En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - January 30, 2006

From: Manistee, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Effectiveness of house plants for removing household air pollution
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have heard that there is a combination of house plants that will increase the oxgyen in your home. Could you please tell me the names of these plants? I think there are a group of four of them.


All green plants produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. How much oxygen a plant produces depends on the size and health of the plant and the amount of light available to it. In general, the more sunlight there is, the more photosynthesis will occur and the greater the amount of oxygen will be produced. However, there are different optimal amounts of light for various plants. Some plants, e.g., tropicals such as philodendrons, produce oxygen very efficiently at low light levels; whereas, other plants require high levels of light to carry out photosynthesis. So, it depends on the light level in the area of your house where your plants are growing and the kind of plants you choose. If you choose plants that require bright light for photosynthesis and you don't have bright light, they will need to use stored energy in order to function. They will be breaking down reserved carbohydrates and fats in a process called respiration. Respiration uses oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. If a plant adapted to efficient photosynthesis at low light levels is subjected to high intensity light, its light-absorbing pigments could be damaged and it may overheat. These effects could interfere with its ability to photosynthesize and produce oxygen. Therefore, the plants that will produce the most oxygen are the ones that will be the most efficient at photosynthesis at the light level in your house.

Your memory of a group of four plants that will increase oxygen in the house might be those plants identified in a study by NASA as plants that clean the air by removing harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide and trichloroethylene. These include philodendron, spider plant, and golden pothos that are effective in removing formaldehyde; gerbera daisy and chrysanthemum for benzene, and peace lily and chrysanthemum for trichloroethylene. You can read more about the effectiveness of houseplants for removing significant amounts of household air pollution.


More General Botany Questions

Propagating a white cultivar of Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora
September 09, 2016 - I am trying to propagate a white cultivar of the Texas Mountain Laurel. I plan to use bee sticks and pollinate the plant. Are the plants self fruiting or do I need to find another white mountain laure...
view the full question and answer

Is Poison ivy always rooted in the ground?
November 11, 2015 - Does Poison ivy on a tree always start at the ground and climb up the tree or can it start producing its vine and leaves by itself at the top of the tree or middle?
view the full question and answer

The Designation of Annual and Perennial Plants
July 25, 2014 - Sometimes when researching a plant I will find it listed as both annual and perennial. I understand that some plants will be perennial in a warm climate and die in a colder zone, but it is still a per...
view the full question and answer

How is native range changed in the scientific record?
March 28, 2011 - I am accessioning Pachysandra procumbens for the Baker Arboretum. These plants were made from cuttings of a native stand here in Warren County (Western KY). How does the record get amended to...
view the full question and answer

Why is water used for plants.
February 19, 2008 - Why is water the most popular thing for watering plants if is so plain?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center