ferns and golden pothos around a bath

Can you keep plants in the bathroom?

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Bathrooms can be cold, stark places, and what better (and cheaper) way to brighten up yours than with a plant? Or lots of plants, covering every surface which is a thing that keeps cropping up on Instagram.

The only thing I can say about that is that Plantstagrammers move their plants around a lot. Don’t be fooled by the rows of cacti and succulents lined up along the side of the bath (also, realistically, does one want a cactus in such close proximity to one’s naked body?)

It’s often assumed that bathrooms are awesome places to keep plants because they’re naturally pretty humid at least once a day, and they can be, HOWEVER not all bathrooms are suitable for plants, and you may need to switch your bathroom plants around regularly in order to keep them healthy.

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Plants like ferns will thrive in your bathroom if provided with adequate light. However, bathrooms can be cold, due to the lack of cosy furniture and frequency of open windows, so if you live in a temperate climate (like the UK) and don’t want a massive heating bill, you may want to invest in fake plants for the winter months. I wouldn’t recommend keeping any plants in the bathroom over winter if the temperature regularly drops below 10°c/50°f.

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But yes, in general, you can keep plants in the bathroom. There are some factors you need to take into consideration though:

The light in your bathroom

If you have a bathroom that has no windows and you want to put a plant in it, I suggest you read this post about whether or not you can keep plants in the dark.

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Despite what Pinterest would have you believe.

That being said, if you have no regard for your bank balance or the state of the planet, then invest in some grow lights and a low light plant and you might be able to keep it alive for a while.

I’m lucky enough to have a south-facing bathroom window, which is almost too ideal to grow plants on – the ones I’ve tried (Boston fern, Asparagus fern, Calathea Leopardina) outgrew the windowsill in a matter of months.

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Although a south-facing window is not always ideal to grow plants (they can quickly get sun-burned), bathroom windows often have that wibbly glass that filters the light a bit, so we have every plant’s dream lighting scenario: bright and indirect.

If you have a small bathroom, you might be able to get away with having medium-light loving plants on shelves not directly on the windowsill. If you paint your bathroom white, all the better. A small room with a window and white walls will be able to bounce ample light around for medium light plants.

South and east-facing bathroom windows would be the best, but I can’t say for certain that a bathroom facing a certain direction will provide enough light without knowing a bit more about where you live.

If your bathroom is north-facing but it’s on the top floor and there’s nothing blocking the light that could get more light than a south-facing window that’s underground and obstructed by a house.

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Extreme examples I know, but you get what I’m saying.

I’m afraid you just need to observe your light. If you so desire, spend the day in the bathroom and see how long your chosen spot gets decent light for.

Or, you can buy a cheap plant and see if it grows ok in the spot.

Light can affect how plants grow – lack of light can lead to plants growing long and leggy (which basically means the gaps between leaves on the stem gets bigger). If that look is what you’re after, then go for it.

If not, either try a plant that requires less light, or try another spot.

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The temperature in your bathroom

Planterina told me (she said in her videos anyway, we’re not mates) that she doesn’t keep any plants in her bathroom over window because they can die from the cold.

Not many house plants tolerate really cold temperatures (don’t rely on their dormancy period to save them), and most of the ones that don’t mind/like a spell definitely don’t want to be moist.

If you want a plant in your bathroom over winter you could try a winter one like a Poinsetta or Cyclamen. Maybe I’ll do that this year (if my cyclamen ever emerges from its summer slumber) and report back.

ANYWAY don’t put your cactuses in the bathroom. They like cold spell (who knew?) but they don’t like the humidity.

If you were extremely determined to keep houseplants in your bathroom, you could run a dehumidifier (not in the bathroom, but maybe on the hallway outside) and crank up the temperature.

I wouldn’t recommend this because we should all be lowering our energy expenditure, not increasing it, and also it does you good to keep the air in your house turning over.

It’s good for your plants too – they don’t like stale, stagnant air any more than you do.

If you live somewhere where the temperature doesn’t drop in the winter and you can keep plants in your bathroom all year round LUCKY YOU. I’m not jealous AT ALL.

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Plants that can thrive in bathrooms

First I’m going to list plants that I’ve personally had success with keeping in the bathroom.

Btw, I’m defining ‘thriving’ as actively growing a lot.

Calathea Leopardina – though to be fair this little beauty doesn’t give a shit where she’s put, she forever looks beautiful and never stops blooming.

Boston fern – loved it in the bathroom so much and grew like stink. I only moved him out of there because the ends of his fronds were starting to touch the window pane and I didn’t want brown tips.

Asparagus fern – put out loads of new growth (which is weirdly fascinating to watch) in the bathroom. Technically he would still fit on the bathroom windowsill but only in a certain position which could cause him to grow unevenly. Also, he and the Boston fern are always together and I didn’t want to split them up. No, you’re weird.

Spider plants – I grew a couple of my tiny baby spider plants on in the bathroom. They grew quickly there, I think because there’s better light than the other places I tend to put spider plants.

The next few are plants that I’ve read love bathrooms, but that I’ve either not tried or that didn’t particularly thrive in mine.

Bromeliads – I’ve never had a bromeliad, so I don’t know. They’re epiphytes though, so I guess they’d appreciate the humidity.

Orchids – I had an orchid in the bathroom. It thought it was ok. It didn’t grow much BUT it was in recovery because it was a plant I inherited from my friend who had potted it in normal soil and chronically overwatered it.

That was months ago and the poor thing has only just started growing roots. I’m going to try it in the bathroom next year, but it’s a bit cool in there for now.

Dieffenbachia – well mine fucking died. Not that I’m bitter. At all. Not even a bit. I don’t think it was the bathroom that did it, I think they’re just my kryptonite, plant-wise. Never mind.

Peace lily – apparently anyway, I’ve never actually one because my boyfriend has a weird aversion to them. He loves my plant addiction and enables it all the time but he has a thing about peace lilies- almost like a phobia.

The reason peace lilies are said to do so well in bathrooms is that they need to be kept moist. However, personally, that would mean that they’re not a great fit for the bathroom because I’m always lazy with watering my bathroom plants. I assume the humidity will do a lot of the work and I don’t want to overwater them.

It’s for this reason I don’t recommend keeping Alocasia in the bathroom. Alocosia can go for weeks without needing more than a splash of water but then decide to grow a new leaf and need watering every day.

A plant that’s potentially that needy needs to be kept in the kitchen where I keep all my other finicky plants.

Top tip: keep all your thirsty plants together. If they’re spread all over the house you won’t be arsed to do it, or you’ll forget unless you’re a better plant parent than me, which is fairly likely.

Still, you may as well set yourself up for success.

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Plants that can survive in bathrooms

In that they’ll live, but they might not grow. Which, I dunno, just seems really sad.

My favourite thing about my plants is that if I look after them correctly, they’ll grow. And eventually I’ll live in a jungle and it’ll be incredible.

Snake plant – I kept a snake plant in my bathroom for years. Did it survive? Yep. But it literally didn’t grow at all, I assume because they’re not massive in humidity.

Once I moved it onto the windowsill of the spare room (west-facing) it thrived (throve?) and had a baby. Actually two – he had a pup all by himself and I took a leaf and propagated it. Plants are so cool.

Pothos – pothos are always top of the list of bathroom-friendly plants, I assume because they’re happy in medium light and fairly low maintenance.

In my experience, pothos’ don’t mind living in the bathroom, but they won’t grow particularly quickly. Mine do like the kitchen though.

Aloe vera – ok, I can see why this could live in the bathroom, but why would you make it? Aloe veras don’t like a lot of humidity but more importantly, who has the room? Those spiky bastards will stab you every time you go for a shower or a wee. Or are mine just a lot bigger and bad-mannered than other people’s?

Ivy – sure, get an ivy, it’ll grow in the bathroom. But be warned, those things attract bugs like no other house plant. Planterina recommends showering ivy on a weekly basis, which is more maintenance than I care to give to my plants.

My ivy is kept outside where it is ignored 99% of the time and is mysteriously still not dead. Especially since it has no drainage holes and is never watered or fertilised.

And obviously…

ZZ Plant – the closest thing you can get to a plastic plant. I love mine. It grows and grows merrily away to itself and never gives me a moment’s worry.

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Plants that’ll die in bathrooms

Cacti (and a lot of succulents) – they’ll rot. And then you’ll be that person that can’t even keep a cactus alive.

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Pros of having plants in the bathroom

  • It adds a bit of colour and freshness to your bathroom

I’m no interior designer, so I just fill my house with plants. That’s it, that’s the aesthetic.

  • You can keep humidity loving plants without shelling out on a humidifier

Provided you don’t suffer with excessive mould, your bathroom will be plenty humid enough for humidity-loving plants like ferns and orchids. But what about winter, you ask? Most plants slow down a bit in winter, so take your orchid or whatever out of the freezy cold bathroom and put it somewhere a bit warmer. It’ll be ok, although you can get a humidifier if you’re concerned.

  • You can check them whilst you’re in the shower

the best way to prevent problems (such as plant death) is to keep a close eye on your plants. When you have a lot, then it can be hard to find the time to inspect each one.

If you spend a lot of time in close proximity to your plant then you’re more likely to spot any problems early on, and be able to rectify them before too much damage is done.  What better way to waste time in the shower than inspecting your plants!

  • You can shower them too

Who can be arsed to dust the leaves? No one! Your bathroom plants can share your shower though. Pop them in the bottom where the water is cooler, and let that dust run down the drain (and hopefully any pests).

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Cons of having plants in the bathroom

  • You can forget to water them

You’d think you’d be more likely to remember to water plants that are in the bathroom, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they’ll be getting ample water from the atmosphere.

Whilst it’s true that your shower plants might need watering less frequently than your other plants, they’ll still need a good soaking when the soil’s dry.

  • They grow big and touch you in the shower

And let me tell you, there are few things more creepy feeling than the frond of a Boston fern stroking your bum when you’re in the shower. It is VERY unsettling, which is one of the contributing factors to mine going to live downstairs in the kitchen.

It’s this point that makes me wonder why people suggest keeping aloe vera in the bathroom. Unless you have ample space it will hurt you.

  • Your plants might die

Believe it or not, bathrooms are very unnatural environments. Orchids might prefer your bathroom (if it’s warm) to your living room but it is still, I’m afraid, not a rainforest.

Bathrooms are also places where a lot of strong chemicals are used that your plant might not like.

It might not like the draught if you leave the window open.

It might not like getting its leaves wet.

I mean, your plants might thrive in the bathroom, so I’m not saying not to risk it, I’m just saying that you need to keep an eye on how your plants are faring in there. Especially, you know, if you’ve dropped £200 on a variegated monstera.

Which, by the way, I would only put in the bathroom in summer if you have a lot of bright light, depending on whether you have one that could revert if not exposed to enough light.

Can you imagine spending £200 on a plant only for the variegation to go, leaving you with an £8.99 plant?

Nightmare.

I’m not sure I could ever spend that much money on a plant that could potentially lose its variegation. I’d maybe get a Thai Constellation or similar that won’t revert and just hope I get an all-white leaf.

I don’t know why I’m after a white-leafed plant. I really fancy a philodendron Florida Ghost, because all the new leaves are white. My philodendron Golden Dragon has just put out a new leaf that looks variegated, but I’m not sure if it’s just going green slowly. Fingers crossed for variegated.

I digress. Apologies.

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So, can you keep plants in your bathroom?

Yes or no.

It depends on your bathroom – how much light it receives (it needs to get at least some) and how warm it is. Oh, and what plants you want to put there. Low light, humidity-lowing plants will probably do ok, bright light, dry air-loving plants like cacti won’t.

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