Maintaining proper humidity levels is crucial for the overall health and growth of plants, especially for tropical and houseplant species that require higher levels of moisture. Proper humidity levels promote healthy foliage and prevent common problems such as leaf yellowing, wilting, and fungal diseases.
Humidity levels in homes tend to decline during the winter months when heating systems are in use. Homes in dry climates, such as deserts, also tend to have low indoor humidity levels year-round.
While humidifiers can be a great solution to this problem, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:
- Mold growth: If the humidifier is not cleaned and properly maintained, it can become a breeding ground for mold, and other harmful microorganisms. This can be harmful to people allergic to mold spores as explained by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
- Allergic reactions: Some people are allergic to mist produced by humidifiers and using them may cause symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and runny nose.
- Over-humidification: Humidifiers can produce excessively high levels of moisture, which can cause problems such as condensation on windows and walls, musty odors, and even the growth of mold and other allergens.
- Maintenance: Humidifiers require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent the growth of mold and the buildup of bacteria and minerals, which can affect their performance and the quality of the mist produced.
- High cost: While some humidifiers are relatively inexpensive, others like the centralized humidifiers can be quite costly, especially high-end models with advanced features.
For these reasons, most households consider braving dry air conditions without a need for a humidifier. However, this may put your houseplants in trouble. Fortunately, you can create humid conditions for your plants without the use of the equipment.
To increase humidity for plants without a humidifier, you can use a tray of water, group plants together, mist them with a spray bottle, or grow the plants in a greenhouse. Additionally, minimize indoor air dryness by avoiding overuse of heating systems and ensuring that you have proper ventilation in your home.
Note that, plant humidity requirements vary depending on the species and their natural habitat. Most common houseplants thrive in a relative humidity of 40-60%. Tropical plants, such as Christmas cacti, ferns, and orchids, typically prefer higher humidity levels, around 60-80%.
Typical desert plants, on the other hand, are adapted to very low humidity levels and may struggle in high-humidity environments. Cactus in particular may suffer root rot, fungal infections, pests, and stunted growth when in planted in moist or humid environments.
Ways to increase humidity for plants (without humidifier)
There are several methods to increase humidity for plants without a humidifier:
1. Using a tray of water
Placing a tray of water near plants can help increase humidity levels by evaporating water into the air. To make a humidifying tray, get a shallow water-tight tray and fill it with clean pebbles then fill it halfway with water.
2. Group plants together
Plants naturally create their own microclimate and grouping them together may help raise humidity levels around them when they release moisture through their leaves. However, be careful as crowding plants together without proper air circulation may encourage fungal growth.
3. Use peat moss
Although peat moss contains few nutrients, it can absorb and hold water as much as 20 times its weight. Therefore, adding a layer of peat moss around the base of plants can help increase humidity and retain moisture in the soil.
Misting plants regularly with a spray bottle filled with room temperature water can help increase humidity, but be careful not to over-mist, as excessive moisture can lead to rot and fungal growth.
Growing plants in humid tents or glass covers can create a more humid environment, especially if it’s sealed with proper ventilation. You can use a glass jar or bowl as a makeshift terrarium for small plants.
It’s important to note that not all methods will work for every plant, so it’s best to experiment to see what works best for your specific plant.
Signs that your plants need higher humidity
Low humidity levels can have a range of negative effects on houseplants, and it’s important to be aware of the situation when the plants are in distress. Some common signs of low humidity in plants include:
- Yellowing leaves: Dry air can cause the leaves of the houseplants to become yellow and brittle, which can eventually lead to leaf drop.
- Crispy or dry leaf tips: Low humidity levels may cause the tips of the leaves to become dry and crispy.
- Brown leaf edges: Low level of moisture in the air can cause the edges of leaves to turn brown and dry.
- Slow growth: Low humidity levels can reduce the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, leading to slow growth and reduced overall health.
- Wilting: In extreme cases, low humidity levels can cause houseplants to wilt and become limp.
Signs of low humidity levels in plants may vary depending on their natural adaptation to dry air conditions. Some plants may take longer to show distress and others get affected in just a few hours. According to the University of Maryland Extension, all indoor plants require treatments to raise the humidity in their vicinity except for cacti and succulents.
Lack of a humidifier should not be a reason for the poor growth and health of your indoor plants during winter and seasons with dry air. You can humidify your plants without the equipment as explained in this guide. It is important to keep an eye on the humidity in your home and take the necessary steps when the levels are declining.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.