Is Air Conditioning OK for Plants? (4 Tips for healthier plants)

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Those hot summer days tend to drive us inside to the comfort of our air-conditioned homes. But the coolness is not exactly comfortable to other household tenants. If you have indoor plants, coexisting with them can be a little more difficult than expected.

An air conditioner is safe for most plants as long as they are not placed close to the cold air vents and a healthy level of humidity is maintained.

For optimal growth, most plants need five main things to flourish:

  • Light – sunlight provides the needed source of energy for plants to perform photosynthesis.
  • Heat – heat keeps life processes going, whereas the cold slows them down.
  • Water – water is needed in every living thing to keep their bodily fluids flowing, as well as helps with many other bodily functions.
  • Humid Air – humidity gives plants a moist environment and source of water while carbon dioxide in the air is used by plants to breathe.
  • Soil – nutrient-rich soil provides plants with a healthy place to stand their ground.

This does not mean you should feel like you have to sacrifice the comfort of your air-conditioned home to create a hot and humid environment for your plants, however. There are plenty of tips and tricks to create a beautiful cohabitation with your fabulous green friends.

Avoid Blasts of Cold Air

When livening up the interior of your home, make sure to place your plants in areas that are away from your air vents. The moving air dehydrates your plants, removing moisture they so desperately need.

Make sure to place your plants in areas that are away from your air vents.

The coldness of the air can also freeze the plants’ cells, blocking natural pathways, and making it more difficult for them to move nutrients and water throughout their bodies. In other words, cold temperatures can cause plants to starve.

If you notice your plants’ leaves going yellow, starting to wilt, or gaining dry, brown spots, the first thing to check is its location in relation to your home’s air vents. If they are nearby, move your plants. This is the easiest adjustment you can make for your indoor plants to keep them out of direct blasts of cold air.

But do not forget to take sunlight into consideration when moving your plants. Many homes are built in such a way that air vents end up in front of the windows, which means moving plants away from cold air also means moving them away from sunlight. Two options to avoid this scenario include moving your plant to a room with no air conditioning (i.e. a sunroom or conservatory) or investing in a shield or deflector that moves the airflow away from your greenery.

In any case, you should keep a decent temperature range for your plants. According to Just Add Ice, most indoor plants are best kept in a room that is consistently between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Recreate Lost Moisture

Because air conditioners act as a natural dehumidifier, indoor plants in an air-conditioned environment can lose a lot of moisture. Since many indoor plants are tropical, they need humidity levels at least between 40 and 60 percent.

An easy way to check your home’s humidity levels is through the ice cube test. Place two or three ice cubes in a glass of water, stir, and wait for three minutes. If there is no moisture on the outside of the glass afterward, then the air is too dry.

However, low humidity in your house doesn’t necessarily mean you need to give them extra-large doses of water every day; there are other ways to create a more humid atmosphere for your green roommates.

  • Spritz water on the plants – One of the best ways to get your plant the needed moisture is by misting its leaves with water. Just don’t over-mist. If you notice bulging leaves or discolored water spots, then do not spray your plant as often.
  • Create a rock tray – Another easy humidity hack is to place pebbles in a shallow tray, fill the tray with water, and set your potted plants on top. You’ll want to keep the tray of water full, but do not let the pot dip into the water at all.
  • Invest in a humidifier – Of course, another way to increase the humidity in your household is to get a humidifier. Be careful though, because too much humidity is not necessarily good for the house. It creates a better environment for hosting mold and bacteria.
  • Water more often, with a twist – Finally, the most typical way to give your plants moisture is to water them, but have you ever thought about using your AC to help with that? Most air conditioners form moisture on a drip line or hose outside the home through condensation. This water is pure—pulled straight from the air—making it perfect for your plants and saving energy and resources in the process.

Invest in Mini Greenhouses

If your plants are too sensitive to a cooler, drier environment, but you want to leave that AC on full blast, consider creating terrariums, which are little glass environments that act as miniature greenhouses for your plants. Using glass lets you still see and enjoy your greenery while protecting them from your beloved, but harsh environment.

Terrariums even make taking care of your plants a bit easier by requiring less watering than regularly potted indoor plants. This is because of the natural condensation that forms on the glass from the humidity within the terrarium, which then runs back into the soil and reabsorbed by the plants.

You can either purchase a terrarium at a gardening or home store, or you could make your own. It could be a fun project to do with kids, or just be a chance to get creative. They are super cute and add some fun character to any room.

Do Your Botanical Research

While most plants do not care for cooler, drier environments, some handle them better than others. When you are not sure what to do for your plants specifically, your best bet is to research which plants will do the best in your home environment. To help out, here is a quick list of some popular indoor plants and the kind of care they need in an air-conditioned home:

  • Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is a popular type of snake plant that can survive in most unsuitable conditions, which makes it perfect for an air-conditioned household or really anyone without a green thumb.
Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law's Tongue - Sanseveria - 6" Pot/unique-from jmbamboo
  • Pothoses are hardy plants that grow easily and simple to care for.
Costa Farms Easy Care Devil's Ivy Golden Pothos Live Indoor Plant, 6-Inch
  • The Peace Lily is super nice because, unlike most flowering plants, it can survive indoors in lower lighting.
Costa Farms Spathiphyllum Peace Lily, Gift Live Indoor Plant, 15-Inch, Green
  • The ZZ plant, or Zanzibar, is a good beginner plant that requires less water, which is nice for dry, air-conditioned homes.
Costa Farms ZZ Zamioculcas zamiifolia, Indoor Plant, 12-Inch Tall, White-Natural Décor Planter
  • Any type of succulent adapts extremely well to dry environments because of its ability to store water. This makes them great as indoor plants for homes that have relatively dry air.

Typically, any plant with large leaves will be able to handle an air-conditioned home while plants with delicate blooms will take it as a death sentence.

When in doubt if the plants you have in your home will survive in the kind of indoor environment you like, just take some time to do your research on how to best care for them, whether that be watering them more often, getting them enough sunlight, getting nutrient specific soil, or keeping them out of air-conditioned rooms altogether.

If you are trying to bring a little greenery to your home, why not place a flower or two in the bathroom as well. Here are 5 plants that will thrive in a humid bathroom.

Living in Harmony with Your Plants

Whether or not you think you have what it takes to care for indoor plants, there is no mistaking the benefits of having greenery around the house. Plants add some needed color and life to any home, which is why many interior designers love to dress up a room with some flowing leaves or spiky succulents.

Plants do not just bring a sense of freshness to your room, though; they literally freshen up the air by boosting the air quality in your home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, indoor pollution can sometimes contain 2 to 5 times the level of pollutants that are breathed in outside.

However, studies have proven that indoor plants can help reduce the amount of indoor air pollutants like ozone, which can be released by ordinary things like copy machines and ultraviolet lights, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are emitted by carpet, paint, and furniture.

Plants are not just a part of your home; they make your home. But you do not need to sacrifice your cooling comfort on a hot summer day for the humid needs of your plants. There are plenty of ways to coexist with these leafy tenants. Hopefully, some of these tips will help keep your plants healthy while you are able to enjoy your air-conditioned home.

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