To spritz or not to spritz?
When scientifically tested, many long-established gardening practices turn out to be ineffective, and often even downright detrimental to achieving your horticultural goals. Sometimes, though, there may be hidden benefits entirely different from those the experiments sought to test. I can’t think of a better example of this than the much-debated idea of whether you should mist plants.
The concept is a simple one. By regularly spraying your houseplants with water, you raise the humidity around their leaves, keeping delicate species from the tropical regions of the world happy in distinctly untropical homes. Indeed, with modern, centrally heated houses often holding less moisture in the air than the Sahara, it would be logical to think that there was more need now than ever before for this simple technique, which is highly effective at boosting ambient humidity.
Some people (like me) simply enjoy the action of misting itself, finding it greatly therapeutic
But here’s the problem: while spritzes of water do dramatically increase air humidity, they do so only for a few minutes before the water evaporates and diffuses through a room. To increase local humidity around your plants in any meaningful way, studies suggest that you would need to mist every five to 10 minutes. Simply sitting plants on a pebble tray filled with water, grouping them together to create little “humidity huddle” microclimates, placing them in rooms with higher air moisture such as bathrooms and kitchens, or planting them in terrariums, are all far more effective. So should we all be ditching the misters?
Well, it depends. Misting to increase air humidity may not work in traditional pots, but as a method of watering certain set-ups it can be highly effective. Take terrariums, for example, where air flow is limited. A spritz as little as once or twice a week can make a huge difference to humidity here as the moisture has nowhere to escape to. Likewise, misting can be an effective way to target dry patches on hanging baskets or mounted plants, such as stag horn ferns, which traditional watering may miss. While the primary goal of this is irrigation, not humidity, one does logically flow on from the other. So the net result is that this can indeed be successful.
Even on regular plants, the act of misting can help dislodge dust and dirt to keep the plant leaves clean, boosting not just their appearance but their efficiency as living, breathing solar panels.
Finally, some people (like me) simply enjoy the action of misting itself, finding it greatly therapeutic as they potter around their collection, inspecting, admiring and caring for their plants. The more you engage in this sort of activity, the more you are likely to catch problems such as pests early, notice if anything needs watering or fertilising and, of course, feel the joy of seeing the first evidence of a new leaf or flower.
With all these benefits, whether or not misting actually improves air moisture is almost irrelevant. If it makes you happy, enjoy it for all its side benefits. Just use other techniques to boost humidity as well.