Farm Horizons, February 2015

Handling plants and humidity

By Christine Schlueter
McLeod County Master Gardener

If you grow cactuses or succulents year around, this time of year might be when they thrive. But for the rest of the plants they will lack enough moisture in the home. Heat dries out the air.

Signs that you might not have enough humidity are browning leaf edges and leaves that are droopy.

If you bring plants into the home such as poinsettias, Christmas cactus, or others you should consider checking your humidity.

The easiest is to install a humidifier near plants or consider a humidifier as part of the heating system. Portable units can be placed where needed.

Short of purchasing several humidifiers if you are a plant lover, here is an easier option.

Group plants together to boost moisture. Or place a large deep tray under a grouping that is filled with one inch or so of pebbles, vermiculite, or perlite. Keep the water level just below the bottom of the plants. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity in the area.

You can also use saucers under individual plants with the same process. But always be sure the plants are placed above the water line. If the plants sit in the water continuously they will not survive.

Another way is to have a container or pitcher filled with water by plants and keep them filled on a regular basis. Use decorative containers or craft them to look fun. You can always fill the jars with cuttings of other plants and start some new plants for yourself or to give away.

Cover the plants with a plastic sheeting, such as those used for painting is another way. Use the really lightweight plastic and drape over plants that are looking droopy. This is a temporary fix that creates a greenhouse effect.

Misting plants is another way to add moisture. Place plants in the sink and mist well, letting them dry off a bit before placing back. Two to three times a week or more, may be necessary to ensure they are getting enough moisture. This does not replace watering them.

Perhaps select a few and try this method, and then compare the results with those you have not sprayed. Another plus of misting is that it may control any mites you have on your plants. Giving them a shower once in a while is another good way to wash them off and give them a good soaking. Be sure to let dry before setting back in their place.

Misting does not add humidity but gives them temporary relief by adding moisture.

Keeping a kettle of simmering water is an age old trick used for years. This does keep humidity in your home. To bring fragrance, throw some cloves, cinnamon, orange peelings, nutmeg in the water.

Humidity is one of the hardest things to get right, and when it is correct it gets very difficult to maintain a consistent amount. If you keep at it, you can have plants that thrive in the winter.

It is also a time when a lot of plants go dormant so don’t fret if you don’t have time to mist every week. Just a small improvement of adding a humidifier will help a little. According to most places that install furnaces you need about 30 percent humidity for comfortable living. Plants need at least 30 percent. Tropical plants really like it around 50 percent or more. Maybe bring those in the bathroom while you are taking a shower.

The most important tip to help with humidity is to avoid placing plant on or near radiators, heat ducts or vents.

Send me any gardening or plant questions by emailing to

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