Humidity and houseplants

As the temperatures get colder outside and we have our heat on longer, the air inside of our houses gets dry. This dry air can be uncomfortable for us, and it can be deadly to some of our tropical houseplants. The dry air will cause other plants' leaves to turn brown and crisp.

Wood stoves and fireplaces are the biggest culprits of dry air in houses, but in the cold temperatures also lower the air humidity. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to raise the humidity around your houseplants during the dry winter months.

If you use a wood or pellet stove, place a heavy metal pot filled with water on the top of the stove. The heat will cause the water to evaporate into the air and increase the house's humidity. Don't allow the pot to run dry while on the stove as this will cause it to burn and get damaged.

You can also move tropical plants into your kitchen or bathrooms, if there is sufficient light. These rooms tend to be more humid than the rest of the house.

If you cannot move your plants, you can place the plants filled with pebbles and water. Just make sure not to allow the bottom of the containers to sit in the water. The pots should be on top of the pebbles.

Another great way to keep the air humid around your plants is to use a humidifier in the room where most of the plants are located. This is probably the best suggestion for humidifying your house's air.

If you cannot do any of these suggestions, group the plants together in one area that gets indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will dry the plants out faster. Keeping the plants close together helps increase the humidity around them from the moist potting mix and the water the plants transpire.

Fortunately, in a few short months, the days will be warmer, the heater on less often, and the air more humid! But until then, consider keeping your houseplants healthy and happy by adding more moisture to your house's air.

Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at a.lennox.barlow@gmail.com.

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