Showering Them with… Water

I closed up shop on my rooftop garden this weekend. The terra cotta containers are all brought indoors and stored away for the winter. I’ll admit that while I’m sad to see it end for another season, I have begun to realize that I really need the freed-up time and energy to focus on indoor plants. Winter’s reduced light intensity and the dry air created by electric baseboard heating make keeping plants with a delicate constitution a battle requiring strategy and commitment. While this is going to seem a little insane and labor-intensive, a big part of my strategy for combating the intensely dry air involves 1. placement and 2. showering.

Here’s how I do it:

Placement: Organize and locate your plants according to their required conditions. We keep a humidifier in our bedroom for our own sake but it just so happens to serve as a great environment for humidity-loving plants. Plants that require warm, moist conditions are kept in that room, while dry, desert plants are kept elsewhere. The bathroom is an obvious choice for humidity-loving plants however my bathroom is windowless. Because all the humidity and care in the world will not allow you to forgo rule #1: plants need light…. for photosynthesis and all that jive.

Showering: Unfortunately I have too many plants to keep everything that needs humidity in the bedroom. Despite the warm, moist air it is a bedroom, not a jungle, and a small one no-less. Additionally, some plants just can’t seem to get enough humidity in which case they are also subjected to the shower treatment. Once a month, sometimes more, I schlep the begonias, epiphytic cacti, and citrus trees into the bathroom where I place them all into the bathtub and run the shower at room-temperature for several minutes until each plant is thoroughly soaked. I then shake them gently to remove excess water and schlep them back to their permanent locations. You can choose to follow along with rainy days as a way to mimic nature and keep a cycle, however baseboard heating can be so drying the typical rules (watering only during sunny days, and avoiding night-time showers) can be thrown out the window. I often take this opportunity to inspect each plant for diseases or pests and check the soil to see if it needs topping up.

Some plants can not make it through the winter without grow lights to help them along during the dark days of winter, but I am convinced that regularly showering the citrus trees is the main reason they have made it alive through the winter months in time to go outside for the summer.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Showering Them with… Water

  1. I like your idea of watering your epiphytic cacti and citrus trees with room-temperature water. It would certainly help them keep some humidity in their roots over a cold winter and wouldn’t harm them as much as if you used warmer water.

    Great idea to simulate with naturally occuring rain days.

  2. Depends on the grow light. Those little incandescent “grow” bulbs aren’t very good. They really just get hot and little more. Some herbs do better indoors with lower light levels. I find oregano and thyme particularly easy. The basil varieties that have textured leaves and woodier stems seem to do alright… ‘African Blue’, ‘West African’, even ‘Purple Bush’ basil. The typical sweet basils have a harder time and they also do better in the dry air. Mint isn’t too bad because it grows in shadier spots anyways.

  3. Stuart: I have heard of people doing this with their cacti… albeit following the weather patterns in the desert where the plants are really growing outdoors as a way to make sure they are watering seasonally. I tend to water my indoor plants through the summer months according to the weather outside… obviously supplementing when it gets too dry.

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