Along with light and water, many house plants also prefer to have a good bit of humidity in their environment! In addition, some plants called epiphytes absorb water through their leaves so higher humidity can lead to thriving ferns, mosses, bromeliads, and orchids among others.
If you live in a warmer and wetter climate, most houseplants will do fine with the standard humidity (30-50%) in your house. In colder and drier climates, chances are that you will need to help your house plants out with a little added humidity. (I've seen the indoor humidity in Colorado get down to 11%, though it is almost always below 30%.) Some plants even like a little tropic flair, with humidity up at 80%!
In this instructable I've compiled a few techniques for adding humidity that I've used and been satisfied with. If you're having issues with browning leaf tips, curling or brittle leaves, I hope this will help!
Step 1: How to Tell When Your Plants Need Extra Humidity
If the humidity if too low, look for these signs:
- Tips of leaves turn brown or yellow and very brittle
- New leaves do not grow properly and look stunted and will crumble when touched
- Flowers dry up before blooming or stop growing altogether
If the humidity is too high, you may see these issues:
- Fuzzy white to dark grey mold forming on the stems, leaves and flowers
- Leaves and stems become soft and slightly yellowed, leading to rotting
- In the worst of cases, black spots may appear on leaves
Try to be vigilant and check your plants frequently to correct problems before things get too bad.
I recommend keeping around a hygrometer (for reading air moisture) and a moisture meter (for reading soil moisture) to help you figure out if the issue lies with watering or humidity. They are helpful for everyone, even advanced gardeners!
Step 2: The Obvious Answer: Buy a Humidifier
When looking to increase humidity, of course the first thing you'd think of is a humidifier! They're easy to use and don't need a lot of upkeep if you choose the right one.
Here are my recommendations for choosing a humidifier:
- Go Filterless. In my experience, no matter how much care and turning and rinsing you provide a humidifier filter, it WILL mold on you and and smell is enough to make me never buy a filtered humidifier in the long run. Plus, recurring filter costs drive up the price.
- Make Sure the Humidifier is the Right Size. Humidifiers are typically categorized by the size of the room they'll be used in, so be sure to double check! It would be useless to buy a desk humidifier and assume it would work in a 300 square foot room.
- Ensure the Humidifier Can Be Easily Cleaned. Shop around for a humidifier without a ton of extra pieces with little nooks and crannies. The trickiest part of cleaning a humidifier can be removing all the scale buildup from the water, so try to go easy on yourself!
- Check the Noise and Light. If the humidifier will be in a common area or a bedroom, you'll probably want to be able to sit and relax without a constant PPPPPPPPPSSSSSSSSSSSSEEHEHHH sound going on. ;) Many humidifiers also include lights that can not be turned off, but you can also use some black tape to cover it!
Step 3: Using Pebble Trays to Increase Humidity
Another favorite way to increase humidity in a small area is to create a pebble tray.
A pebble tray is just what it sounds like: a shallow tray lined with pebbles that a plant pot can set on. The tray can be a wide shallow bowl, a plant saucer, or even a baking tray! Water is poured over the pebbles until it reaches JUST below the bottom of the pot.
You don't want the pot in the water, but right on top of it. Placing the pot directly into the water can cause the plant to accept too much water and get sick.
The only downside to pebbles trays: you will need to clean them, and often. The pebbles will tend to grow algae and get a little funky if you don't wash them. How often you clean them depends on the temperature in your home in most cases, so keep an eye on them and clean when needed!
Step 4: Misting Plants to Increase Humidity
There are arguments happening online all the time about which plants like misting and which plants don't like misting. Like the majority of things in life, I approach misting with an "everything in moderation" attitude.
As a general rule, I use a sprayer with a very fine mist and I never soak the plant entirely. If I remember, I wander around my house in the morning and afternoon, giving everyone a light mist depending on their size. This is especially important for succulents and cacti, which only receive a fine one or two spray mist in the heat of the afternoon so I don't overdo it with the water.
I haven't had any issues from spraying, and I have to say my bromeliad, pothos, elephant ear, medallion calathea, spider plant, Chinese evergreen and umbrella plant love it! And no one else has fussed so I'll consider misting a win-win. :D
Step 5: Keep Your Plants in the Bathroom
If you have a bathroom with a window, I highly recommend seeing if you can fit some plants in there! They'll benefit from the extra humidity your showers create and make your bathroom look much nicer. :D
I have a bathroom with an east facing window so I use it throughout the year, rotating plants in and out. Right now I'm keeping an elephant ear, satin pothos, and a spider plant on the towel rack, along with having a windowsill full of succulents and cacti. (Typically succulents in a bathroom could be bad, but this room gets hot enough during the day I don't worry about it!) I admit I plan on adding loads more plants once I get some shelves!
A sunny bathroom (with south, east, or west facing windows) is a wonderful place for tropical plants. A bathroom that get less sun (a north facing window) is good for low-light plants like pothos, ZZ plants, spider plants, snake plants, and calatheas.
Step 6: Group Plants Together to Raise Humidity
Grouping plants together is another way to increase humidity. I like to group my plants on the top of bookcases to give them more light and keep them away from my pets!
I like to use stacks of books to vary the heights of the plants to add interest and allow their leaves more room to stretch out. You could also build small wooden stands or pipe pot holders - those are two projects on my list!
I hope this instructable helped you out! If you have any tips, comments, or suggestions be sure to leave them below. Thanks for reading! <3