Is your heating killing your house plants? Here's how to find out

Dry heat and tropical plants are not a great combination; here's what to do to protect your indoor garden from drying out, according to RHS Flower Show judge

indoor garden ideas: plants from botanica studio dividing bedroom
(Image credit: Lucy Baker/@lucybakerphoto)

Your heating could be doing serious damage to your house plants, according to RHS plant experts. Most of the plants that we choose for their beautiful evergreen foliage to add interest to our indoor garden ideas are native to the humid tropics, and the conditions in our homes are often unsuitable, especially in winter. 

The RHS website says: 'Most houseplants thrive in warm rooms and even temperatures all year round', but it also explains that 'Tropical plants require a humid atmosphere.' While central heating ensures that the condition for warmth is met, it also dries out the air, stressing out your house plants.

House plants

(Image credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

What many people do in order to counteract this winter dryness is watering their house plants more than usual – but this is an almost certain way to kill your best indoor plants, according to Tom Brown, RHS Flower Show judge and Head Gardener at West Dean Gardens: 'Overwatering during the winter is the biggest killer. A top tip would be to use your finger as a gauge. When you push your finger into the pot, if it feels moist – don’t water, It’s easy to revive a dry plant, almost impossible to resurrect a sodden one.'*

If your plants are showing signs of suffering from dry air – curling leaves that are turning yellow or brown, or flower buds that are falling off before they open on flowering species – try increasing the ambient humidity around the plants instead. There are several ways to do it, though the most effective one is placing a humidifier in the room where they're kept. Misting will have little impact, but you can increase it by grouping your tropical plants together. 

House plants on a window sill

(Image credit: Unsplash)

If you don't want to spend money on a humidifier, it may be worthwhile reconsidering which plants you grow at home. If you tend to have the central heating on a lot, or live in a dry climate, then switching to learning how to grow succulents and cacti instead of tropical plants is likely to give you much better results. 

As Tom puts it, 'Many amongst us have had ''horror stories’' involving house plants over the years, but by understanding our green roommates a little more and by choosing those who have greater tolerance, we can all enjoy a healthy and harmonious home with our plants.'

There are plenty of indoor plant ideas to explore using dry air-loving plants – there is as much variety in this category as in tropical plants. 

* Quote courtesy of

Succulent and cacti

(Image credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

Anna writes about interior design and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.