This Is the 1 Reason You Can’t Keep Your Houseplants Alive

Houseplants — even popular types, such as succulents and cacti — aren’t always as easy to care for as you might assume (even those with a reputation for being difficult to kill). They need the right amount of water and the proper kind of light. Lots of plants need to be in the right size planter, so their roots have enough room to grow. Some do best with a specific kind of soil. Plus, many need some kind of fertilizer to thrive and grow.

But there’s one other factor most people overlook when they bring a plant home.

Even a green thumb doesn’t replace this factor

Small plant pot displayed in the window
Humid air helps the plants take in air. | imnoom/iStock/Getty Images

No matter how green your thumb or how diligently you tend your houseplants, you won’t succeed without one important factor on your side: humidity. How Stuff Works explains plants need humid air “because the pores through which they breathe lose most of their moisture when the surrounding air is dry.” The plant can’t always replace that moisture with the water its roots absorb. Houseplants with thinner leaves need more humidity than plants with thicker leaves. 

The humidity in your home is probably too low

Houseplants, books, pile of journals and watering can
Check what kind of humidity your plants need. | InaTs/iStock/Getty Images

The humidity in your home probably depends on where you live and what season it is. (Whether your heating or air conditioning runs all day is also a factor.) But according to How Stuff works, the humidity level in the average home is often below 30%. Yet most houseplants — even desert plants, such as cacti — prefer humidity levels of at least 40%. Many even need humidity levels of 60% or more. The publication characterizes a relative humidity of 50% to 60% as “probably ideal for both houseplants and people.”

Your houseplants can let you know if they need more humidity

house plants in white pots on the bedroom background
Curled leaves are a sign they need extra humidity. | Ulianna/iStock/Getty Images

How can you tell if your houseplants need more humidity? They’ll let you know! According to How Stuff Works, you might see curled leaves or dry tips. Houseplants that need more humid air might also need frequent watering. Plus, flower buds are particularly susceptible to damage by dry air. If you see buds turning brown or just falling off altogether, that might signal your houseplants need more humidity. 

Fortunately, you can increase the humidity in your home

Table side the window and plants pot
Grouping your plants together increases moisture. | imnoom/iStock/Getty Images

Even if the air in your home is very dry, you can still grow beautiful (and happy) houseplants. You’ll just need to increase the humidity. The Spruce reports you can group your plants together. Because plants release moisture through their leaves in a process called transpiration, grouping them will create a more humid microclimate. You can also put your plants in trays with pebbles and water. Additionally, you can mist your plants. Or you can even use a humidifier.

There’s a reason Joanna Gaines has a greenhouse

Woman Sprays Plants In Flowerpots
A greenhouse can maintain the perfect humidity. | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

If you love houseplants, then you’re probably at least a little jealous of Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines’ green thumb — and her gardening setup. She has plenty of her favorite plants in her gorgeous farmhouse. And she also grows many plants in her greenhouse — which turns out to be an excellent way to maintain a high level of humidity. Not everybody can have a greenhouse. But as The Spruce notes, you can pretty easily set up a terrarium, which can give specific plants a much higher level of moisture. It’s sort of like a greenhouse in miniature!

You can move humidity-loving houseplants to the kitchen or bathroom

Senior woman watering flowers
You can move plants that need more humidity to the kitchen or bathroom. | aerogondo/iStock/Getty Images

If you can’t get them to thrive in your living room, your office, or whatever room you originally intended, don’t be afraid to move your houseplants. The University of Vermont reports you can move humidity-loving plants to your kitchen or bathroom. Those rooms naturally have a higher humidity level than the rest of your house. So especially if you can’t or don’t want to start running a humidifier or filling trays with water, your plants might thrive with a change of scenery.

Don’t forget about air circulation

isolated cactus/succulent
They need air ventilation to keep them disease free. | BjoernFischer/iStock/Getty Images

How Stuff Works notes in addition to humidity, houseplants need air circulation. Plants need some air movement to ventilate waste gases, remove excess heat, and prevent diseases that can develop in closed spaces. The publication explains most plants will get adequate air circulation near large windows because of the temperature differences between day and night. But elsewhere, you might want to run a small fan in the same room as your houseplants (not directed right at them) to keep the air moving.

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