During respiration, both animals and plants take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide.

But our dependence on air to survive and grow is quite different from that of plants.

We need a constant supply of fresh air so we can have enough oxygen to breathe.

But plants work a little differently.

Can Plants Grow Without Air?

A plant in a bottle

Plants can grow without air. Plants carry out a process called photosynthesis in order to make a type of sugar (glucose) to use for food.

During this process, oxygen is produced as waste, so the plant has everything it needs to produce its food and release the energy it needs to grow, without the need for air.

Likewise, aquatic plants do not need air to grow as they have adapted to absorb the carbon dioxide they need to produce food from the water around them.

Even though technically, a ground plant may be able to survive and grow for a while in an airtight jar, it doesn’t mean that this air-deprived environment is optimal for the plant to grow to its full potential.

Related Article: Why Do Plants Need Soil to Grow?

Can Plants Suffocate?

Plants will suffocate when their supply of oxygen has been cut off.

Oxygen is essential for plants because it helps them to respire more efficiently.

Plants will suffocate from lack of oxygen but not necessarily from lack of air.

The biggest risk of plants suffocating is from the soil they live in.

If the soil becomes too waterlogged or compacted the plant’s roots may be deprived of oxygen and it will begin to suffocate and eventually die.

How Do Plants Use Air?

It is interesting to note that the air above the soil as well as below the soil is used for plant growth.

Air From Above The Soil

Plants require carbon dioxide from the surrounding air.

Though the air is something that can’t be seen, it is important to consider how fresh it is for the overall healthiness of a plant.

Plants that have been kept indoors, or in poorly ventilated places run the risk of being exposed to stagnant air that might have traces of toxic elements in it which might harm the plant itself.

Moreover, plants whose leaves are covered with dust might have trouble taking in the fresh air and light.

Air From Below The Soil

If roots don’t have access to air via the soil, they are likely to become damaged and fail in their function.

If there is a root failure, the plant will be unable to take up water and thus would cause the leaves to become yellow and the whole plant would wither away.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide in the soil is absorbed by the roots and transported to the plant for its processes.

The Effect Of Air On Transpiration

Before we can go further it is also interesting to note the role that is played by air on the rate of transpiration of a plant.

Transpiration is the process that features the evaporation of water vapor through the stomata of a leaf or a plant.

Transpiration is essential for plant growth as it removes excess water and makes sure the cell remains turgid.

If the air movement surrounding the plant is slow, it would mean that there would be a low transpiration rate and lesser water will escape the plant due to the high level of humidity.

However, if there is an increased air movement around the plant, there would be more water loss through transpiration.

Can Plants Grow In A Closed Container?

Plants can grow in a closed container as long as it is not a vacuum.

For the plant to last, the container should contain some atmospheric air that has an adequate level of carbon dioxide.

The plant would use carbon dioxide in its process of photosynthesis to give out oxygen.

At night it would take in the oxygen is produced in the morning to give out the carbon dioxide to be used up in the morning.


Land plants may need air to grow to their full potential but technically, they do not need air to grow.

If you water a plant, stick it in a jar and screw the lid on tight, it will continue to grow for a while because it will have everything it needs to produce food and the energy it needs to grow.

But I don’t think the plant would be all that happy and I doubt it would live as long as it otherwise would have in your garden.