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Back to My Roots

Increased humidity will help more than just your dry skin

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With colder weather approaching, cranking up the heater and increasing your room’s humidity will be good not just for dry skin, but for your houseplants too.

Houseplants utilize water vapor to maintain their leaves, develop roots, and keep their soil moist for longer. During the winter months, humidity becomes a concern, as cold air holds less moisture than warm air and heating will continue to get rid of vapor. Even if households have average humidity during the spring and summer, this is likely to decrease with the advent of winter temperatures.

Since a lot of common houseplants are tropicals, they’re able to thrive in humid environments. Adding a humidifier to your space or using simple methods of increasing humidity will help your plants as they settle in for the long winter ahead. Additionally, increased humidity can be a deterrent for pests like spider mites, who thrive in dry environments.

Add a humidifier

The easiest solution to increasing humidity is to purchase a humidifier. These can be found for $5 at Goodwill, or you can invest in an expensive one that will last for years. Humidifiers do the work for you; all that’s required is making sure it’s filled with water and turned on.

I use a Levoit humidifier for my rare and more expensive plants, because it has features that keep the  humidity constant even when I’m away. I’m able to set the humidity for the space and once the sensor gets a read below that, the humidifier will turn on and run again until it reaches the target. This is a function I use when I’m home for the weekend, because I can fill the entire tank up and set it to 65% humidity, knowing that it will last until I return.

I also use a cheap humidifier I found at Goodwill on The Ave. This was my very first humidifier, and while it’s not the greatest, and does leak water, it gives the plants on the other side of the room a needed boost.

Bottom line: any humidifier will work, and there are a lot of different sizes and price options.

Make a pebble tray

If you only have one or two plants that require high humidity, consider creating a pebble tray. Fill a waterproof container with small pebbles or perlite and cover the bottom half in water; then place your plants on the tray. Make sure the water isn’t high enough to touch the pot, or it will start bottom watering. If you don’t notice this, you can cause root rot from overwatering.

As the water from the pebble tray starts to evaporate, it will add water vapor to the air surrounding your plant. I’ve seen this method implemented mainly with calatheas, which are known for being humidity cry-babies.

Invest in an indoor greenhouse or terrarium

If you don’t want to grapple with water tanks or pebble trays, an indoor greenhouse or terrarium might be your best bet. There are many options, with greenhouses and terrariums that fit all sorts of budgets.

Plastic indoor greenhouses are typically zipped-up enclosures that increase humidity in the same way a traditional greenhouse does. When you water your plants inside the greenhouse, that water will slowly dissipate and increase the humidity. However, these appliances can be quite the eyesore. 

A current favorite in the online plant community is the DETOLF glass door cabinet from IKEA, because it offers many of the same greenhouse effects as the plastic one, but is more of a display cabinet. Because it has glass panels, it’s not as airtight as the plastic greenhouse, so humidity won’t remain as high unless modifications are made.

Terrariums are a great option for the ultra-picky plants that need 80% or higher humidity to even look presentable. Essentially, terrariums can trap as much humidity as you want, but setups that maintain that humidity can take some work. Sometimes folks combine terrariums and pebble trays to keep humidity high if their structure is not completely airtight. 

It’s important to maintain airflow with your terrarium plants to ensure the air doesn’t go completely stagnant, as this could cause some fungal issues. Lifting the lid for a few hours should circulate air and help keep your plants happy and in high humidity.

Although it’s not completely necessary to invest in humidity hacks, depending on your houseplant collection, it does help trick your plants into thinking they’re back in their natural environment. You’ll see aerial root growth and climbing, your leaves won’t get crispy tips, their size will increase, and overall their growth will improve.

Reach Health & Wellness Editor Iseabel Nance at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @iseabel

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