Glossy Swiss Cheese and Chinese Money plants, hardy Succulents and infamous Fiddle Leaf Figs: House plants in their full variety fill our homes and hearts with joy. But do you have what it takes to be a great plant parent? We’ll spill the secrets to making your house plants thrive – but most importantly: How to keep your indoor plants alive in an air-conditioned home.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably added a few new houseplants to your collection of leafy roomies over the past year. And who could blame you? Sheltering in place for weeks (thanks to COVID-19) and staring at the same four walls day in, day out, your home can suddenly start to look pretty grey. So why not add a little greenery and turn your humble abode into an urban jungle?
Some indoor plants are nearly indestructible – just like the little Pothos I had sitting on my office desk a few years back. I forgot to take it home when I left on a summer vacation and – unless the cleaning lady secretly watered it, defying all odds it looked lush as ever when I returned three weeks later.
But not every plant will make your life as easy. Some are quirky individualists and hard to satisfy, especially in the low-light corners of your home or harsh and ever-changing weather conditions. Your aircon usage, for example, can have a huge impact on your flatmate’s pretty leaves and growth cycles.
To help you become a successful plant parent, we’ll share a few tips and tricks on how to not kill your houseplants. This guide is perfect for anyone with a newfound love for indoor plants, but particularly for those living in an air-conditioned home. Read on to learn more!
How to Not Kill Your Houseplants
Australian summers can be ruthless. For most of us, air conditioning is the only thing standing between us and the sweltering heat. But whilst your aircon helps you stay comfortable, sprawling cold air can seriously damage your plants.
What does air conditioning do to your plants?
Have you ever wondered why your indoor plants don’t seem to grow much during the summer months? Plants need heat and humidity to flourish. Your AC removes both from your home, turning it into a difficult environment to exist in – never mind popping out a new leave or two.
But don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you have to stay hot and sweaty this summer. Your AC unit and your indoor plants can coexist. Here’s how!
Move your plants away from your AC
Whilst ‘chilling cold’ might be just right for you, blasting cold air harms your plants. It lowers the room temperature and decreases the overall humidity of the room. Most plants love nothing more than stable conditions.
Many struggle to thrive under the rapid changes caused by air-con units. How do you know when it’s time to act? Fading colours and wilting leaves are usually good indicators that a plant is sitting too close to an air conditioning vent.
The first solution to this problem is moving the most fragile varieties out of air-conditioned spaces and into rooms with more stable temperatures and humidity levels. If that’s not possible, move your plants as far away from the AC as possible – ideally without compromising on light.
Mist, mist, mist
When the room temperature drops, the relative humidity of the air falls, too. As a result, moisture is drawn out of your indoor plants. Some can cope with lower humidity levels, others quickly show their discontent: Particularly tropical varieties and those with thinner leaves tend to suffer in air-conditioned environments.
By misting your plants’ leaves with the nozzle of a spray can, you can restore some of the moisture that is lost when you’re running your AC every day. It’s a simple way to boost humidity – especially in tropical houseplants. You should, however, still stick to the recommended watering schedule for each individual plant and avoid over-watering, which is, surprisingly, the most common cause of death in house plants.
Signs to look out for include falling flower buds and wilting leaves. If you notice any of these, misting your plants might be a great idea. If you’re unsure whether your plant is of the type that likes mist, ask the staff at your local plant shop for advice.
Small plants need protection too
Although adorable and trendy, small plants are often high maintenance and can be more sensitive to cold air, temperature changes and low humidity. If you’re set on having these types of plants in your home, it’s recommended to keep them protected by glass. Building a terrarium allows you to have visible access to your plants while keeping them out of the direct line of fire of your AC.
Learn your plants’ needs
Plant care is demanding. House plants require regular watering, pruning, repotting and cleaning, and each plant has its own needs and preferences. Whilst nobody is born with a green thumb, it’s a skill that can be acquired.
All you need to do is a little research into each plant’s preferred temperature and humidity needs – ideally before you make a purchase. But don’t worry, it’s never too late to educate yourself.
Once you know more about the kinds of plants you own, you can better care for them. You may, for example, choose to position your Monstera Deliciosa a couple of meters away from your window, knowing that it thrives well in a range of light conditions.
Like many plants with big, broad leaves, it can handle temperature changes better than most houseplants and can easily be relocated to different areas of your home – with or without air-conditioning.
Handle your humidity
Most house plants prefer anywhere between 40 to 60 per cent humidity, which is a lot higher than the average air-conditioned home. If a plant shows leaves with brown edges, wilting leaves or foliage that is starting to become crispy, it’s a good indication that your humidity levels are too low.
To become a successful plant owner, you will need to monitor the humidity levels in every room a plant will live in. The easiest and most economical way to do so is by buying a Hygrometer, available in most home improvement stores and online.
House plants perfect for the air-conditioned home
You can also start by making smarter decisions during the next splurge at your local plant shop. Some plants tolerate air conditioning better than others – as long as their leaves don’t come into direct contact with jets of cold air, they’re fine.
Indoor plants that tolerate air-conditioning better than others include:
- Snake plant (Sansevieria masoniana)
- Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Zanzibar or ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
- Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
- Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
- Cactus (Cactaceae)
Ask the shop staff for help and follow their advice before you make a new purchase. I know it’s hard to say no to a plant once you fall in love with it, but it’s a lot harder to throw it in the bin once your aircon has killed it.
Now that you know what it takes to keep your indoor plants happy, and how lower humidity levels and ever-changing temperatures may not be best for your house plants, you are on the right path to excel at your new job as a plant parent.
Your air-conditioner may remove moisture in the air and in doing so, dry out your room and cause a range of concerns. Are you unsure about the humidity levels in your home? Airrite’s professional and friendly team can help. Contact us and we’ll be happy to help.