I'm aware of the NASA clean air study listing plants with air purification qualities. I'm interested if there are any "air purification" kind of plants that can survive a range of temperatures found in enclosed cars (-5 °C to +40 °C)?

Are there any air purification plants I can count on surviving in a car?


4 Answers 4


I have read the original NASA studies and the plant industry has misused the findings to sell more stock. Yes, plants do filter air but only when their metabolism is going at full speed, that means lots of light, lots of air circulation.

Outside light levels in the tropics are hundreds to thousands of times more intense than anything inside your car. Light in your car or inside a house can be as low as 100 lux whereas outside light levels can be 120,000 lux.

A plant in your car behind glass will not be working at full speed. It will be just getting by or coasting on stored food reserves.

The original study link quoted above also mentions Grady Player's point that more of the filtering seemed to involve the soil. Even plants without leaves can filter air when in sealed containers with high light.

If you want to actively filter the air in your car it would be effective to get an upgraded carbon filter for the car. Most cars have two or three cabin air filters and upgraded after market filters are available.

  • 3
    Plants dont (in a general sense) use ultra violet light for photosynthesis... there could be of a pigment that is arrayed with a chlorophyll somewhere that can start an electron cascade with ultra-violet light... but I haven't ever seen that photosystem documented ... Feb 17, 2016 at 0:23
  • I've read that it was more the bacteria in the soil than the plants, and in fact in some cases the "plants" did better without leaves. Nov 3, 2017 at 1:48

Basically, it is going to depend on the conditions you can maintain in a car, where I live in the great basin temperatures get to 100+f and temps in a car can easily get to 140f which will pretty much kill anything green...

another challenge would be physical stability, something like a sansavaria would be pretty hardy through a pretty good temperature range, not need to much water, but not appreciate being "jostled"...

the one thing that that study failed to study (at least this was my takeaway when a read it) is the soil... I suspect a fair amount of the metabolism that they saw was through the soil associated with the plants and not from the plants themselves... so you could with much less effort keep some soil microbes in your car... you could even mix activated charcoal to help sequester hydrocarbons, and the soil oxidizing bacteria could eat them...

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    I agree (plus one after 7 hours lol), even where I am, temperatures inside my cars can get over 130 F. And the cold temps in many areas means the plant will usually require a period of dormancy over the winter, so no filtering. Another concern is the light levels, which aren't consistent or always adequate. For filtering, you want an active plant, on a fast metabolism. This means it needs to be taking in lots of water and air, and light. In other words growing quickly, with lots of leaf area. In no way is the interior of a car suitable for the cultivation of any qualifiable plant.
    – J. Musser
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:56
  • This makes a lot of sense, thanks for the clarification. A carbon filter is probably a more manageable solution :)
    – Alex Stone
    Feb 17, 2016 at 19:08

Yes as far as I know we can use snake plant in car, It requires less water and provide oxygen at night..


With proper heat shielding and a little venting I'm sure you could convert your center console into a recessed grass patch. its not ideal for air filtration but imagine being able to run your hand through soothing live grass while stuck in traffic?

just remember to water daily

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