Indoor Plant Displays and Central Heating

Provided with high humidity, many plants will enjoy the constant warmth that central heating supplies. Group plants in decorative displays and each will help to keep up the humidity level for the others.

Winter-resting plants

Many plants, and this includes most cacti, need a period of rest when the days shorten and at this time they also prefer cooler temperatures. If you have a room in the house which is not centrally heated, or where the heating is rarely switched on — a lobby or a spare bedroom for instance — then include a table or shelves to take these plants. A temperature in this area of 10°-13°C (50°-55°F) would be ideal.

Hot, dry air

Plants will usually cope well with temperatures that are slightly above or below the preferred level but in higher temperatures they will also need higher humidity. There are very few varieties that are able to cope with hot and dry air.

Using radiatorsIndoor Plant Displays and Central Heating

Use the heat from a radiator to provide warmth to the roots and leaves of germinating and young seedlings and other plants that enjoy warm surroundings. However, very few plants will be able to cope with direct heat and the low humidity that often goes with closeness to central heating. Happily there are ways of combating both problems.

Use a shelf above the radiator to show off the plants. Make sure that it is as wide as the plants’ leaf spread. This will deflect direct hot air away from leaves, prevent scorching and also allow space for plants to be displayed on a tray containing pebbles in water to keep up the humidity. Regular misting of plants will also increase the humidity level.

Use a terrarium or bottle garden

Plants that dislike the dry air of central heating will thrive in a terrarium or bottle garden. They also look decorative grown this way and need little looking after.

Checking heat

Practically all plants dislike extremes of temperature. This can create a problem in very cold weather if your central heating system is timed to switch on and off twice a day.

To check the swing in temperature use a maximum/ minimum thermometer, checking various parts of the house over 24 hours or longer. In this type of thermometer the indicators stay in place at whatever extremes of temperature have been reached.

You may find that one area of a room suffers much less from extremes than another and therefore could be better for a plant display. You can also learn which most suit individual plants, depending on each plant’s temperature preference.

Checking humidity

Most plants need to be surrounded by moist air. This means a relative humidity of about 60 per cent and at least 40 per cent. To gauge the humidity in the atmosphere you need to use a hygrometer and these can be bought fairly cheaply from garden centres. If the humidity is below 60 per cent use one of the methods overleaf to bring it up to a satisfactory level or you will soon have problems. The tips of leaves may dry up and go brown, or leaves may shrivel up completely when the plants are denied sufficient moisture to compensate for the dry air of a centrally heated environment.

Some plants that like winter warmth

Green plants

  • Aluminium Plant 15°C (60°F)
  • Avocado 17°C (64°F)
  • Banana above 15°C (60°F)
  • Bird Catcher Tree 15°C (60°F)
  • Chinese Evergreen 17°C (64°F)
  • Congo Fig 15°-18°C (60°-65°F)
  • Dieffenbachia 18°-21°C (65°-70°F)


  • Chandelier Plant 15°-17°C (60°-64°F)
  • Medusa’s Head 15°-20°C (60°-68°F)
  • Monanthes 18°-20°C (65°-68°F)
  • Rat’s Tail Cactus 15°C (60°F)
  • Ferns and Palms
  • Bronze Fern 15°-18°C (50°-65°F)
  • Bird’s Nest Fern above 15°C (60°F)
  • Dwarf Cocos Palm above 15°C (60°F)

Climbing & hanging plants

Decorative humidifiers

There are several decorative ways in which plants can be provided with the higher levels of humidity needed in warmer surroundings.

Plants have tiny pores, called stomata, on their leaves and these open to receive vital gases from the atmosphere. As they open, moisture is also lost from the leaves. When the plants are grouped, each provides the others with extra moisture. Plants in groups usually flourish, provided they have been chosen with the same light and watering preferences.

In a box

An indoor window-box massed with flowering plants of the same type and in the same tones will bring a wonderful splash of colour. Place plants in the box in their pots and surround with peat which is kept constantly moist. However, if you keep your central heating temperature high you risk shorter flowering periods, as most flowering plants last longer in cool conditions. Instead, use the box for plants that originated in jungle regions. They will create an exotic effect that could hide an ugly view through the window.

On pebbles

Use a large, decorative container such as a china bowl or low-sided basket to stand plants in. The basket will first need lining with two layers of black polythene to ensure there is no water leakage. Cover the base with about 3cm (1 in) of small pebbles or clay pellets and add water at room temperature to about half way up this base layer. Arrange a group of plants on top.

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