Have you considered humidity and how it affects your houseplants? Some have argued that humidity isn’t a huge factor when taking of plants, but I beg to differ.
The humidity level is important for your plants. Our houseplants are from rainforests where the humidity is dripping from the trees. So of course, our houseplants want elevated humidity, which isn’t always easy to come by in our homes.
What is it?
Humidity is water vapor in the air. The air can hold more water at higher temperatures. Approximately 35% humidity and under is low in a home, 35-70% medium and 70% or higher is high.
If we can keep our homes at or above 50%, we are going to feel better and our plants will be happier. With our air conditioners going in the summer and heaters in the winter, it is hard to keep that amount in the air.
Each plant is different
Every plant needs a different level. Plants that grow in arid places won’t need as much as plants that grow in rainforests. (Remember, there are rainforest cacti, such as holiday cactus, so that doesn’t apply.)
Also, thicker-leaved plants need less than thinner-leaved plants. The fittonia and maidenhair fern below are both plants that have thin leaves and wilt at the first hint of drying out. If they were in a humid environment, however, they could handle drying out a bit. Read here about a fern that is more forgiving of low drier conditions.
Transpiration happens in plants and is a little like our sweating. Water is transpiring through its stomata as it photosynthesizes. There are even plants that only do that at night to conserve water. The drier the atmosphere around a plant, the more it transpires.
This process is natural and what a plant does. If there isn’t enough water in the potting medium for the plant to use damage will occur. This may show up as brown edges or tips on the leaf and could result in leaf loss. Plants will need water more often in a drier/less humid environment.
Areas in the home with high levels of humidity
Where there is water used more often is where the highest levels will be. These rooms include the kitchen, bathrooms, basement, and laundry room. Humidity is higher in these places, but if they don’t have light, plants will not live there.
So many people want to put a plant in the bathroom and that is a good idea as long as you have light. It doesn’t matter how high the humidity is if there is no light for the plant to make food with.
Plant reactions to low humidity
How will you know if your plant doesn’t have enough humidity? The plant may show signs of leaf curl and/or brown patches. Flower buds don’t open (called blasting), and flowers fade faster.
It could also have smaller new leaves, drop new and old leaves, and not look as healthy as it should. It will be prone to an attack by spider mites, a pest that loves plants that are suffering from a lack of humidity.
Raising the humidity
How do you raise it? Create a microclimate by grouping all your plants together. As they are all transpiring, it will be higher in the immediate area.
Use a pebble tray to raise the humidity around your plant as the water evaporates from the pebbles.
Use a humidifier. There are lots of small ones that can be used in the vicinity of your plants or a whole-house humidifier can be added to your furnace.
Too High Humidity
On the other end of the spectrum, plants can suffer from too much. This could show up as powdery mildew or botrytis, both of which will kill your plants if not taken care of.
There are some plants that will only do well in an enclosed terrarium, though an open terrarium also raises the humidity around the plants.
If you do set up a terrarium, in the first few weeks, check it every day to make sure there isn’t too much condensation on the glass. This can lead to diseases because the humidity is TOO high. Tip the lid or remove it for a while to let the extra moisture out. There will be a happy medium and you can leave the lid on.
I hope this helps you with humidity as the temperatures drop and the furnace kicks on. Your skin will let you know when the humidity is low. I may have already had the furnace running a couple of times this past week. Shhhhh….don’t tell my husband. He likes to wait as long as possible before the heat goes on.
Have a great week my plant friends and do your houseplants a favor and give them some extra humidity!
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I’m doing it right, Lisa!
Hi Anna, That’s awesome! Thanks for commenting! Lisa
I recently had a spider mite infestation on plants that are located on a table at a south facing window. I have humidifiers running on opposite ends of the table, and the humidity is constantly above 55. The plants seemed happy overall, except that one of the Alocasia pushed a leaf that was half the size of previous leaves.
I’m wondering if the light of the south facing window might be too bright for these plants. I do have a sheer curtain that I pull during the brightest part of the day, but maybe the heat of of the beaming sun is stressing the plants?
Hi German, I think that you are right in that that is too much light for the alocasia. With the humidity, you have to make sure your plant never dries out. They like dry air, but also dry plants. Hope your plant is doing better! Lisa