Have your houseplants been looking dingy and dry no matter how much you may water them? Have they lost the lustrous glow their foliage first had when you got them? Poor humidity may be the cause. Many of our houseplants hail from the tropics and grow in humidity of 50-80 percent, considerably more humid than typical homes. The trick is to know your plant’s preferences and be able satisfy it. Putting a cactus in the shower will cause it to rot, while a fern is perfectly happy.
But what can you do if you really want that fern in the family room where the humidity may only be 20 percent in the winter? If your plant has brown leaf tips or margins it probably needs more humidity and is asking you to increase it. Luckily, it’s easier to add humidity than it is to take it away.
Easy Ways to Increase Humidity
There are several ways you can easily increase the humidity around your houseplants. If they only need the air a little more humid, just one technique may be sufficient, but if they are humidity-loving plants, you may want to try several options at once to really give them a humidity boost.
- Pebble Tray
Place an inch of small pebbles, marbles, shells or gravel in a 2″ deep tray, half fill the tray with water and set your plant on the pebbles. Don’t set the pot in the water, as the wicking action will saturate the pot soil and could lead to rotting roots and overwatering. As the water in the tray evaporates, it increases the humidity immediately around the plant. When you water the plant, pour out the water from the tray to prevent mineral buildup, algae and insect growth.
- Plant Grouping
Rather than spacing plants throughout the room, group them together to take advantage of the moisture each plant produces through transpiration. Grouping plants can increase humidity by as much as 15 percent. Place the entire group on a pebble tray if additional humidity is required. Allow air circulation between the plants by ensuring the plants are not touching each other, and rotate individual plants periodically to encourage straight growth and distribute humidity absorption.
Use a misting bottle daily to increase humidity and cleanse leaf pores, which tend to clog with dust. However, to prevent leaf rot, do not mist plants with “velvety” leaves such as African violets. Do not over-mist plants to the point where their leaves are dripping wet, or else they may suffer from overwatering.
Available in a variety of sizes, humidifiers increase the humidity in a larger space. You may also find yourself breathing better when using a humidifier. Our houses become very dry in the winter because of furnaces, heat pumps and fireplaces, and humidifiers can not only help houseplants, but can also help alleviate dry skin, limp hair, chapped lips and hacking coughs.
If your house is just too dry for the plants you would like to grow, try planting them in a terrarium. These nearly enclosed vessels create miniature environments perfect for humidity-loving tropical plants such as ferns, orchids and mosses. You will still need to water your terrarium, but because much of the moisture is trapped, the humidity in the enclosure is much higher.
Keeping your humidity-loving houseplants happy in the winter isn’t difficult. Come in and see us to ask questions, get answers and pick up the simple supplies to make your home a houseplant haven.