Should You Mist Your Houseplants?

"Should I Mist My Houseplants?"

Misting is an effective way to raise the humidity level around your houseplants. But it's not a long term solution to resolving low humidity issues, and by itself, reaching for the plant mister every few days won't make your tropical plants happy.

The lack of humidity in your home won't be solved by a good misting, and you'll need to look at other ways of sorting this problem out.

However, a spray mister does have several positive benefits and the rest of this article looks at these and fully explains why misting doesn't work by itself.

A mister between several house plants

Dry air can be a real problem for houseplants in some homes, especially during the winter months. But can misting really provide the extra moisture that they need?

What is Misting?

Before we delve deeper, let's make sure we're on the same page by explaining what misting is and why so many people think you need to do it.

All homes have a variable level of humidity that's measured in percentages (we have a full detailed article that goes into all this) whether that's low, high humidity or somewhere in between. Most homes will have a natural level of somewhere between 20% - 60%.

Humidity Levels in different rooms of your home are probably different.
Anything that dries the air and warms it up will cause the surrounding relative humidity to lower. Air conditioners or heating systems like radiators or wood burners are good examples.

But in the same home an unheated spare room or hallway could have much higher levels. This is another thing to consider when choosing locations for your indoor plants.

Many plants will suffer at the lower end and tropical indoor plants will really struggle with it. Most houseplants will tolerate the higher range of that estimate, however even at 50%+, that's not enough for some plants, which will demand more. Examples of these are the Fiddle Leaf Fig, the Prayer Plant or most Calathea species.

If you fail to provide what's needed, then you will typically see this in the plant itself. For example, crispy brown leaves for no apparent reason is a strong indicator of a humidity problem. If you constantly have Spider Mites, this could also be another indication as these pests thrive in arid environments.

This is where misting comes in. It's a highly recommended method to increase humidity levels to replicate those found in their natural habitat. This is done by using a mister or spray bottle to produce a mist of water droplets that gently fall and settle on and around the plant.

These water droplets then evaporate, which increases the humidity in the surrounding area. Your plant gets a huge smile and everyone is happy. That's the idea behind it anyway. The reality is a little different.


A mister being used to increase indoor humidity

A pebble tray can help create a more humid environment, but they're not always practical. So it's understandable that people turn to daily misting instead.

The reasons why misting doesn't work

For this one you just need to put on your science hat and think about it logically.

  • The misting effect is temporary.
    This is the biggest reason that misting isn't worthwhile in practical terms. As soon as the water droplets evaporate, any beneficial raise in levels dissipates into the rest of the room and away from your plant's leaves.

    Once I've misted my plants the moisture has gone well within an hour. I'd have to be reaching for the mister every hour or so to maintain a constant increase to my home's natural humidity levels. That just isn't practical for me, or most owners. Iowa State University agrees.
  • Many houseplants don't like constantly wet leaves.
    It doesn't make sense for most plants to store water on their leaves. They want the moisture around their roots after all. Water droplets sitting around on the leaves can weigh them down, or reduce the amount of light reaching the chloroplasts within the leaves.

    This is why most have evolved ways for any water that lands on them to filter away and direct water droplets off the leaves and down channels. Generally speaking any leaf which ends in a "tip" or funnel shape is a plant that doesn't want water on the leaf.

    Clearly, the occasional spray is unlikely to cause long term harm (most in their natural environments get rained on after all!). But studies have shown that water on leaves can reduce the plants photosynthesis rate.

    As you probably know, photosynthesis is the plant's way of generating energy used for growth and general maintenance. So if it's not producing energy it's not growing and the long term health of the plant could be affected.
  • Water marks.
    Have you ever heard that tap water can cause a salt or mineral build up around the plant's roots growing in the potting soil? Well it's true. So if you spray that water over the leaves, guess what happens? Yup, you're causing a potential salt and mineral buildup on the leaves.

    If this happens, the leaves will start showing ugly white, grey "water stains".
  • Fungal problems.
    Most fungi and bacteria need moisture to thrive. Unfortunately, regular misting indoors is the perfect way for this to happen. Combine this with warmth and the poor air circulation that's common indoors, and together you have a recipe for humid conditions that are a perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria.

    Naturally, the water will eventually dry, but constant misting can allow fungi or bacterial problems to take hold. Even if they don't finish your plant off, they can still leave disfiguring marks or damage. If there are random yellow / sickly looking spots somewhere on the actual leaf (not on the edges), then it's likely to be a fungi problem.

    Other plants with dense fuzzy leaves like the African Violet could quickly develop Botrytis (Grey mold) if there is too much water resting on the leaves.
Alocasia with fungal spores showing as yellow spots on the leaves

Tropical houseplants like this Alocasia dragon scale, like higher humidity levels, but misting can affect the health of your plant. This one has a fungal disease.

How misting can help your plants

It's not all bad news and misting certainly isn't a waste of time in certain circumstances.

  • You'll get to know your plant better.
    When you mist, you point and spray. But to do this you need to look at what you're doing. Misting occasionally is unlikely to be a serious issue, but it's an excellent opportunity to get to know your plant. You can spot incoming problems, see new growth and generally give it a quick visual health check.
  • Dusting / Cleaning.
    Houseplants get dusty. You can clean them down with a cloth or pop them under a shower every so often, but you can go longer between full "washes" if you mist the leaves. This can make a huge difference, as the water droplets from the mister will trap dust and help it to run off the plant.
  • Some plants will absorb moisture through their leaves or aerial roots.
    Certain plants will actually benefit from misting as this is an easy way to water them. Rabbit Foot Ferns with their specialised hairy legs and Staghorn Ferns with their white fluff are a couple that spring to mind.

    Air Plants are another plant that's covered in trichomes, so regular misting will mean longer between water baths and "dunks".

    Other plants like Monsteras have aerial roots that are capable of absorbing moisture directly. So in that regard, using an atomiser on them occasionally could be helpful and beneficial to assist them in meeting their water requirements.

Is misting houseplants worth it?

It's a myth that misting effectively solves the problem of low humidity. It can temporarily resolve it, yes absolutely, but as you can see from what we've said already, it's not efficient. It can also trigger or cause additional health issues for your plants.

Yeah, mist your houseplants if it meets one of the three benefits we've outlined already. If you do it occasionally, the highlighted negative issues should be rare.

Misting can't resolve the problem of low humidity levels in your home.

If you have a problem with low humidity and your plants are suffering then misting just isn't going to cut it.

Here's a 30 second video summary (click image to play).

The single best thing you can do is look into getting a humidifier. This is an appliance that increases the moisture in a single room by turning water into steam or water vapor before releasing it into the room. It will create a tropical feel and provide extra humidity (as long as it's switched on!).

Extensive houseplant collections that cover a large space might need to invest in a larger machine. But if you have a handful of tropical plants close together, there are some very good Portable Mini Humidifiers on the market that do a perfectly adequate job for a smaller space like this.

The one below from Amazon is less than $20 (not much more expensive than a good quality mister) and for me, it consistently increases the surrounding humidity in the room it's in to 70%+. (We do recommend this humidifier. Although this isn't a sponsored post we do have a Affiliate link to it below if you want to find out more).

A small humidifier giving out a fine mist of water

This humidifier from Amazon can really help create a tropical climate and prevent dry environments. My Philodendron White Knight (pictured on the right) loves it.

I own a mister. Several in fact. I know the science, but I do still love the act of going around and spraying them every few weeks. So yes it's worth it for me. But I'm not doing it to raise the moisture in the air. For that I use my humidifiers. They have a specific purpose and work well in helping to create tropical areas in my home.

Humidity levels are really important for many houseplants and can be the deciding factor if you can keep a particular plant for a few months, or keep it for years and years. Make sure you check out our "Humidity and Houseplants Guide" for more information.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years, Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the .

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