Increasing humidity to help out your plants

I have a lot of houseplants and have had to adjust to the strong sunlight and hard water in Battlement Mesa after moving from Aurora. I have hard water and a water softener, but apparently, it’s not enough. Most of my plants are doing great, but the two I am having trouble with have long green leaves: peace lily and Ti plant.

The Ti plant is in a shaded corner of the kitchen and the peace lily is in a shaded hallway, receiving only some filtered light. The leaves just burn up, some on the ends or all the way through. After losing two peace lilies, I decided to try distilled water. The Ti plant still gets brown leaves, and the peace lily is not thriving. I also have been spraying the Ti and the peace lily leaves with mist about twice a week or more since it is so dry here, especially in the winter. I do feed them occasionally.

Do I just have to give up on plants that don’t like hard water?

— Elaine

I think there may be several things going on with your houseplants. As you’ve surmised, our bright, intense sun can sometimes give these plants problems. Our clear air, low humidity and altitude produce pretty intense sunlight that can burn the foliage of plants that tolerated it in another part of the world.

Part of this may just be an adjustment on the plant’s part. Certain houseplants may be able to tolerate that direct sun but they’ll often burn a bit and drop leaves as they adjust to the new light levels.

You may be having some problems with our low humidity as well. Brown tips of the leaves of houseplants such as the peace lily and Ti plant you mentioned are usually due to that.

Misting usually doesn’t work well to raise humidity because it’s so sporadic. You would need to mist your plants several times an hour all day long!

The best way I’ve found to increase humidity is to place humidity trays around the plants that have trouble with this. A humidity tray is a fancy term for a oversized saucer that is filled with gravel. The houseplant is placed on top of the gravel and then the saucer is filled up with water making sure the bottom of the pot is above water level. As the water in the saucer evaporates, it raises the humidity right around that plant.

Having said all that, I think your biggest problem is with water. However, the problem may not be because of the hard water but instead the water softener. Hard water is simply a term for water that has a lot of dissolved calcium in it. This causes those white mineral deposits but really doesn’t cause problems with plants.

A water softener takes the calcium out by substituting sodium. This takes care of the mineral deposits but sodium can be a real problem for plants. It can be toxic in high amounts and it just destroys the soil. It makes the soil behave much differently than it should and that difference is detrimental to the plant. Sodium destroys the soil’s structure, drastically decreasing drainage and aeration in the soil.

I’d guess that most of the problems you’re fighting are due to water issues that have been made worse by the water softener. If you have a faucet or outlet in the house that isn’t hooked up to the water softener, I’d use it to water your houseplants. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep using distilled water.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens. com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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