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Humidifiers help humans, houseplants

North Country Gardening

I will admit that I am one of those people who always try to postpone turning on the heat. While I could argue that I want to conserve energy or keep my heating bill low, I think it is really denial. I don’t want to fully admit that winter is approaching.

By this point, there is no denying the approaching winter. The heat is on, the air is dry and my humidifiers are out and in full use. While humidifiers are great for us during the winter months, I also run them for my houseplants.

Most houseplants prefer humidity levels of 40 to 50 percent. Unfortunately, the air inside our centrally-heated homes usually falls somewhere near the 10 to 30 percent range during the winter. To houseplants (especially tropical houseplants), this can feel like living in the desert.

If your houseplants are showing any of the following symptoms, the air around them may be too dry: leaf tips are brown and shriveled, leaf edges are turning yellow and wilting, buds and flowers are shriveling and falling off, or the plant is dropping leaves.

Humidifiers are a great way to increase the relative humidity in your home during the winter months. I have several large humidifiers running in my house during the winter. But, you don’t need to raise the humidity of your entire house, just confine your plants and your humidifier to a single room.

Certain rooms in the house, like bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, tend to have higher relatively humidity (moister air). As long as they offer plants adequate exposure to light, consider temporarily relocating sensitive plants to these rooms during the winter season.

Another method for increasing the relative humidity around your houseplants is to place them on trays or saucers filled with pebbles and water. The bottoms of the pots should remain above the level of the water to prevent the roots from standing in water. As water evaporates from the pebble tray, it will increase the humidity in the air surrounding the plants.

Many people try to increase the humidity by misting with a water bottle. Unfortunately, this method is not as effective as other humidity increasing methods. Over misting your plants can also lead to fungal growth, especially if the plant remains wet during the night.

Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress.com. She can be reached at a.lenox.barlow@gmail.com.

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