Should You Mist Your Houseplants? (3 Reasons & 3 Drawbacks)
Misting is often a part of many peoples’ daily gardening routines, especially with houseplants. Some people say this can help increase humidity and mimic the plants’ natural habitats. But does it really?
Misting plants is not a dependable strategy to increase humidity levels for extended periods. The act of misting can even negatively affect houseplants by attracting pests and diseases. Furthermore, misting can potentially slow plant growth by blocking the plant’s stomata and hindering its ability to photosynthesize.
Misting plants can provide immediate visual assurance and can even fill you with a sense of accomplishment. But does it really help your plants? Let’s try to clear up the fog and see what exactly misting does in the article below!
3 Reasons Why People Mist Their Houseplants
The 3 most common reasons why people mist their plants are:
- To increase humidity
- To clean leaves
- To replace watering
To mist, or not to mist, this has been a matter of debate among many plant owners for several years.
On one side of the spectrum, some people believe there is no harm in misting plants and that it is even helpful. On the other end, however, some think misting is a waste of time and does not provide any benefit whatsoever.
Like many things, though, the true answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Here are 3 of the main reasons why some people may choose to mist their indoor plants.
1. Increase Humidity
In general, misting does not provide houseplants with the long-term humidity that they require to survive. The effects of misting rarely last more than 10 minutes and cannot be fully sustained unless the plants are kept in controlled and confined spaces, such as greenhouses.
Some folks mist their plants every day just to boost the humidity around their plants. I used to do this myself until I realized it’s never really been discussed how long this extra humidity actually lasts.
Unless you happen to live in a greenhouse or keep all your plants in glass domes, misting will not give the plant a micro-environment of humidity. Without any sort of enclosure to help contain it, the misted water will simply evaporate.
One plant owner tested the efficiency of misting and used a regular spray bottle to mist their houseplants. They monitored humidity levels with a hygrometer.
Humidity went up 15% but immediately dropped. After 10 minutes, humidity levels had fallen right back to normal and appeared almost as if nothing had even occurred!
So although the humidity increase may be significant, the effects of misting are extremely brief and hardly last more than 10 minutes. Do you think this is worth it?
2. Clean Leaves
Although misting is commonly done to help clean leaf surfaces of excess dust, misting will only cause dirt to concentrate and dry in one area. Foliage can be hosed down to thoroughly clean houseplants but this is no longer considered misting.
It might be easy to take a spray bottle and just spritz the dust off leaves but sadly, this may not be as helpful as we hoped.
While you may be eager to keep those leaves clean, mineral deposits can sometimes be left behind from frequent misting with tap water. These stains are the antithesis of clean!
Additionally, water droplets will usually just gather extra dust and oftentimes will only sit and dry on the surface of the leaf.
This will create a high concentration of dust particles that will cover the stomata, the minuscule pores on plants that they typically use to “breathe” through.
In other words, misting can potentially lead to slower growth but this is something we cover later on!
3. Replace Watering
Misting does not provide sufficient water to houseplants and cannot be used to replace regular watering sessions. On average, plants will typically absorb water through their roots and cannot obtain the moisture they require through misting.
Some people mist their plants on a day-to-day basis and think it is helpful for their tropical plants. After all, rainfall is common in the rainforest so this is perfect for tropical houseplants, right?
It might seem this way indeed. But the reason why rain is so beneficial is that the water would seep into the ground and provide a great amount of moisture to plant roots below.
Check our article here on whether or not rainwater is good for plants.
While some plants can absorb water through their leaves, like Tillandsia plants, the majority of houseplants we keep usually only absorb moisture through their underground roots.
In fact, many tropical plants have what is frequently called a “drip tip”, a pointed tip found at the end of the leaf.
This feature helps encourage excess moisture to drip off the leaf and lead the water down to the roots, where the moisture is truly needed. Thus, misting cannot be used as a replacement for watering.
3 Disadvantages of Misting Houseplants
The 3 disadvantages of misting houseplants are:
- Hindered growth
Occasional misting combined with other methods such as manually wiping foliage to remove dirt and misting plants with pesticides can be a great way to handle certain issues.
The act of misting alone, however, will not achieve much of anything aside from giving an illusion of care. Here are the other range of downsides that misting can potentially bring.
Misting houseplants can create moist terrains that are ideal for pests like fungus gnats to lay eggs and live in. These insects feed off plant roots and have the potential to infest other plants that are frequently misted.
If the top few inches of your soil are usually left wet after misting, this can potentially create an attractive habitat for certain pests to live, like fungus gnats.
Fungus gnats adults don’t do much damage and are more of a nuisance than anything. Their larvae, however, are what you need to worry about.
The clear and shiny larvae of fungus gnats are typically found in wet soil, feeding off plant roots. If left unchecked, they can potentially spread to and kill other houseplants, especially if you frequently mist their leaves and soil.
The excess moisture that is typically leftover from misting houseplants can attract a high number of mold and fungus to settle on foliage. Moreover, leaf spots caused by fungal diseases can spread to other neighboring plants and can cause excessive leaf drop, which can potentially kill infected plants.
Most of us don’t like mold and fungi. Leaves that are frequently misted and left damp for extended periods can act as a great environment for mold and fungal pathogens to thrive.
No doubt, what’s worse is that these pathogens can spread to other plants through misting or splashing of water droplets.
Symptoms of fungal leaf spots typically include dark brown spots in the middle of foliage. Brown leaf tips are common but brown spots in the center of leaves can be a sign of fungal disease.
These spots can grow larger with time and severe infections may even lead to heavy leaf drops, especially for plants that are indoors and have lower air circulation.
3. Hindered Growth
Water droplets left from misting can cover the stomata of houseplants, which are microscopic holes that aid the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Once exposed to moisture from misting, the stomata will close and stop plants from photosynthesizing, leading to slower growth.
Remember, plants have minuscule holes called stomata that allow the plant to take in nutrients, carbon dioxide, and water. This helps the plants photosynthesize.
Although the stomata can sometimes be found on stems and upper leaf surfaces, plants that are misted directly from the bottom are more likely to have their stomata disturbed. This is where most of the stomata can be found.
To help prevent the plant from absorbing too much water, the plant stomata will close if they are exposed to rain or mist.
As a direct result, plants are effectively prevented from absorbing more carbon dioxide to continue photosynthesizing. All in all, misting may potentially hinder the overall growth of the plant.
4 Alternatives to Misting With a Spray Bottle
The 4 most effective tools to increase humidity levels without misting are:
- Grouping plants together
- Pebble trays
- Bowls with water
Humidifiers are more effective than misting with a spray bottle because they release a large amount of water vapor into the air. This will increase the humidity of the entire room for an extended period and will not just cover your plants’ leaves with water droplets.
It might require a little extra money to buy one, but you might find this purchase worthwhile.
This humidifier here on Amazon is both quiet and automatic!
Most humidifiers, though, have a built-in hygrometer. So you can set your humidifier to go off once the humidity drops to a certain level and have it stop when it meets your preferred levels! Convenient.
2. Grouping Plants Together
Crowding plants is one of the most common suggestions to help increase humidity.
If you have a high number of houseplants and decide to place them together, this can help raise the humidity level through transpiration.
The disadvantage to this method, however, is that infestations are more likely to occur with plants so close together. Check them regularly to help prevent bugs from swarming all of your plants at once.
3. Pebble Trays
Pebble trays are best for those in especially dry and low-humid environments.
One home gardener has tested this and saw a regular 4% humidity increase. However, other plant owners have shared that this percentage can drastically go up if you live in an area with low humidity, like Nevada.
To use pebble trays, fill a tray or bowl with pebbles and pour some water in to cover the bottom of the dish but do not submerge the gravel.
Place this tray of pebbles underneath your potted plants that require a higher amount of humidity.
4. Bowls With Water
You can use bowls or vases filled with water to help increase humidity. This works similar to the pebble tray but helps generate more humidity for the entire room.
Simply fill up a bowl or vase with some water and leave it by a sunny windowsill to release moisture into the air through evaporation.
For optimum results, consider using at least 3 bowls to help raise the overall humidity, especially if you have a lot of humidity-loving plants at home.
Are there any houseplants that need to be misted?
The only houseplants that will truly benefit from being misted would be plants in the Tillandsia family. Commonly known as air plants, the leaves of tillandsias are often covered with unique cells that help the plant absorb any water on them and require frequent misting to survive.
What houseplants don’t like to be misted?
Cacti and succulents are drought-tolerant plants that should never be misted. These plants typically hail from deserts that are low in humidity and therefore do not require any misting whatsoever.
Summary of Misting Plants
Houseplants that are frequently misted can harbor and invite unwanted insects like fungus gnats. In addition, damp and misted foliage are prime targets for fungal pathogens to thrive.
Moreover, fine water droplets left by misting can potentially block the plants stomata and prevent them from photosynthesizing.
Despite popular belief, misting plants is not a reliable way to amplify humidity levels for a suitable duration of time. The use of humidifiers and pebble trays are more ideal solutions to effectively increase humidity levels.
- “Garden Myths” by Glen Bupp in University of Pennsylvania State
- “The air in our home is extremely dry in winter. Should I mist the houseplants?” by n/a in University of Iowa
- “Fungal Leaf Spots on Indoor Plants” by n/a in University of Maryland