Browning leaves on my Spathiphyllum

haggis_2006December 28, 2011

I try to water my plant regularly and keep it out of direct sunlight, but the leaves are getting brown edges and tips. What am I doing wrong?

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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

I would guess the humidity in your house may be too low. We heat with a woodstove so our house is only 25% unless I use a humidifier.

Best thing I ever bought for my plants was a humidity gauge.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2011 at 11:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Low humidity is often called upon to shoulder the burden of blame for spoiled foliage, but while it can certainly be a contributor and part of the big picture, the bulk of the blame more rightly belongs on the relationship between soil choice, watering habits, and the level of dissolved solids in the soil solution. So no one is left to wonder what 'the level of dissolved solids in the soil solution' means, it refers to anything that is dissolved in the water in the soil. The largest contributors are fertilizer solutions and the dissolved minerals in tap water - SALTS.

Soil choice holds more sway over how attractive your plants foliage looks than any other cultural factor, including light (within reason). Using heavy soils that cannot regularly be flushed of accumulating salts w/o fear of root rot issues leads to salt accumulations and or impaired root function due to excess water retention. Impaired root function means an inability to move water efficiently. First affected are usually the plant's distal (farthest from the roots) parts - leaf tips and margins. This one/two punch reminds me of an old Tennessee Ernie Ford song called 16 tons. Some of the words go

"One fist of iron, the other of steel,
If the right one don't getcha
Then the left one will"

Heavy, water-retentive soils leave unwary growers to make the choice between watering properly (so you're flushing salts from the soil when you water) and risking root rot because the soil remains saturated for extended periods, especially in winter when metabolic rates often slow considerably; or, watering in sips to prevent root rot, which then promotes an accumulation of salts in the soil (solution).

It's like asking the question, "Would you rather have your plant's ability to move water impaired by a high level of salts in the soil or by poor root health/function"?

I should explain that it requires a higher level of salts inside of plant cells than in water outside of the cells for water to enter the cells. As the level of salts in the soil solution increases, it becomes increasingly difficult for the plant to take up water and the minerals dissolved in water. If the level of salts in the soil solution becomes higher than the level inside cells, water actually moves OUT of cells into the surrounding stronger solution. This is usually accompanied by the tearing of plasma from cell walls as the cell collapses due to water loss. The technical term is plasmolysis, but we commonly refer to it as fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn doesn't have to result from an over-application of fertilizer. Most often it happens so slowly we don't associate cause with effect, and it's A) caused by the gradual increase of salts in the soil B) usually attributable to a heavy soil and accompanying poor root health/function C) often exacerbated by low humidity levels or other environmental considerations that increase demands on the plant's ability to move water.

I fully understand the importance of root health to the o/a health of the organism, and I use soils that don't come with the inherent issues described above. I simply do not have any problems with spoiled foliage on anything I grow. A healthy root system starts with a healthy root environment. Healthy roots and the ability to MAINTAIN low fertility (salt) levels while still providing all the essential nutrients is the key. That state of root health and low level of dissolved solids (salts) is as easy in a favorable soil as it is difficult in an unfavorable soil.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:13AM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

Five or six years ago my Mother was given a small variety of spathiphyllum. Mama was not a plant person but she loved this one because it was a gift from a doctor she adored.

I took care of it for her since she had a tendency to let it completely wilt and then water it and her hands didn't allow her to repot. I repotted it once a year in the Spring and the pot flushed every six or eight weeks.

Long story short, her spathiphyllum developed browning leaves. They didn't bother Mama so I let it be. It was her plant and if she was happy, I was happy. BTW, humidity levels in her apartment ran between 20-25%.

In July of last year she asked me to bring my house. Despite living in her own apartment, she saw it often as she spent nights and most days with us because of declining health. Mama, who was 88, died in September so you can see this plant and its well-being are important to me.

"Mama's Plant" has been in my office with humidity between 50% and 60%. Guess what? With no other changes there is nary a brown leaf on any of the growth since July and the leaves I trimmed of the browing haven't continued to deterioriate.

So, while I agree there can be many causes for browning leaf edges, it is always a good thing to check humidity; especially tropical plants which were probably raised in a high-humidity nursery and come naturally from a high-humidity environment.



    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 7:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think we can all agree that humidifying at least the rooms in which we keep our plants can be very helpful in maintaining their appearance. I humidify my basement growing area because it goes part and parcel with a holistic approach to growing; but even wiser than keeping a watch over humidity levels is not ignoring the elephant in the room by disregarding the importance of root health and a low level of salts in the soil (solution) to the organism's ability to efficiently move water.

Spoiled foliage is a symptom, not a disease. While we can 'treat' dry skin and hair by slathering on a variety of moisturizing products, I think we would all agree that a diet and lifestyle that naturally promotes healthy hair and skin is better for us as organisms and more highly preferred to treating the symptoms.

Those plants I have growing in my house (humidity about 30-35%) and at my office (which has no supplemental humidification whatever, so it is literally drier in winter than the Sahara Desert) also show no spoiled foliage, clearly illustrating that healthy foliage is within the reach of virtually all growers w/o supplemental humidification (though again, it is certainly helpful) and particularly w/o misting.

If we ask ourselves if it makes more sense to treat the underlying cause rather than the symptom, the reasoned answer in most cases would come back, "It's often comforting to treat the symptom, but better to treat the underlying cause."

Another way of looking at it: If you rely on high humidity to save a plant from spoiled foliage, and the plant develops spoiled foliage, what then? If, however, you focus on a healthy root system and a low level of salts in the soil, something easily attainable, it should keep the plant looking good, even at low humidity levels. If a problem develops, you would still have the safety valve of raising humidity left in your bag of tricks.

The point is, low humidity is seldom the primary underlying cause of spoiled foliage. Looking at spoiled foliage as a symptom of poor root health and/or a high level of salts in the soil, with low humidity a possible contributor, should logically lead us to the want to correct the underlying issues ...... or better yet, to adopt practices that keep them from occurring in the first place. Raising humidity, even though it can help mitigate symptoms, simply does not fix the underlying issues.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:40PM
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How is the "best" way to keep SALT from building up in the soil?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 10:09AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're definitely on the right track when thinking in terms of prevention instead of remediation. It's better to prevent a problem than trying to fix it.

The best way is to adopt a soil that allows you to water copiously every time you water. A thorough watering to beyond the saturation point, so a significant fraction (at least 15%) of the total volume of water applied acts to flush salts as it passes through the soil, carrying those salts with the effluent (waste water) as it exits the drain hole. Since this requires the adoption of a soil that has excellent drainage and aeration, you get the significant added benefit of a root environment conducive to root health and metabolism. This not only means a much greater reduction in the likelihood of spoiled foliage, but a healthier plant as well.

Alternately, to keep salts from building up when using heavy, water-retentive soils you should regularly and thoroughly flush the soil of these accumulating salts. Heavy, water-retentive soils can severely limit your ability to water properly because watering properly when using a heavy soil carries an inherent risk of reduced root function/metabolism and root rot due to anaerobic (soggy) soil conditions. To avoid these soggy conditions, watering in sips so as not to over-saturate the soil is a prevailing practice. This type of watering ENSURES that all of the salts that are dissolved in fertilizer solutions and your tap water remains in the soil unless used by the plant. As salt levels rise, root health/function, and thus the entire plant, suffers from difficulty moving water efficiently.

To prevent this, you would saturate the soil completely with room temperature water and let it rest for 10-30 minutes, then pour a volume of water equal to at least the volume of the pot the plant is in through the soil at least 5 times (or the equivalent if using a hose or kitchen sprayer). After this operation is completed, you'll need to reduce the water volume in the soil. There are several ways you can accomplish this. 1) You can unpot the plant & set the soil mass on a mat of newspaper or paper bags. These will 'pull' excess water from the soil quickly & you can return the plant to the same pot. 2) You can insert a wick through a drain hole. If used correctly, the wick can 'fool' the excess water into 'thinking' the pot is deeper than it really is. The water moves down the wick, 'looking' for the bottom of the pot. The water molecules being pushed from above by gravitational flow potential of the water in the soil and pulled by gravity from below, force the excess water to drip off the end of the wick. 3) If the planting is small enough & not too unwieldy, you can hold the pot at eye level & lower it quickly toward the sink (downward), then reverse the direction (upward) you'll see a lot more water exiting the drain hole. Do that several times until no more water exits the pot.

All the above are effective at removing excess water from the soil after watering thoroughly or flushing the pot, and provide some measure of protection from the effects of a soggy soil; but it doesn't eliminate or reduce the effects of compaction and poorly aerated soils ..... which is why adopting a well-aerated and fast draining soil that works to inherently prevent salt build-up is preferred and more effective.

To be sure, raising humidity is a valuable tool, and I don't want to give the impression that I'm discounting it's value. I simply feel that attacking the problem at it's roots is by far the more productive tack, and offers significantly greater benefit in the form of greater opportunity (by eliminating additional limiting factors) for plants to grow to their genetic potential.

I'll be glad to help if you have additional questions about anything I've already offered, or if you want to explore soils and nutrition in greater depth. The closer you look, the more you'll see how everything is tied together. The more information you have, the greater will your ability be to use your observations to confirm what you've learned - a much more effective and faster way to learn than relying on experience and learning only from being bitten by the error half of 'trial and error'. ;-)


    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 12:48PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Spaths love water. When I worked in the nursery, my boss had one in the water fountain. It was underwater all the time. He called it a swamp plant. It flourished there.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 3:01PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Images often help lead to an accurate ID of the underlying problem. Any chance of that?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 3:12PM
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Haggis...As Jean said, a picture would be helpful.

There are different reasons leaf tips brown. Lack of humidity and chlorine in water. (I save plain old tap water in cleaned, milk containers, mist daily, and shower once a week,) to prevent leaf tips from browning. These simple procedures do the job.

Again, a picture would be helpful, but for the time being, water 'when soil is a bit on the dry side' using room temp water. Keep in a container about 24 hours before giving a drink.
Trim brown tips, but don't cut into green. Leave about 1/8" of brown, otherwise the brown will spread.

If you have a humidifer, great..Humidity is not only helpful to tropicals, but people and pets, too. Take your Spath to the sink and give it a good shower. 'Hopefully your sink has a hose.' If the soil is wet, aim directly on leaves, avoid adding more water to the soil.

Give it a try and good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 4:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think it's unwise to assume that since spaths survive in a fountain, that they love water unconditionally. Even though the plant may appreciate boggy conditions in situ, they don't in containers. For one thing, plants whose roots are subjected to continual immersion grow a different type of root tissue (aerenchyma) that allows the root system to be fueled with oxygen from the top of the plant. This tissue cannot make the transition back and forth between well aerated and soggy conditions. Conversely, the parenchymous root tissues of plants grown in soil or other aerated media are unable to absorb water and nutrients adequately under soggy conditions, and the plant drowns/starves in a sea of plenty.

We know that fluorine and chlorine added to drinking water can negatively affect plants. You can't filter it out unless you are employing hyperfiltration (reverse osmosis); the fluoride compounds were never volatile and don't gas off; and, the chlorination chemicals now being used are specifically formulated to increase the half life of the chemical, making them more effective, but nonvolatile as well. In fact, allowing water to remain setting out in open containers actually concentrates the chemicals as water evaporates from the containers; this, because the volume of chemicals remains constant while the water volume diminishes.

Unfortunately, misting and showering a plant is not going to have any measurable or visible impact on your plant's appearance ..... other than the fact the occasional shower can help keep dust off the leaves. With there being almost 1,500 minutes in each day and with the grower misting once or twice, the effects of which generally/generously last no longer than 10 minutes, it's easy to see how difficult it is to make a case that misting can bring any relief (1,490:10).

Like clockwork, the reports of spoiled foliage will increase as the need to provide supplemental heat for our homes increases. The drier air often created by central heating increases the demands on a plant's ability to keep its distal parts hydrated. When it can't, usually because of compromised root function and/or a high level of salts in the soil, the symptomatic leaf tips and margins begin to appear or spread. Even though raising relative humidity is helpful, it's difficult to argue against the wisdom in taking the steps to ensure roots are healthy and working efficiently.

If a Dr has a patient with heart failure, he knows that he can relieve some of the difficulty breathing associated with the condition by providing oxygen; but he understands that while he can treat that symptom, he needs to remedy the problem so the symptoms go away. He may prescribe diuretics and other appropriate medication to rid the patient of the underlying cause. In most cases, the Dr will look closely at lifestyle choices and urge the patient, offer the patient, help in the areas that need improvement so the entire organism can return to good health. Another good example is, an aspirin and a cup of coffee in the morning may relieve an alcoholic's headache, but it's a lot better for him as an organism if he rids himself of the alcohol habit.

So it is for plants. Ridding your plants of a compromised root system and adopting practices that ensure low levels of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil solution are not only the most efficient way to keep foliage looking good, it also provides widespread benefits for the entire organism in many other areas, including systemic function, health, growth, productivity.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 5:53PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

Hi, Haggis:

Check out the link below to see fascinating information about spathiphyllum. The writer show how he grows them in clear plastic boxes in the rainforest reparium at The Exotic Rainforest in Arkansas.

It is my belief anything we do to our plants with the idea to improve their condition and health can only be positive. Barring pests or disease, raising humidity, potting in an appropriate mix and flushing to reduce accumulated salts are all steps in caring for any plant.

You might also check the aroid forum or the International Aroid Society ( for information from specialists.

The IAS site is one of my favorites. Wait until you find out how many hybrids you can acquire. You might find your one spath is not enough! I know I did; that's why, in addition to "Mama's Plant" I have six different far. :-)

Happy New Year!


Here is a link that might be useful: Exotic Rainforest

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 8:32PM
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Plants react different per environment; plants do the darnedest things.

To say it's impossible for a tropical plant to be cared for, bog-like or any other way, especially after living successfuly in a fountain, is simply incorrect.

Some people break every plant rule known to man, yet grow the nicest, healthiest specimens around.

I've known people who potted African Violets in butter tubs, receiving little sun, not to mention, no drainage. Their AV's flourished beautifully.
Others have grown Holiday Cactus and Amaryllis indoors, year Thanksgiving or Christmas their plants were filled with blooms.

I'm not saying people should run out and purchase a fountain, then set their Spaths inside. What works for some may not work for others.

I disagree with the poster above.

Showering and Misting works. Plants are a lot like humans. They breath and need nutrients to survive as we do.

Same concept with plants. Misting isn't going to raise humidity a complete 24-hour period, but it helps to a degree. There are other measures to follow. Humidity treys and humidifers maintain a good amount of humidity.

Spraying and Showering cleans foliage. Dust particles clog plants' pores..same as people. Since plants are a lot like humans, 'they breath and need nutrients,' they require similar needs.

If spraying was useless, and since plants are like people, why should we bother showering? Daily showering. After all, dust particles are in the air. We cannot escape dust.

Everyone needs to bathe. A 10-minute shower isn't going to keep our bodies clean indefinitely, therefore we need to hop in the tub or shower daily.

A humidifer eventually runs out of water. Again, the same concept. In order to keep it running properly, it needs refilling. Adding water.

Very few things are everlasting...especially living, breathing beings.

One reason I find misting important is, being up close I get to inspect plants for insects or disease.
Second, spraying cleans foliage.
Third, there is a noticeable difference.
Last, IMO keeping leaves, 'and the area' clean, there's less chance of insects and disease. 2006, I was having family problems. I was in deep depression and gave up. Stopped spraying/showering plants throughout winter. Mind you, I have over 300 plants, .25+ which are tropical, some over 30-years-old.
By spring, my plants looked horrible. Spider Mites galore. Dead leaves. What a mess!

As for using room-temp, tepid water...get two Spider Plants. Water one using water straight from the tap, the second w/water that's sat out 24 hours or more. You'll see the difference.

There's nothing better than experimenting. The best way to learn.

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck, Toni

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 8:33PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello, All! And New Year's Greetings!

My Spathiphyllum happens to be blooming at the moment, and it receives direct light and lives in
a rather dry house (humidity is about 20 percent this time of year). Frequent watering in a porous,
fast-draining soil, along with consistent fertigation, will get your Peace Lilies back on track.

I have heard that spraying down the foliage of a plant will cause the plant to shut down for
several hours, before resuming normal transpiration rates. I heard this from a Professor at
Sac State, and I am curious if there's any truth to this? Obviously, rain soaks leaves in nature....
so the impact can't be that deleterious.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 3:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Josh - Happy New Year to you, too. I wrote an article several years ago and posted excerpts from it to this forum back in July of '08. It explains what you're referring to:

I really don't think it useful at all [misting], and probably detrimental. The only time I EVER mist is when there is a mite problem, and then it's just because I use the water as the vehicle to deliver alcohol, insecticidal soap, or some other anti-pathogen.

I also think that in almost all cases where growers are seeing poor foliage during the winter, it can be attributed to the plants inability to take up water efficiently because of soils with a high TDS level (total dissolved solids) [salts]. Poor, or slow [draining] soils that need to be watered in sips, absolutely guarantee progressive accumulation of salts from both fertilizers and the solids dissolved in tap water. These solids make it increasingly difficult for plants to take up water, and can even reverse the flow of water so it is drawn from cells instead of entering them. (like salt draws moisture from dried meat and fish) Since humidity levels are low in the house and the roots cannot move adequate water to compensate - we see necrotic leaf margins & tips.

This might be too long and technical for most to want to wade through, but it illustrates how misting actually is detrimental to most plants. I wrote it for a club newsletter:


I personally view misting as an exercise in futility when raising humidity is the goal; and there are some compelling reasons, rooted in plant physiology, why we may wish to reconsider the habit/practice of misting, even if we set aside the fact that it helps for only a couple of minutes and has no residual benefit. There is also the possibility that water dripping from leaf to leaf or plant to plant will carry and spread insects and other pathogens, especially fungal spores. Misting does help satisfy the nurturing side of growers who adhere to the practice, though. ;o)

There is something very important about misting that no one EVER mentions on these forums. In many, probably more than half of all plants, exposure to rain causes rapid suppression of photosynthesis by inducing stomatal closure and causing temporary decrease or cessation of the photosynthetic mechanism. Examining plants exposed to several minutes of misty rain often reveals complete stomatal closure within 2 minutes, with a 30-40% decreases in photosynthetic ability within 1 hour. In addition, it often takes many hours to several days for plants to return to a "pre-rain" ability to carry on the efficient business of photosynthesis.

Moisture on leaves and/or in the air surrounding plant foliage will determine the humidity difference (gradient) between the gasses inside of stomata and outside of the leaf (this is termed the saturation deficit). The humidity level just inside stomata is usually very high as they are normally full of water vapor, which will move out rapidly if there is a steep concentration gradient in humidity, i.e. if the surrounding air has a low humidity. This causes a drop in turgor [water pressure] which closes stomata. If you equalize the gradient, or raise surrounding (relative) humidity turgor remains constant so stomata remain open.
Some discussion of "diffusional resistance", or things that slow down the diffusion which would occur naturally based on the water vapor concentration gradient (slow water loss through leaves), is required to understand the effect of misting. Primary considerations: the "stomatal pore" and the "boundary layer". Most, (almost all) transpiration occurs through the stomatal pores. We already saw that plants slow water loss by closing their stomatal pores when water is in short supply, but it occurs when something slows transpiration as well.

The blanket of unstirred air on the outer surface of the leaf is called the boundary layer. It helps insulate the leaf against water loss because it becomes nearly completely saturated with water vapor. The thickness of the boundary layer might only be a few thousandths of an inch, but depends on the degree of air movement, which blows away the boundary layer. If there is no air movement, a thicker layer and slowed transpiration results. More wind gives a thinner layer and rapid transpiration. At high wind speeds, the stomata usually close to prevent this rapid water loss (see above).

You can see examples of how the boundary layer works in cacti and plants that are pubescent (hairy). Most are slow-growing. I have read that the primary reason, indirectly, is stomatal closure due to the more effective boundary layer slowing transpiration and thus slowing photosynthesis.

So - we have seen that rain or mist on leaves obviously slows water loss from foliage by making (near) perfect the boundary layer. Since this slows transpirational loss, it closes stomata and also slows photosynthesis, which is not a good thing.

Even though we may not be able to expect the a negative impact on every single species of plant, I have concluded (for my own purposes) that an increase in relative humidity in air surrounding the plant is the most effective way to keep stoma open and insure optimum photosynthesizing ability and vitality. Remember, that there are abundant other factors that influence stomata function - light, temperature, internal plant rhythms all play into the equation, but far more plants will experience reduce photosynthetic ability when exposed to rain or mist than will not.color>

I think too, that if you include houseplants (as opposed to simpler plant forms like mosses, lichens, algae ....) among the earth's higher organisms, that plants are the organisms most unlike humans. We frequently see anthropomorphic tendencies (attributing human characteristics to animals, plants, inanimate objects .....) in the way many people relate to plants, when science is clear that our relationship with plants is anything but.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 4:39PM
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Happy New Year's, Josh!!!

About plants slowing down/halting growth when leaves are sprayed/rained upon.

My dh spent 18 months in northern Viet Nam in the early 70's.
He's relayed this story a million times, probably because he understands my love for plants.

Anyway, the soldiers chopped down Musas/Banana trees. The following morning, the rain would come. Yet, the center core of the Musa trunk grew at least 4"...

Tropical 'rain' forests..Morning mists to heavy downpours fall from the heavens, daily....depending on time of year.
Yet, plants grow rapidly and lush.

Another example. If you have an area where nothing but weeds grow.
After a storm, weeds double and even tripple in size.

Now think about deserts. Considering they get 'X' amount of rain per year, and even though C&S's hold water, they're slow-growing. Do you get where I'm coming rom?

Heck, if rain halted growth, from spring until autumn, my plants would be carried in and outdoors whenever clouds filled the sky. That would be a LOT of work..way too mch work.

Just a thought. Toni

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 6:27PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

Almost anything advised on this forum is based on non-scientific/non-specialist opinion and our experience in our own growing conditions. And that includes mine. Specialized forums not so much; but general "houseplants," yes.

Many believe that misting and raising humidity helps their plants (I am one of them); not because of any anthropomorphic tendencies (save that for people with dogs; as a dog trainer I could cite you hundreds of examples). I have plants to relax: They don't bite or make fun of you like some dog owners. :-)

You can read 100 opinions on misting and humidity and find just as many pros as cons. Same with soil, watering, fertilizing and anything else. It's all a matter of what *you* find works for *your* plants in *your* environment.

"Mama's Plant" had no changes except added humidity and here it is today. Yet I am told humidity is not necessary. All I can say is Mama would be proud to see it growing so well and I'm not going to lower the humidity to prove myself right or someone else wrong.

And to paraphrase a recent private correspondence: Posts should be to generate light; not heat. We might all remember that by expressing our opinions without denigrating or scoffing those of others. It should be easy to do. As I used to remind my dog obedience instructors: You cannot get help those you offend.

Of course, that's just my opinion. :-D

Linda (who is off her soapbox and about to prove she's no photographer)

Mama's Plant ~ Growing in a 4" Oyama Planter with a 3:1 perlite/MetroMix 366 and fertilized with 1/2 strength Dyna Gro "Grow" formula. And flushed every six weeks or so until water runs clear.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:07PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, Toni, thanks!

I agree that there are many plants that grow well in humid, tropical environments,
but I think Al mentioned that approximately half of all plants (maybe more) are dramatically
affected by moisture covered surfaces. I'm also thinking that even those plants from humid
regions will probably have slightly different needs/preferences when grown in a house.

During the Summer, my Black Bamboo (which is a grass) will grow 20 inches in a day,
so I'm thinking that certain plant species will extend or push growth prior to the
development of the leaf-surface (as with bamboo and bananas, et cetera).


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 4:22AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

While a plant's sole source of energy is ultimately the sun, with the plant trapping the sun's energy through the process of photosynthesis, plants are organisms well adapted to storing energy for future use. This is clearly illustrated by the example of the banana tree chopped off at or just above ground level. It wasn't the rain that occurred during the night that caused 4" of new growth; that would have occurred with or without the rain and with or without sunlight as part of the equation. It was simply a function of the plant employing some of its stored energy and reacting according to its genetic program. Waxing anthropomorphic, I think we could safely say that plants, like humans, stand to gain from something (stored energy) put away for a rainy day - to help them overcome adversities.

Weeds that grow after a rain aren't growing because the foliage became wet. They grow because prior to the rain they were drought stressed. Rainwater, absorbed by the roots, alleviates the limiting effects of a water deficit ..... something better compared to our watering our plants when they are dry, instead of misting.

Plants grow better when we systematically and effectively eliminate or reduce the limiting effects of those things that have influence over growth and vitality. While it's easily plausible to imagine that raising humidity can help in cases where root function is inadequate to effectively move water to the plant's distal parts, it's considerably more difficult to imagine there are any measurable or observable limitations imposed on a plant by not misting regularly. Not only does misting raise humidity surrounding the plant for only a very few minutes, it does impair photosynthesis in many plants. I would also reiterate my own anecdotal observation that because I never mist Unless I'm spritzing with water/alcohol to keep mites under control) and never have problems with necrotic leaf tips and margins, as evidenced by the many hundreds of photos I've posted, that misting is at best unnecessary in our quest for unblemished foliage.

In the end, I think it's far from unscientific to observe and suggest that root health, root function, and the plant's ability to move water efficiently holds most sway over the appearance of the plant's dress. By all means - increase humidity if you can - if you have had problems or suspect the development of problems, but don't expect misting to have a measurable or observable effect on your plant's appearance, growth rate, or vitality.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 1:23PM
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I agree that every individual has to do what works best under his or her particular conditions and circumstances. For me, misting works. For you, decide for yourself.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 6:06PM
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I think that in order to find any agreement, we must accurately call a spade a spade, from a scientific viewpoint. Keeping science, biology, and physics in mind, it can be accurately said that a quick spritz from a bottle of water a time or two within a 24 hour period will not change the relative humidity surrounding the plant enough to make a difference, and will certainly not place us any closer to optimal growth.

"We each will do what gives us the results we find satisfactory as individual growers"... might be a more accurate way of wording a statement designed to stop the buck in its tracks.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 3:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Jodi - In my initial post, I emphasized the importance of soil choice, a low level of dissolved solids (salt) in the soil, and promoting/maintaining optimal root health, to the appearance of our plants. I think the OP would gain from your experience, insofar as what you discovered during and after the transition from the heavy (water-retentive) soils you had been using to the well-aerated and fast-draining soils you currently use - specifically relative to your plants' appearance, but also relevant would be your observations regarding o/a health/vitality/growth rates.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 5:24PM
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Linda, Belated Happy New Year's!

My advise, like many other members on various GW plant forums was/is learned from experimenting. Information originally read in plant books and talking to nursery owners...back in the day.

The same applies to soils, mediums, fertilizers, insecticides and other products like SuperThrive.

In part, misting not only increases humidity, especially when plants are grouped together, but removes dust and gives one a chance to inspect plants for insects/disease.
I like that.

I agree. People should get along despite opinion/s. Life is too short. There are enough problems in the world..if all whom enjoy plants and plant care can't get along, it's time to give up.

BTW, I meant to ask. Are you a professional Canine Trainer?

Linda, I read your first thread, checking your Spath's age.
I'm terribly sorry about your mom. I'm certain Mama's Plant has a lot more sentiment than your other plants.

Mama's Plant is doing brown edges/tips..looks like it just came from Fl. :)

Is it a mini or medium size Spath? It's hard to tell by the picture. Not that it's fuzzy; in fact the coloring is vivid and clear, however size can be deceptive.

Josh, you're welcome.

I understand what you mean about growing indoors/containers vs native habitat, but don't you agree parroting, (as much as possible) a plants environment important, too?

For instance. Placing a desert plant in the brightest, direct sun, instead of a shady corner, or a high-humidity plant in a terrarium instead of beside a heater??

Different degrees, yep, to a degree. :) An Episcia growing outdoors that receives daily rain will flourish in moist/wet soil...
In an average household, that same Episcia will rot.

"I'm also thinking that even those plants from humid
regions will probably have slightly different needs/preferences when grown in a house."

True...but if other conditions can be met by artificial means, 'air supply, #1 priority,' the difference would be slight. Very slight.

Christopher, Belated, Happy New Year's!

Righto! Different strokes for different folks... :)

Jodik.. Belated, Happy New Year's!

Why not a long spritz? :) I agree, misting one or five times a day isn't going to make an average home equivalent to a green house.

Especially when a humidifer, showers and humidity treys are included. Add all together and plants will be quite content.

Also, as I stated above. Spraying removes dust. A dust-free plant is a happy plant.
And a chance to inspect for insects.

Conclusion: Whatever works for our plants is of the utmost importance..whether one mists or doesn't.

In my case, I feel spraying helps. The next person might deem it a waste of time. All that matters is our plants are healthy and look their best. Toni

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 11:17PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

Hi, Toni:

Thank you for your condolences. Mama was 88 and was healthy right up until the three weeks before she died; we should all be so lucky!

The spath is one of those small ones. It's in a 4" pot if that helps.

And yes, I am a professional dog trainer (retired). I do consultations now.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 11:40PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

My guess would be the the most benefit to regular misting would be that it bring the caretakers of the plants into a more intimate relationship with their plants allowing them to notice small issues before they become large issues.

In tropical environments when it rains, surprisingly, everything doesn't stay wet for very long. Because it is so hot, droplets on leaves mostly evaporate with-in an hour or two. When I was in Costa Rica, it would rain and the temps were 90-95F (32-35C) with a heat index of 114 to 120F (45-49C) After an hour or two you could go walking out under the canape and not be dripped on at all. Walking in that humidity felt like swimming! This is hardly a situation that can be compared to the home.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 9:51AM
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Hey Linda. Would you happen to know if your Spath is a wallisii?
Wallisii's don't grow larger than 1' if that.

I haven't seen one since I worked at Rentokil Tropicals back in the 90's. We'd get them in all the time..I should have got one when I had the chance.

Hey Danny...Belated Merry Christmas & Happy New Year's.
Haven't seen you around for some time. Toni

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 12:19PM
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