Daily encounter: Houseplants

Many houseplants grown in the UK originate in tropical rainforests where the average growing temperature is similar (from 18°C). The big difference is the size each group of plants grows.

Houseplant varieties in rainforest conditions grow much larger than in the home. A vivid example is the aroid family which contain many compact houseplants, but in rainforest conditions develop far larger leaves and grow very rapidly, as can be seen at The Living Rainforest.

Why rainforest plants grow larger

The bigger growth of houseplants in rainforests is due largely to the higher humidity in rainforests (above 90%).

The higher humidity increases plant growth by prompting ‘breathing holes’ in the leaves (stomata) to stay open for longer. The stomata would otherwise be closed in dry conditions to prevent moisture escaping from leaves; but when stomata are open, they let more carbon dioxide enter a leaf and, in turn, increase energy production and growth by contributing to photosynthesis.

The local light intensity, temperature, and soil moisture are also inter-related in stoma opening and the plant’s control of gas exchange and moisture content.


Place plants according to their required light levels and temperature. Feed and re-pot according to individual needs.


For the majority of houseplants, keep evenly moist. Avoid compost becoming waterlogged, especially if the plant pot is placed within an ornamental container where excess water can’t escape through drainage holes.


Increase humidity for tropical plants by misting regularly or standing pots on trays filled with damp gravel.


Protect houseplants from cold and windy weather during transit from shops and homes; wrap plants in a paper sleeve or a bag to minimise the plant’s environmental stress.

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