Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Houseplants Love Humidity Trays

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Humidity tray.

Are your houseplants suffering from dried leaf tips or leaves that roll under? Or that turn yellow and fall off prematurely? Or flower buds that dry up without opening? If is, it’s likely that the air in your home is too dry, a major problem in most homes, especially in late fall and winter.

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Thermometer/hygrometer.

To check this out, install an electronic thermometer/hygrometer (humidity reader) near your plants: they are easy to find in any hardware store. If the humidity level shown is less than 50%, and it probably will be, it’s insufficient for most plants.

You can help your plants get back in shape by using a “humidity tray”. Bonsai and orchid nurseries often sell commercial ones, but it’s easier and much cheaper to make your own using readily available materials.

First find a “tray” larger than the plant’s pot… ideally one large enough for several plants. This could be a plant tray, a large saucer, a muffin container, a baking dish, the bottom of a Tupperware container, a kitty litter tray or pretty much any container that is large, fairly shallow, impermeable and rust-resistant.

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Egg crate.

Fill the tray with gravel, pebbles, expanded clay pellets, glass marbles, marble chips, etc. and spread them equally to form a flat surface. Some gardeners like to use plastic egg crate (the panels used to direct light from fluorescent lamps) cut to size for this purpose. Then pour water into the tray so that the substrate or the panelis covered in water to three-quarters of its height, but without flooding it completely.

20160104BYou’ve just created an environment from which moisture will rise up onto the substrate by capillary action, then evaporate into the surrounding air, increasing the atmospheric humidity very locally. Next place your plants directly on the tray (you won’t need a plant saucer) and they’ll benefit from their own personal humidifier.

From now on, every time you water let a bit of extra water flow into the humidity tray. That way there’ll always be water evaporating upwards and your plants will benefit from higher humidity 24 hours a day.

Humidity trays are especially useful during the months when you heat your home, because heating the air dries it out. You can continue to use the humidity tray all year if you want to (it’s never harmful), but in most climates, the air indoors is naturally more humid in the summer and a humidity tray won’t be as useful… unless you use an air conditioner, because cooling the air dries it too. In that case, it is better to use your humidity tray year round.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

31 comments on “Houseplants Love Humidity Trays

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