5 Ways to Keep Dry Winter Air From Killing Your House Plants

As the temperature finally plummets and frost appears on the ground it's hard to think about gardening, but there is plenty to do to stay busy inside and out. This month inside we offer some humidity tips fro dry winter air. In the garden we cover tool maintenance. For the DIY project at the end of the month we show you how to mount plants for indoor vertical plant walls.

January means the start of the driest air inside the home. Most indoor plants (save for most succulents/cacti) are from tropical environments with very high humidity. Plants lose moisture through pores in their leaves in a process called transpiration. Humidity, or moisture in the air, helps slow that process keeping your plants hydrated and healthy. Here are a few tips to deal with plant related humidity issues your dry winter home:

Plants near radiator dry out more quickly | Photo: Robynne Heymans

Plants near radiator dry out more quickly | Photo: Robynne Heymans

1. Move plants
Where ever possible, try moving plants away from radiators and heat vents. Try find a good balance of sun and distance from the heat source. Even 2-3 feet out of direct heat will greatly improve the health of the plant. 

Misting on the leaves and roots to increase humidity | Photo Robynne Heymans

Misting on the leaves and roots to increase humidity | Photo Robynne Heymans

2. Misting
Daily misting adds humidity as the tiny beads of water evaporate quickly around the leaves of the plant. For delicate plants like ferns we love this brass mister. For larger plants, a 750 ml spray bottle is a lot more practical. Before misting its important to consider the native home of the plant. Ferns, broad leafed plants and larger trees like Ficus Lyrata are for the most part from tropical, humid environments and are well adapted for misting. African Violets are an exception to this, they do not like wet leaves. Succulents, cacti and plants like the Snake plant and the ZZ are from arid environments and have succulent leaves that store water (like a camel's hump), so they don't need or want to be misted either.

A water tight, rust-resistant tray holds pebbles and water | Image: timber press

A water tight, rust-resistant tray holds pebbles and water | Image: timber press

3. Tray of water and pebbles
Placing a tray of water and pebbles directly under your plants is another great way to add humidity. As the water in the tray evaporates, it creates humid air around the plant. The pebbles in the tray are there to elevate the bottom of the pot out of the water, so the plants don't get root rot. If the plants are on a window sill over a radiator, a metal tray directly on the radiator filled with water will also generate humidity!

Group plants to create a micro climate | Photo: Michael Madden

Group plants to create a micro climate | Photo: Michael Madden

4. Group plants
Grouping your plants together will create a little microclimate of humidity. Make sure not to crowd them too tightly or the air and light flow around the leaves will be restricted.

Water less but dont allow the soil to dry out in winter | Image: MR Kitly

Water less but dont allow the soil to dry out in winter | Image: MR Kitly

5. Adjust watering
While most plants require less water in winter as part of a natural slow in their growth cycle in the cooler months, it is important to be vigilant about checking the soil of all your indoor plants. With the dry conditions indoor heating systems create, soil dries out much faster and more drastically than during the regular temperatures of the growing season. Keeping the soil at the plant's desired moisture level will help mitigate the effects of the low air moisture levels.