Take a good look at your houseplants. Do they look attractive, healthy, and are they developing well? Or, are they beginning to droop, look weak, or are they even dying off? Chances are they are under stress. This can be due to being too hot, cold, or thirsty!
In some cases, houseplants need tons of humidity to thrive and grow strong. That’s why so many people look into using a diffuser vs humidifier options to help transform the atmosphere into something more palatable for their green friends.
But which option works best for adding humidity? Are there any other options you may wish to try? Let’s take a look.
Why are some of my houseplants under stress?
Like humans, plants can become too hot, cold, thirsty, or may even suffer from sunburn! If you know where your plants originated, you may be halfway to solving the mystery of why a particular plant is evidently suffering – humidity is a major issue for specific species.
Many houseplants are natives of tropical regions. In the tropics, temperatures can be sweltering – and there is often a high degree of humidity – particularly as rainfall can vary from light showers to torrential spasms.
Given your home may not be much like a rainforest, the aim is to try and replicate exotic regions and their ideal growing conditions as much as possible. If you had to relocate from Brazil to Barnsley, you’d probably feel the shockwaves, too! Improving humidity will reduce the stress of dry atmospheres, erratic temperatures, and even contaminated water.
Though you – in a centrally heated, dry, well-insulated home – may feel comfortable, your plants may be suffering. Fossil fuel heating and/or a lack of ventilation can starve them of air and moisture and render them limp, droopy, crisp, or even changing to an undesirable colour.
With all that in mind, let’s start looking at a few ways to create indoor humidity for those houseplants that could really use it.
Best ways to create humidity for your houseplants
1. Use a humidifier
Electric humidifiers are, as you might expect, purpose-built to create humid atmospheres. Varying in size and features, many will run silently, meaning you’ll hardly notice their presence at all.
Portable humidifiers can be taken from room to room, meaning you can decide which plants require the most urgent attention, or for longer periods.
The main advantage with electric humidifiers is convenience and speed. Some humidifiers fit neatly into smaller spaces because they have a reduced capacity for water, for example. This may suit smaller rooms or those in need of short bursts of humidity.
For larger spaces, larger machines can be more versatile – though naturally, you’re going to end up paying more!
Some humidifiers are marketed as cool misters – but, don’t be so hasty to invest in one. Remember tropical plants can often cope well with warmth! You should check the functions and price up several humidifiers before making your choice.
If you’re going to spend considerable money on a humidifier, think about other reasons for investing. Do you have very dry spaces in your home that leave you gasping for breath? It’s likely you’ll benefit from a humidifier, too. Try and look for a reputable brand for the best results – I recommend ProBreeze, for example.
Consider which doors and/or windows you or anyone else will open if you use a humidifier. Will draughts affect the flow of circulating air, and how will this affect plants?
It’s equally important to ensure you have a power supply close by – especially if you cannot move some larger plants in heavy containers. An extension cable or battery-operated humidifier may be the solution – otherwise, if you can move the plants, do so. Just remember that some specimens are more likely to feel the shock than others!
2. Use a diffuser
In the battle between humidifier vs diffuser, the latter seems to win through on immediate cost – but this system runs on oils rather than pure water and electricity, meaning there’s always going to be regular investment.
Essential oil diffusers are great for helping to make your environment more palatable to tropical plants struggling with arid air.
You may even find that some diffusers are marketed as humidifiers – it’s important to know the difference! Essential oil diffusers take oil deposits to help disperse scent around a room. However, you can repurpose it to add water to the air if need be.
I’d recommend getting a humidifier over a diffuser if you want to make a larger space more plant-friendly. Diffusers are great for pokier spaces, and if you’re already using one for your own end, there’s no need to invest in anything new.
Unlike traditional humidifiers, you will have to invest in essential oils regularly to keep your diffuser topped up. That’s going to mean a steady investment on your part. Therefore, think about whether or not you get any extra value out of this purchase!
Humidifiers and diffusers tend to be the first options people think of when making spaces more plant-friendly, but I’ve got a handful of extra solutions you might want to consider first…
3. Mist your plants
Misting is a simple, cheap, and quick way to deliver moisture to specific plants and even specific leaves! Misting plants should gently dampen leaves with tepid water, with some droplets getting absorbed by the growth medium. This creates a refreshing damp zone – and the best part is, you don’t have to invest in any expensive equipment!
Misters are available with single or dual firm caps, and many come with spray nozzles you can twist to increase the intensity of the flow of water, directing what’s akin to a miniature hose pipe onto the plant. That’s more of a mini power wash than a mist!
However, you might find this a little too fierce for certain plants! More expensive misters may allow you to regulate the flow, while some have pump action.
Misters arrive in different sizes, and therefore hold different quantities of water. When thinking of purchasing a mister, think carefully about how many plants you will be working with and their accessibility.
If you have lots of large plants with easy access, invest in a larger mister – so you don’t have to refill so much!
If you have lots of small plants grouped together, you may need a slim, narrow mister, ideally with a long delivery tube that can pass easily between containers and foliage. This will help you reach plants at awkward angles.
4. Use pebble trays
Yes – believe it or not, pebbles may hold the key to your humidity headaches! Filling a tray with pebbles and water underneath your plant(s) allows for water to evaporate upwards. It’s not necessarily the fastest way to create humid conditions, but it’s certainly cost-effective.
Pebble trays are easy to set up. Simply buy or collect pebbles and stones, then wash them before laying them in a saucer or tray.
Next, use distilled or dechlorinated water to fill the saucer or tray. Do not allow the level of the water to reach the tops of pebbles or cover them! This is not intended for roots to suck up the water.
You can then leave your plants to enjoy the steadily increasing humidity – but you might want to try a couple of other ideas alongside, just in case it takes a while for your plants to acclimatise.
5. Group plants together
This is probably the cheapest way of enhancing humid conditions for your plants, and it might be the least hassle – providing your specimens can play well together!
Groups of leaves – with less air able to circulate amongst them – can increase humidity. Try to bundle together plants that like each other’s company.
It’s important to swap pots around, too, so that you alternate plants to gain light from nearby windows. This also means you can check your progress and overall health of individual plants.
Remember, in the tropics, the upper canopy of plants shelters the shorter ones beneath. As they release oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, photosynthesis takes place. This is essential for plants to survive – and it also enhances the home environment for us!
So, consider layering plants just like you’d see in tropical settings. Set up tall, broad-leafed plants so they can tower over smaller ones, and therefore encourage greater humidity.
6. Use greenhouses or terrariums
Greenhouses are excellent for creating humidity – and while I’m not suggesting you need to set up a whole greenhouse from scratch on your patio, you can replicate the effect with small, portable systems within your home.
Terrariums, for example, are indoor greenhouse setups that are increasingly popular with planet parents. They’re somewhat like exclusive enclosures for your plants – you’re creating small ecosystems to trap moisture and improve humidity.
Terrariums can be decorative and functional, but always remember to close them down. Otherwise, you won’t trap that crucial moisture, and you certainly won’t increase humidity.
Alternatively, you could even create your own terrariums and mini greenhouses by tying plastic bags or cloches around your plants and cuttings. Make sure they’re clear to view inside, and do spray your plants occasionally. I’d also recommend you open up your bag every two days (or every other day) so that your greens get some fresh air.
You can also invest in terrariums through Amazon or IKEA – there are plenty of different models, makes and sizes to suit your home humidity needs. Check out our guide to indoor greenhouses as a great starting point.
7. Share your bathroom!
Naturally, your shower or bathroom space will probably be the most humid room in your home. Therefore, why not house your humidity-hungry plants in there? It’s easy to increase the humidity of this space just after a bath or shower.
However, you don’t have to set up your plants in there permanently. For example, you might not have much space, or your plants may only need a quick burst of moisture every so often.
Therefore, think about transferring plants that need humidity into your bathroom after you next use the shower. Try to leave them in there for a few hours, or even overnight. Even a quick burst may do them some good.
Certain plants, such as lucky bamboo, absolutely love bathroom spaces. I’ve got a specimen of my own set up between the bathtub and sink – it’s never been greener, and it’s grown a foot or two since moving in!
You might also benefit from giving your plants a quick bath or shower in some tepid water. This is probably a good idea if you’ve brought a humidity-hungry specimen home for the first time.
The trick here is to not shower the plant directly, but to direct water to the nearby walls and/or shower curtain so it trickles down into the shower tray or plughole.
In the bath, I recommend you place plastic saucers upside down on the floor of the tub, and then turn on the taps to provide a shallow pool of tepid water. This way, the water will surround the saucers but not soak the bottom of pots.
Ideally, try to leave your plants here overnight, or for a full day. This treat is like a cool sauna for your greens!
Small plants can be treated in the same way in the sink, too. When their sauna time is over, simply pull the plug and dry off the saucers before you return the plants to their home base.
If you’re really into your tropical flowers and plants, be prepared to create some moisture. You may not live anywhere close to a rainforest environment, in which case, it’s worth trying to mimic your plants’ homeland as much as possible.
I’ve used all of the above methods to help create humidity for my plants at home. I think investing in a good humidifier is a great idea – but if you do have plants that can reside in your bathroom for a while, transferring them over is a brilliant way to make tropical growths feel at home.