Do you have humidity-loving houseplants but no humidifier? Don’t worry! You can still give your plants the moisture they need. I live in the desert, and I went years without owning a humidifier while growing tropical plants. In this post, I’ll show you how I did it (and how you can too).
How do you increase humidity for plants without a humidifier? The best methods are regular misting, using a homemade humidity tray, grouping plants together, and using humidity tents or glass covers. In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at how you can use these methods to keep your plants healthy.
Why Plants Need Humidity
Water moves through plants – from roots to leaves – in a process called transpiration. Roots absorb water from the soil, and then move it up through the stem and out to the leaves. Water moves out of the leaves and into the air (as water vapor) through special pores called stomates.
Losing water through their leaves is a necessary process for plants to remain healthy. Similar to the way your heart pumps blood throughout your body, transpiration carries nutrients to every cell in a plant’s body through water.
When humidity levels are high, plants lose water more slowly from their leaves. When humidity levels are low, plants lose water more rapidly. A few other factors also impact this process, including the availability of moisture in the soil and ambient air temperature.
If you keep your plant watered, it can get the moisture it needs from the soil. But if you forget to water and the soil dries out, your plant can start wilting quickly. Also keep in mind that when the air temperature goes up, the humidity goes down. Place your plants away from heating vents and other heat sources to prevent rapid drying.
Ideal Humidity Levels for Plants
Ideal humidity levels vary depending on the individual plant, but most houseplants are happy in rooms where humidity ranges from 40 to 50 percent. You can always get a humidity thermometer (hygrometer) if you want to check, but in my experience they aren’t always the most accurate.
Generally, humans and plants are both comfortable at similar humidity levels. If the air feels dry to you, it’s most likely too dry for your houseplants. Although running a humidifier might be the best solution for extremely dry indoor air, most people can get by just by using the techniques described below.
Increase Humidity for Plants Without a Humidifier
Even if you don’t have a humidifier, you can still keep your humidity-loving houseplants happy with a little ingenuity and creativity. I’ve done it for years, so I know it’s possible. Here are the best ways to increase humidity for plants without a humidifier:
- Humidity Trays
- Tents or Covers
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these methods, starting with the easiest and least expensive – misting. If you have a spray bottle (or a couple bucks to buy one), you can start misting your plants and increasing humidity right away.
Increase Humidity By Misting
Depending on your climate and the conditions in your home, you may need to mist your houseplants several times a week or even daily. I currently live in Southern Colorado, where the air is very dry most of the year. I mist my houseplants daily in winter, and a few times a week the rest of the year.
When we lived in the forests of Arkansas, I rarely had to mist my plants – maybe once a week in winter. If you live in a humid area, mist less often. If you live in a dry area, mist more often. Central heating dries the air out quite a bit in winter so you may want to increase misting while using the heater.
Mist your houseplants using a spray bottle filled with lukewarm or room temperature water set to the “mist” setting. Never use ice cold or hot water. Although you can mist houseplants any time of day, the best time is in the morning so the leaves can dry before night falls.
Many foliage plants are okay if you spray the leaves directly, but some plants cannot tolerate moisture on their leaves (like rieger begonias and African violets). As a general rule, never mist plants with hairy leaves. Always check care instructions for individual plants if you aren’t sure.
Place Plants on a Humidity Tray
Another of the best ways to increase humidity for plants without a humidifier is to use a homemade humidity tray – sometimes called a pebble tray. This is a shallow, water-tight tray filled with clean pebbles and then filled halfway up with water. The water should never touch the bottom of the plants’ containers, as this can cause root rot.
I’ve written an entire post on how to make a humidity tray for houseplants (with pictures) if you’re interested. In my opinion, this is one of the best, least expensive ways to increase humidity for your plants (aside from misting). This method also works well in conjunction with grouping.
Group Your Plants Together
Plants are constantly taking up water through their roots and releasing it through their leaves. In a way, they’re creating their own humidity (as long as they have available moisture to draw from in the soil). Grouping plants together helps increase the moisture in the air for all of them.
The best way to increase humidity through grouping is to place multiple plants next to each other on a humidity tray (as discussed above), and/or place bowls or glasses of water around them. You can also group some plants in more humid rooms of your home (if light is adequate) – like the bathroom or near the kitchen sink.
Humidity Tents or Glass Covers
In some cases, humidity tents or glass covers may be warranted for plants that need high levels of humidity – such as ferns or fancy-leafed begonias. At night, place these plants on a bed of damp pebbles and cover with a glass cake cover or small plastic tent.
If your plant is small enough, you could even turn a glass bowl, jar, or pitcher upside down and cover your plant with it as a makeshift terrarium. Whatever you use, make sure to remove the cover in the morning to give the plant plenty of fresh air.
If you don’t have anything you can use as a glass cover, look for small indoor greenhouses or humidity domes for seed starting. Either of these can be used to raise humidity in indoor plants. An indoor greenhouse with plastic flaps that you can raise during the day works wonderfully.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions related to increasing humidity for indoor plants that you might find useful (and my answers to them).
How Can I Naturally Humidify My Plants? The best way to naturally humidify your plants is to mist them regularly with room temperature water, place bowls and cups of water around them, and/or place them on a humidity tray (as described above). For plants with very high humidity needs, consider using a glass cover, indoor greenhouse, or small humidity tent at night only.
Does a Bowl of Water Increase Humidity for Plants? Yes. Placing bowls or cups of water near your plants does increase humidity around them. This is a good idea if you live in a particularly dry climate and/or if you have central heating (which dries the air even more during winter). For the best results, place a bowl of water between plants so they can share the extra moisture.
How Can I Raise My Humidity Quickly? The fastest way to raise humidity levels around your houseplants is by misting. This instantly adds moisture to the air. Although placing your plant on a humidity tray also works, this takes longer as humidity is created when the water evaporates.
Does Misting Plants Really Increase Humidity? Yes. Misting your plants really does increase humidity levels. When you mist water around and onto your plants, it increases the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air (i.e. humidity). Misting is a great way to provide humidity for indoor houseplants, especially if you don’t currently have a humidifier.