How much Oxygen Can a Snake Plant Purify? (ANSWERED)
If you are looking to breathe cleaner air in your home, you can’t go past one of the best natural air purifiers available – the humble snake plant. Not only do snake plants help increase oxygen levels in your house, they clean the air from unwanted toxins, and look good while doing it too! But the big question is how much oxygen does a snake plant produce, and is it enough?
Snake plants are unique-looking succulents that can play an important role in purifying your household air. Through a process called photosynthesis, snake plants will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and release oxygen as a by-product of the process. The average snake plant will produce 0.9-1 liter of oxygen a day. Given that the average human breathes a whopping 11,000 liters of air per day while resting, you would need A LOT of snake plants to survive.
Suffice to say, we won’t be solely reliant on snake plants anytime soon. This isn’t to say growing snake plants in your home still isn’t a good idea. They still do emit a net positive oxygen production (that is, releases more oxygen than it absorbs). Plus, they have the ability to absorb toxins that are polluting the air. We’ll dive into this a bit later on in the article.
So if you are ready, take a deep (oxygen-filled) breath and let’s begin!
What Factors Make an Indoor Plant Good for Air Purification
When it comes to qualities in a plant that will help to clean your air, there are particular properties you want to look for (besides looking good on your dining table). These are:
- large leaf surface area – the more area an indoor plant can expose the cells in their leaves, known as stoma, the more it can photosynthesize – the process that a plant uses to produce energy and release oxygen.
- quick to grow – it stands to reason, the quicker a houseplant can grow and produce leaves, the more oxygen it can produce.
Snake plants tick all the right boxes for a great air purification indoor plant, plus they are very easy to care for.
Snake plants produce the most oxygen because they have one of the largest foliage surface areas in the indoor plant space. With their long sword-shaped green leaves, there is plenty of leaf surface to expose and photosynthesize.
When it comes to growth, succulents are not known for their speedy growth. However, when provided with the optimal care and conditions, snake plants can be surprisingly fast growers. On average, snake plants can put on 4-12 inches of new growth per leaf. When you couple this with the fact that snake plants rarely shed their leaves, the cumulative effect can be great.
Snake Plants Can Absorb Toxins
Not only do snake plants contribute to our oxygen intake within our homes. They can also cleanse the air of toxins and impurities, improving our indoor air quality.
A study conducted by NASA was performed to investigate ways to clean the air in sealed space stations. According to their results, they found that
in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, certain common indoor plants may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants.
They tested a range of regular houseplants, including snake plants, and had varying degrees of success in removing different toxins from the air. During their experiments, the results showed that snake plants could remove 87% of toxins from the air, such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene.
Granted, this experiment was only conducted within a sealed space and did not consider other factors such as humans breathing in and out, open windows, etc. Despite this, it is still encouraging that snake plants can absorb some harmful toxins from the air.
Do Snake Plants Release Carbon Dioxide?
As part of the entire 24-hour plant cycle, snake plants also absorb oxygen AND release carbon dioxide (CO2) into our homes.
We can hear you asking “What?! Plants are taking away our precious oxygen?“.
Yes it is true – how dare they! But let us explain with a visual diagram (below)
Unfortunately our relationship with snake plants isn’t only one way. It is give and take – like most things in life. As you can see in the visual image above, the process in which snake plants absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide is called cellular respiration.
This part of the plants cycle is crucial because it helps to break down glucose that the plant produced during the process of photosynthesis into a compound called ATP. Essentially, during the night, plants use cellular respiration to release energy from glucose, which enables them to grow and function.
The good news is that the amount of oxygen that snake plants release during the day (and the fact that they also produce oxygen at night) is more than the amount of oxygen it absorbs during the night. Leaving us to breathe in fresh, purified air.
And the same applies to carbon dioxide. Snake plants absorb more carbon dioxide than they release.
How to Care for Your Snake Plant
Now that we know snake plants produce a net positive impact on our oxygen levels within our homes (albeit small amounts), we thought it would be fitting to provide you with some care tips for keeping your natural air purifier healthy and thriving.
Being a succulent, snake plants are equipped to tolerate dry periods. Which is why we recommend allowing the soil to completely dry out before lightly watering your snake plant.
How do you tell when your snake plant is ready for its next drink? We use a method called the soil moisture finger test. Essentially, you stick your index finger into the soil and check for moisture. We have written a detailed step guide about the process HERE.
Snake plants love bright sunny positions. They will thrive in direct sunlight throughout the day, but will also tolerate lower light positions, like bright indirect light.
Even if your house doesn’t have the right aspects, if the weather forecast is for blue cloudless skies, give your snake plant (sansevieria) a sun bath on the lawn for a few hours. It will thank you for it later!
As you would expect from a succulent, snake plants prefer conditions that are more akin to their natural environment, like the dessert. They prefer low humidity conditions. If humidity becomes too intense, it may prevent them from transpiring and open the door to diseases like rot.
We recommend using dry soil/compost that does retain some water, but drains well. This is usually referred to as ‘loamy compost’ or ‘loamy soil’. The usual makeup of loam-based compost is 50% sand, 30% silt and 20% clay.
The only must-have that your snake plant demands in its soil is that it is a well-draining soil. A wet soil will invite root rot and other unwanted pests like fungus gnats.
Final Thoughts on How Much Oxygen Does a Snake Plant Produce
Snake plants are charming indoor house plants that deliver a host of benefits to the home. Not only do they look great, but they also help to produce clean air and purify it from harmful airborne toxins.
They are extremely easy to take care of, being a hardy and drought tolerant plant.