Misting Your Houseplants: Is it a Good Idea?
All houseplants need water - but what about misting them? Is misting a good idea or can it lead to problems later on? In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton shares if you should be misting your houseplants or skipping it for other forms of watering.
Keeping your indoor plants properly watered is a basic necessity when it comes to plant care. But how you water your houseplants can make a difference in their growth. Whether it’s bottom watering, or even watering with ice cubes, there’s many different methods when it comes to watering your plants.
Misting is one of those houseplant recommendations that almost everyone has heard of. It has become so entrenched that misting bottles are now a common part of indoor plant care kits.
But does misting your houseplants have the benefits indoor gardeners believe it does? Let’s take a deeper look to find out if you should be misting your houseplants or sticking to other ways of keeping your houseplants watered.
The Short Answer
Misting is most often used to improve humidity around houseplants. While it can increase humidity in the air for a short while, the effects don’t last long. There are also some downsides to misting, such as increased risks of pest and disease problems. It’s far better for the health of your plants to use other methods for raising humidity, such as humidifiers, rather than misting directly.
The Long Answer
Misting is recommended as a way to improve humidity around houseplants. Many popular houseplants come from tropical environments where humidity remains high year-round. Replicating native environments is essential to keeping your houseplants healthy and thriving, meaning humidity is a factor that can’t be ignored.
In their native habitats, many houseplants are used to humidity levels around 75% or even higher. Unless you live in a tropical area yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll see these humidity levels in your own home.
Luckily, houseplants are generally adaptable, happy in any humidity levels above around 40% (depending on how fussy they are).
But problems will pop up when your humidity is below 40% for long periods. Lack of moisture in the air impacts transpiration in the leaves and causes them to dry out.
One of the first signs of lack of humidity is brown leaf tips and thin leaves – similar symptoms to underwatering. Your houseplants will slow growth if humidity conditions do not improve and won’t put out any leaves or new green growth.
As a commonly recommended houseplant hack, some indoor gardeners with particularly dry homes choose to mist their plants to improve humidity. By spraying the air around the plants, more moisture particles are released that can make up for the lack of moisture in the air, thereby improving conditions.
Unfortunately, the results aren’t as effective as some make them out to be.
Does Misting Improve Humidity?
There is no doubt that adding moisture to the air around your plants will improve humidity. This is easy to measure with a humidity meter. It makes sense too – to improve the levels of moisture in the air, moisture needs to be added to it.
The problem is not whether it improves humidity, but how long it improves humidity for. To take you back to your high school science lesson, diffusion plays a role in how long the moisture actually lasts in the air. And the answer is – not very long.
Any water vapor particles may hang around your plants for a bit, but they will eventually spread throughout the air in your home. By that time, they will have a negligible impact on humidity levels around your plants, making misting somewhat useless.
Committed houseplant owners that have plenty of time on their hands can maintain humidity levels by misting several times a day. But let’s be honest – very few of us have that level of commitment, no matter how much we love our houseplants.
The Downsides Of Misting Houseplants
The effectiveness of misting is not the only problem with the practice. It can also have negative effects on your houseplants, hindering growth rather than helping it.
Risk of Disease
Although misting does add water vapor to the air, it also leaves some droplets on the plants themselves. Even if you’re misting the air and avoiding the leaves, as the moisture settles it is bound to gather on the foliage and between the stems.
If the water evaporates quickly this isn’t an issue. However, if these droplets stick around, they can quickly lead to the development of fungal disease and rot. Fungal diseases like powdery mildew that affect houseplants are incredibly damaging and difficult to control. They are best avoided if you want to keep your houseplants alive.
This problem is also even more damaging when people mist incorrectly. When misting, the water should be focused on the air around the plants and not the plants themselves.
However, many new gardeners that may not be aware of the dangers of misting spray water directly on the leaves. When misting regularly in low light areas with little evaporation, this will quickly lead to growth problems.
Besides diseases, there are also a number of pests attracted to moist environments created by misting. While misting can help keep spider mites away, it attracts other pests like fungus gnats.
While fungus gnats are the most prevalent example, there are many common houseplant pests that prefer moist spots and high levels of humidity.
Levels of damage vary depending on the pest and the intensity of the infestation. But one thing is certain – any infestation will negatively affect the growth of your houseplants.
The final concern relates to the consistency of environmental conditions. Houseplants typically prefer for environmental conditions to remain as consistent as possible throughout the year.
Some are more sensitive to changes than others, such as the fiddle leaf fig that will drop a few leaves whenever their pot is slightly moved. But even if your plant is adaptive, it will grow better when conditions remain consistent.
When misting, the humidity around your houseplant improves. But because that effect doesn’t last long, the air becomes dry again relatively quickly. When misting once or twice a day, that means humidity levels are almost consistently fluctuating, leading to environmental stress and stunted growth.
How To Safely Raise Humidity
If you do need to improve humidity around your plants, there are far more reliable ways to do so that won’t negatively impact growth.
Use A Humidifier
The best way to improve humidity around your plants is to use a product specifically designed for that purpose – a humidifier. Humidifiers increase humidity dramatically by consistently releasing water vapor. Placed near your plants and left on, this will provide the ideal conditions for growth for all your tropical houseplants.
Make sure to angle your humidifier away from plant foliage as this can lead to moisture collecting on the plant. Instead, use them to increase general humidity within a room, making all your plants happy without the risks.
Group Your Plants In Humid Rooms
If you don’t want to invest in a humidifier, the next best thing is to simply place your houseplants in a bathroom, or other humid rooms in your home. Bathrooms and kitchens are areas close to consistent water sources.
Unfortunately, the lighting conditions are usually not great in bathrooms, so make sure you’re not limiting growth in other areas by trying to improve humidity.
Grouping your houseplants close together also improves the general humidity in that area, even if it is only slightly.
When choosing this method, make sure there is still a little bit of space between the leaves to promote airflow and prevent disease. Also check regularly for pests and diseases as these problems can spread rapidly when plants are placed close together.
Try Pebble Trays
Another gardening hack used to improve humidity is pebble trays. In this method, all you need is a plant tray, a few pebbles and some water.
Fill the tray with pebbles and cover with water so the tops of the pebbles are still exposed. Then, rest the pot on the pebbles, ensuring the water is not touching the bottom of the pot. As the water slowly evaporates, it will increase humidity around that specific plant.
Unfortunately, this only improves humidity slightly and isn’t enough to make up for incredibly dry air. However, it can give your houseplants a boost and doesn’t take much effort to set up.
Don’t let the fancy decorative misting bottles fool you – misting isn’t all that great for your houseplants. While it can slightly improve humidity for a while or help you clean the leaves, the risks are not worth the trouble. Use a safer method to raise humidity instead to keep your houseplants healthy and happy.