in a small house. My air quality is…average.

It also doesn’t help that soil can harbour mould that’s pretty harmless, but also cancels out any good the plant is doing in terms of air quality.

I cannot stress enough how negligible these impacts will be.

Still, if you’re committed to increasing the oxygen in your home, if only to see if there’s a placebo effect then peace lilie’s are probs the one to go for, because they fit all the criteria for a plant that will produce as much oxygen as a plant was ever going to:

They have large leaves

Large leaves have a lot of surface area so that’s a lot of photosynthesising.

They have a lot of leaves

See above

They grow pretty quickly

If you care for them well. I find that mine grows best in my north-facing window, and it blooms frequently too.

They’re medium easy to care for

This is controversial, but they’re one of those plants that will either love your home or hate it. They don’t like bright light, they don’t like to dry out, and they can be dramatic if someone looks at them the wring way.

However, their blooms are pretty, they’re not as fussy about water quality as you might think, and they’re one of the more pest-resistant house plants available.

If you and peace lilies simply don’t gel, concentrate on Pothos – they’re much chiller and if given the correct care will produce leaves bigger than those of a peace lily.

Final thoughts

When it comes to picking plants that are going to produce oxygen in your home, you’re far better off investing in plants that will grow quickly in your space, rather than googling ‘what plant gives off the most oxygen’.

Oxygen is released from plants as a byproduct of photosynthesis, so if you want to maximise the oxygen your plants produce, you need them to be photosynthesising efficiently.

Give them plenty of light, enough water and nutrients, and keep their leaves clean.

Or fill a jar with water and leave it in a bright window. It’ll be full of algae in no time!

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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