Should you water the leaves of a plant?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

This won’t be a very long article, because the upshot is basically…

…try to avoid watering house plant leaves

The key here is ‘try to avoid’. If you accidentally hit them it’s no big deal. In fact sometimes they like it.

Why you shouldn’t water plant leaves

In an ideal world, plants would have clear leaves all the time.

In the rainforests that most of our tropical house plants came from, the leaves would get wet when it rained. Like, every day. Sometimes all day.

Therefore, it can’t be an ‘Argh, my leaf got wet, I die’ situation.

BUT ALSO

The leaves don’t stay wet for very long. The warm temperature and wind mean that leaves don’t stay wet.

The getting wet part is FINE. It’s the staying wet part that causes issues.

Which plants hate having their leaves watered?

There aren’t that many specific plants that will suffer from ill health if you get their leaves wet.

HOWEVER some plants are more prone to get marks on their leaves if they get wet leaves.

The ones I know about are African violets, Anthuriums, and pretty much anything velvety.

These plants aren’t more prone to rot or anything – they just end up with white marks on their leaves.

The only leaf that I’ve come across that really, really HATES getting its leaves wet are maidenhair ferns.

Most of the plants we’ve tried in the terrarium thrived in there. To be fair, the maidenhair thrived too, but the fronds didn’t last. They went brown and died quickly, but there were dozens more fiddleheads unfurling.

The way to keep maidenhair ferns alive is to make sure the soil stays damp, the air stays humid, and the fronds stay DRY.

What happens if you water plant leaves?

If the water can run off relatively quickly, nothing. Except perhaps a few white marks.

The main problem with watering plant leaves is that the leaves can divert the water from the soil so a) the soil doesn’t get watered properly and b) you’ll end up with water all over the floor.

In fact, it’s helpful to wet plant leaves every now and again because leaves need to be clean to operate (that seems like the wrong verb, but I’m sticking with it) properly, and washing them with water is as good a way to remove dust as possible.

As well as cleaning the leaves of grime, watering the leaves can knock off bugs like mealybugs and thrips, and create an inhospitable environment for spider mites. Yay!

Is it ok to put plants in the shower?

Yes – in fact I think it can be one of the easiest ways to clean a lot of plants.

SURE, you can go around with a cloth and shine them all up, but my preferred method is to hose them all down in the shower, and then spray them all with neem oil.

Watering leaves can be beneficial sometimes

  • It can help keep the plants clean
  • It can help with keeping them cool
  • It can help with humidity (with enough airflow and warmth)

Why you should avoid watering plant leaves

So, if we’ve learned that watering house plant leaves isn’t that big of a deal, why do people still insist you shouldn’t do it?

The issue isn’t wetting the leaves – it’s the leaves staying wet.

Standing water on leaves can result in a breeding ground for bacteria, which is why I don’t recommend misting house plants.

I have a big terrarium with a Calathea velvet touch in it. There’s a fogger, but every now and then we thoroughly spray the whole thing down with a sprayer. The leaves get SOAKED.

calathea velvet touch in a terrarium

Buuuut not only is there no damage to leaves (bar the snail holes), there are no white marks either.

The terrarium is warm, and there’s a fan for airflow.

Basically, as long as the leaves don’t stay wet, the plant will be totally fine.

On warm days, you’re probably fine to spray your plants.

There is a bit of following behind the thinking that water droplets on plant leaves can increase burning, but that’s been largely debunked.

(Make sure they don’t have any oil or anything on them though.)

In winter, however, try to keep your leaves as dry as possible. By all means, shower them down, but dry them off after – perhaps a session with a *cool* blowdryer wouldn’t go amiss.

As I said, water on the leaves can cool them down – this is great in summer, but can be detrimental in winter.

Leave a comment