Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Houseplants Love Humidity Trays

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.


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.

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

  1. Pingback: Success with African Violets | Laidback Gardener

  2. Pingback: Le vase d’argent | Jardinier paresseux

  3. Pingback: Silver Vase Plant | Laidback Gardener

  4. Pingback: Easter Cactus: No Spines, Yet Still a Prickly Customer | Laidback Gardener

  5. Pingback: Overwintering A Banana Plant Indoors – Laidback Gardener

  6. Pingback: How to “Save” Supermarket Herbs – Laidback Gardener

  7. Pingback: Growing Houseplants Over a Radiator – Laidback Gardener

  8. Pingback: Frosted Fern: A Christmas Mystery Plant – Laidback Gardener

  9. Pingback: Curing Orchidophobia – Laidback Gardener

  10. Pingback: The Secrets to Growing Hibiscus Indoors – Laidback Gardener

  11. Pingback: Time to Take Cuttings of Annuals – Laidback Gardener

  12. Pingback: Kokedamas: Trendy but Hard to Keep Alive – Laidback Gardener

  13. Pingback: Autumn: Not the Best Season for Plant Propagation – Laidback Gardener

  14. Pingback: Garden Myth: Remove Center Leaves from African Violets to Stimulate Bloom – Laidback Gardener

  15. Pingback: Houseplant Appreciation Day – Laidback Gardener

  16. Pingback: How to Get an Orchid to Rebloom – Laidback Gardener

  17. Pingback: Making Peace With Your Peace Lily – Laidback Gardener

  18. Pingback: Preparing Houseplants for Winter – Laidback Gardener

  19. Pingback: Browning Leaves on an Indoor Avocado – Laidback Gardener

  20. Pingback: Bag Delicate Houseplants for the Winter – Laidback Gardener

  21. Pingback: Ferns – Laidback Gardener

  22. Pingback: Why Do My Indoor Azaleas Keep Dying? – Laidback Gardener

  23. Pingback: Calathea: November 2019 Houseplant of the Month – Laidback Gardener

  24. Pingback: When a Poinsettia Is Losing Leaves – Laidback Gardener

  25. Pingback: A Cold Hardy Christmas Plant – Laidback Gardener

  26. Pingback: Frosty Fern: Not So Easy – Laidback Gardener

  27. Pingback: The Herbal Houseplant Nobody Knows – Laidback Gardener

  28. Pingback: Fittonias : A Fragile Beauty – Laidback Gardener

  29. Pingback: When Poinsettias Lose Their Leaves – Laidback Gardener

  30. Pingback: Holiday Plant Hangover – Laidback Gardener

  31. Pingback: How to Grow a Florist’s Gloxinia – Laidback Gardener

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: