Radiators under windows, how to deal with that?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAAugust 20, 2010

I am thinking of adding plants in a bedroom that hasn't had them before and I was putting together a list of what might work, when I realized that the best window for light, even low light, has a radiator under it. Most of my windows do. There aren't any plants that will tolerate sitting in front of a radiator, right? [g] So how do I handle that?

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That depends on how close they actually are to the radiator and the kind of plant, I guess.

My dorm, for instance, had a radiator right under the windowsill upon which I set my plants. Ferns didn't like it, but it never seemed to bother anything else. However, the adjacent window wasn't really insulated so that space never got THAT warm and the humidity didn't drop too much either.

You might want to post a picture of what you're talking about.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 4:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Rig a way to extend the windowsill outward several inches and widen it several inches beyond the radiator. Imagine the heat WANTING to go straight up, but it can't because it has to flow AROUND the baffle you've created. Insulating the surface to stop conduction might also be helpful if you discover your soil temperature wants to rise much above 65*. Try to resist putting plants too close to the edge of the 'baffle' to avoid them being bathed in the warm dry air you're trying to avoid. Put any drought tolerant plants toward the edges of the baffle. A pan of water on the radiator would be marginally helpful, as would a fan in the room to keep air circulating. A room humidifier would be VERY helpful in the coldest months. A soil and watering habits that will help you to keep salts from building in the soil will also be very helpful. It's ok and beneficial to fertilize regularly at reduced doses, as long as you ARE taking steps to keep the salts from building up. If you're stuck using a water-retentive soil, a thorough flush monthly will make a big difference in how your plants fare over winter.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:36PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

My 'radiators' are recessed into the wall so that only about 3 inches or so stick out into the room. Not really large enough to sit anything on. In one room last year, I did put a small wrought iron table from an outdoor set that has a plexiglass top in front of the radiator to get the heat to go up and out the front of the table and a large cookie tray with pebbles on top of it and the plants on top of that. It worked out pretty well, but this is for another room and I don't have another one. [g] I think this is pretty much what you are suggesting. Right?

I guess I just don't want to use this type of arrangement in every room. I was hoping to do something different, like have a large floor pot in a bedroom with a low light tall plant in it. So maybe I could just keep it away from the window? It is a difficult room for plants. It has an East Window but 3/4 of the window has a large Holly in front of it. It has a North window, without a radiator under it, but there is a single story garage facing the window about 4 feet away, so again the light is reduced.

I have not chosen any plants yet, so I can choose anything that works. I can't take a photo right now, but will try to get one this weekend. We're painting the room right now.

Thanks for the help...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 5:57PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Well, I speak from experience on this one. For what it's worth, 3 out of 4 of my windows have radiators DIRECTLY under them.

I live on the top of 6 story apartment bldg, facing due west. Because my apmt tends to be overheated to begin w/ & I don't have thermostatic controls, I simply turn down/ turn off certain radiators over the years. (I don't pay for my heat, maybe I'd feel differently if I did.)

In my conditions, I grow lots of succulents including Aloes, Haworthias, Euphorbias, Gasterias; all on or right near the window sills, I grow all the above.

Away from the windows (more interior into the rooms) I grow Sansevierias & Hoyas, lots of Hoyas, couple of Aralias & Ficus.

For one window I found a wrought iron stand w/ several shelves, the top of which is the same height as the window sill, so in essence it doubled the depth of that window's ledge.

I have all the non-succulents on pebble trays to add humidity, the Hoyas really need that.

I also keep all the windows open at least an inch or so all year long (1/2" minimum in cold winter), so there's always some air circulation.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 8:16PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

In the whole house, I only have one very small window facing south and it is not in a position to allow for plants in front of it. Only two usable windows facing North and 5 facing West. It isn't 'full' Western exposure, because there are mature trees about 40 feet out from the windows that cut off the sun late in the day. So I end up with about 3-4hrs of sun there. Not the best house for houseplants.

I have a couple of Succulents and a Cactus that was a gift. A couple of Angel Wing Begonias and a standard Hibiscus that just tolerates the winter. A couple of orchids. I had a Hoya for a long time, but it didnÂt grow much or bloom and I forget what happened to it. IÂm planning on getting an Aloe. Haworthias are very pretty. IÂm only familiar with the Âperennial outdoor Euphorbias. Never heard of Gasteria. So all of those would be great for my Western windows, but not either of these windows, I suspect. Not enough light? My Hoya was in my western window and never bloomed or got larger, just stayed the same for about 3 years. I admit I never fertilized it. [g]

I also have a pretty wrought iron plant stand that was given to me for Christmas last year. The top shelf is just below the window sill but above the radiator. It is a three shelf tiered arrangement and I donÂt know where I will use it yet. It wonÂt work in this particular room because it is too large.

Where did you position your Ficus? I would love to add a Ficus to this room, if it would work with my light conditions.

Thanks, pirate girl. :-) Well, off to paint!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 7:34AM
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You can always supplement your light with a few CFL light bulbs in a floor lamp. I use the cheap octopus lamps they sell in Home Depot, Target, etc. They can carry most plants over winter in dim light.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 6:56PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Jane, not sure what kind of lamp you are describing...but do you mean you use a simple floor lamp with a regular compact flourescent round bulb and not a long flourescent tube that you need a shop light fixture for? Are the CFL bulbs good enough for a plant, instead of one of those grow lights?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 8:43PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi again,

I continue to be thinking of this bedroom and I think that I would really like to have a lot of plants in it. Especially air cleaning plants for over the winter. Right now, the plant I am being drawn toward is a Ficus tree and wonder if anyone can advice me on whether I could make these conditions work to grow one here?

I've added a photo while the room is getting painted, of the two windows in the room and where they are in relation to each other. The one on the right is facing East with a shrub in front of it and has the radiator under it and the one on the left faces North with the building very close, and has no radiator. It's raining at the moment.

Can anyone advice on whether a Ficus tree will tolerate this room or would it need more light? Any other suggestions of what might like these conditions?


    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 4:52PM
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I have grown many orchids and used floor lamps for lighting over winter. I grew a ficus for many years in a bright, north window. It did very well. I brought it outside during summer and placed it in dappled shade. Your north window appears blocked by another building so I'm not sure if you would get enough light.

The octopus lights worked well as does cheap, clamp lights from Home Depot or Lowes. They have clamps which you can clip to book shelves or even the floor lamps. I used CFL's in those also (screw in bulbs.) I carried Plumerias over winter using these with larger CFL's (equiv. 150 wt.

Your west window could work for lower light orchids and many other plants with supplemental light. I'll look for some pictures of what I did. Wasn't the prettiest set-up, but worked.

We have moved to a new place and sold/gave away most of my plants.

Very pretty room and I love the paint color!


    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 10:10PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Jane, I am going to look into a light set up as you describe it and try a Ficus in front of that North window. I planted a nice Sky Pencil Holly outside that window that will block the building but more light too I suppose. It will take a few years to grow large enough to block anything though. [g] Not sure how much light that East window will offer either. I need to time the direct sun coming in soon. If I do get some lights, that might increase the selection I can try too.

I wouldn't have gone with lights if I had to have some kind of tube lighting because it would just be too awkward and large for my needs. So maybe I can find something that will work.

I would love to see a photo of your set up if you find it. That's too bad you don't have most of your plants. I've given up mine numerous times over the years, just starting to think of doing them all over again. Do you have many now?

Thanks, we love the color of the room too! In person it almost glows. it was a minor color in a duvet color and when we went to the paint store we followed the old adage to select one shade lighter than you think you need and it worked perfectly! First time I've been happy with a wall color the first try.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 10:22PM
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I love that shade. Before we sold our house, we repainted many rooms. I painted my bedroom Silver Sage, which appeared more blue than sage. I used white bedding with a pale blue coverlett and it transformed the room. I love blues with whites and beige. Enough decorating. You can grow many things with your lighting.
This is a photo of my old living room during winter. These were high-light orchids and I went a 'bit' over-board. But you can see the lights I'm talking about.

You could get away with one or two floor lamps. I like the octopus because you can point each light in a different direction.

A couple of small orchids blooming under a desk lamp with a 24wt CFL

This was a room in my house which only had one north window. I carried my 'warm' growers over winter under these lamps as their only source of light. Some would spike and flower.
Here is my ficus (left it behind for the buyers)growing in a tall, north window.

These are a few plants growing in my office. There is only one north window which is blocked by another building and a shade. These plants have grown in that window for 4 years. They were much smaller when I put them there.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 11:04PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Okay, now I see what an Âoctopus lamp is. Good description. [g] Well thatÂs a different way to have a grow lamp. Nice that you can aim them where you need them. ThatÂs a LOT of orchids! Do you still have any of them? I have two that I need to pay some attention to soon, but that's another post.

Your fig tree did very well in a north window. Very nice and gorgeous window! I had one a long time ago and I was happy if I could just keep it from dropping leaves. You have a nice little green oasis in your office too. It always surprises me that plants can tolerate low light. They look like they are doing well too. What is that large plant?

So, do you have any plants now? Any good windows? IÂve always wanted a south window for plants, wouldnÂt that be great?

I really need easy as pie for houseplants because I garden outdoors seven months of the year and winter is my break. I want to have the plants but I donÂt really want to take care of them. [g] I used to have a ton of houseplants when I didnÂt garden outdoors. I spent a lot of time on them and even had a gardenia that bloomed, but that was a long time ago. IÂm very rusty.

This was my one and only Hoya in my Western window, which has since deceased. I think I left it outside too long in the fall. And you can see my table with the tray of pebbles over the radiator there....

And a Hibiscus that I also killed and I donÂt even remember how. I had it for 5 years and it did well and would have a bloom here and there w/o lights....

That paint color is called ÂTidewaterÂ. I always enjoy names of paints. ÂSilver Sage how pretty. I like Blues with whites and beiges too. I think I am influenced sometimes to gravitate toward a color with a great name...lol. DoesnÂt it seem sad that we end up painting our houses and making them look great just as weÂre leaving them?

Thanks for the photos of how you used the lamps. I am going to look for one or two of those. Enjoyed seeing your plants very much. :-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 8:54AM
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It is sad. My house never looked so good until I had it staged to sell. One gets used to the surroundings and unless you look it at through another's eyes, you don't realize its potential.

I only have approx. 25-30 orchids with me and they are not doing well in these conditions. Frankly, I've little time to deal with them and they show the neglect. I sold/gave away my favorites and wound up with the plants no one wanted.

I prefer working outside also but now can only grow in containers on the deck. We are renting for a year.

You should have enough light to grow a number of plants. The radiatior should not be a problem with a tray above (as pictured) with water kept in the bottom. It will provide humidity. Don't let the plants sit in the water, use gravel or something to raise them a bit above. You can always stick an octopus lamp in the corner to provide extra light.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 2:20PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi PM2,

Can you pls. tell me what "[g]" means?

I see it several times in some of your comments & I haven't a clue what it means.

TIA = thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 3:20PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Jane, it sounds like you are in a transition at the moment. I hope when your year is up and you get into your own space again, youÂll pick up more of your favorite orchids. It does take time to care for plants and sometimes when you are busy and distracted they have to be a lower priority unfortunately. So you wait for the time to pick them back up again. It will come!

Thanks Jane, for all the suggestions!

pirate girl, [g] means Âgrin Just my sometimes dry sense of humor, or attempt at it. :-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 6:56PM
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