The indoor plants we’ve become so fond of these last few years are obligingly adaptable. They are able to tolerate conditions in our homes that they don’t experience in their natural habitats. Most houseplants come from tropical regions, and are accustomed to humidity levels that we would consider sky-high.
The ideal levels for the most commonly grown houseplants are in the 60-80% range. Many plants do fine with humidity levels down to 40%, but winter indoor air can get even drier. (We humans are most comfortable with levels between 40-50%.)
Yet there are houseplants that are able to take the low humidity of the typical house in stride. Cacti and succulents can handle humidity levels as low as 30%. But there are other plants, those with thick, waxy, moisture-storing leaves, that will grow in humidity levels below 40%.
Here are five houseplants that will stay lush and green where the humidity is low:
Jade plant (Crassula ovata):
The classic jade plant can handle drafts, a good thing since it needs bright light, which means it grows best close to a window. Feed only once or twice a year, in spring and/or summer. With age, jade plants can reach six feet in height, but most indoor plants stay under three feet.
Philodendron and pothos (Philodendron spp.):
Heart-shaped, waxy leaves in vivid green (philodendron) or streaked with yellow or white (pothos). These vines will grow in bright, medium, or low light. They only need fertilizing once or twice a year. Vines can grow 20 to 40 feet long, however regular pruning keeps them in check. Put the trimmings in a glass of water in a bright spot. They’ll grow roots, and you’ll have a new plant.
Monstera (Monstera spp.):
The older and happier a monstera is, the larger it gets. Leaves can reach two feet in width. (There are smaller species.) Plants tolerate lower light, but do better in bright light, and can even handle some direct sun. Every two weeks, turn the plant one-quarter to the left to keep the leaves evenly sized. Fertilize if the leaves become pale or if you want a larger plant.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata):
Another slow grower. With super-thick, tough architectural leaves and an upright shape, this forgiving plant is the closest thing to indestructible. It grows faster in bright light, but is fine in low. To four feet in height.
Hoya, or wax plant (Hoya spp.):
This slow-growing vine reaches about four feet in length. It can tolerate low light, but needs bright light and regular fertilizing in order to produce its pretty pink flowers. Its thick, waxy leaves and stems also make it very forgiving if you forget to water.
Some signs that dry air is affecting plants are brown leaf tips or yellow edges, flowers dying quickly or buds drying up and falling off. Also, stressed plants can become vulnerable to insect pests and diseases.
These plants prefer soil on the drier side. Because they are so effective at conserving moisture, overwatering can cause the roots to rot. Water when the top inch or two of soil is dry. High humidity, on the other hand, doesn’t bother them. They’ll be happy growing in more humid areas of your house, such as a bathroom.
If you don’t know the level of humidity in your house, get a hygrometer, available at any garden center or home improvement store. It measures the amount of water vapor in the air.
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
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