Houseplants Can Touch The Wall (But You Might See Some Cosmetic Damage)

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Plants touching the wall is not that big of a deal. It can inhibit growth, or even damage new growth, but if your plant is otherwise in a great spot with good lighting and no draughts, leave it where it is.

If you want your plant to grow in a very bushy, full way, don’t have it touch a wall. If you rotate it, which is a popular way of encouraging growth all around the plant, you’ll just end up with leaf damage all the way around it, rather than neatly tucked away next to the wall.

Will touching the wall damage plants?

It can. The new growth on houseplants is very delicate – even touching it can lead to brown marks.

Also, plants don’t like to be touched. It can stunt their growth. Ideally, we don’t want leaves touching the wall, because that side of the plant won’t grow as well. Not only is it smushed up against the wall, but the light won’t be as good as it is for the other side of the plant.

Some plants, usually climbing plants, are really unbothered about their leaves touching the wall because it would be a hazard in the wild, and having leaves that are damaged beyond repair in the wild isn’t a great recipe for success.

Plants like pothos and heartleaf philodendron seem to be able to control their growth so that new growth turns away from the wall. Climbing plants that use aerial roots have a front and a back. If left to their own devices, the stem will naturally turn so that the back is to the wall. This serves three functions:

  1. The leaf won’t touch the tree/wall and get damaged
  2. The aerial roots are in the right position to attach as quickly as possible, providing stability
  3. The leaf is turned towards the light

In short, climbing plants should sort themselves out. If you move a climbing plant so that leaves are touching the wall, they should, in time turn to face the light.

Non-climbing plants don’t do any of this stuff. They may move to face the sun, but if a dracaena leaf is touching the wall, it’s unlike to be able to move it. You might get brown marks on the leaf, especially if the plant has unfurled into a wall, but it’s likely only cosmetic damage. If it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother the plant. If it does bother you, either move the plant or chop the damaged leaves.

Don’t chop off part of the leaf – it’ll just brown again as it seals itself up to protect from disease.

Can plants touch the window?

No. In summer you might be ok, but windows are COLD. I got brown tips on half of my dracaena leaves because I let her (literally) chill by the window.

Again, unless your house is freezing this cold damage from directly touching the window is only cosmetic, and it won’t travel further up the plant.

Touching walls is ok but not ideal because plants don’t like to be touched anyway. Being touched by something freezing is really just adding insult to injury. Will it kill the plant? Unlikely. But…it would prefer not to touch a window.

Even plants that are really cold-tolerant*, like cacti, won’t appreciate touching a window. It can lead to rot.

*Cacti are cold tolerant, but not frost/damp tolerant, so don’t be whacking them outside when it’s freezing unless it’s VERY dry.

Will plants touching the wall cause damp?

No, not unless you have hundreds of plants all guttating into your walls. Even then, they won’t produce enough water to do any real damage.

I used to live in a damp house, and my houseplants weren’t an issue – the issue was adequate ventilation and making sure it was warm enough.

The only time plants might cause an issue is if you’re overwatering them, and they’re not absorbing that water. This can be an issue in winter, especially if you’re a ‘once a week, regardless’ waterer. Only water your plants when they’re dry or nearly dry (depending on the plant)

How to stop plants from touching the wall

I mean, the first step is just to move them. Pull your furniture slightly away from the wall, and…problem solved.

However, there are some more sneaky things you can do.

As we’ve already discussed, you can adjust the way leaves face by moving the light. Strategically placed lamps and grow lights can convince your plants to move away from the walls.

With climbing plants, give them something to climb up. Many climbing plants have a habit of climbing walls, and whilst it doesn’t bother me, they can be a pain. I can’t think of any indoor plants (bar possibly ivy) that could do damage to your walls, but they could certainly interfere with paintwork.

With Monstera, I like to poke the aerial roots back into the soil. It keeps them compact and…I like it. For other plants, I like to use Kratiste poles, because I’m lazy and not a fan of maintaining ‘proper’ moss poles.

Final thoughts

Whilst touching the wall isn’t ideal, it’s also not life-threatening to healthy plants. It can lead to cosmetic damage but even that isn’t an issue because the ugly side is facing the wall.

The issue arises when you decide that you want your beautiful, for example, Pilea Peperomioides in a different spot, and when you come to move it the whole thing is leaning very obviously to one side.

It can be corrected in time, and it’s only an aesthetic issue, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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