Why I Shower With My Plants And You Should Too

Written byJen Greene

Animal lover, plant enthusiast, and addicted to the sunshine and warmth in San Diego.

April 8, 2021

You read that right. I’m that crazy plant lady who showers with her plants. 

Before you hit that back button, let me explain. It’s only my houseplants, and I’m not like, bathing with their leaves. We happen to have a shower large enough that I can stick a few in there with me, but even if we didn’t, I’d be using weekends to lug my plants into the bathroom and giving them a shower of their own. 

Why am I like this?  

So let’s take a little detour to my background, which is reptiles. 

What on earth do lizards and snakes have to do with showering with plants? Not much. It’s about humidity. 

See, the thing with snakes and lizards and frogs is that if you don’t get the humidity right, you can tell way before the creature dies as a result. Snakes and lizards don’t shed well, your frogs will bury themselves in soil or spend their entire day sitting in their water bowl, and some reptiles or amphibians will completely stop eating.

Having spent nearly a decade of my life working with reptiles, not to mention the vast majority of my life keeping them as pets, I’ve come to learn how to maintain humidity and the extremely essential role it plays in the life of most reptiles. 

You can’t just spritz a spray bottle at the cage a few times and call it good. No, no, no. If you live somewhere that gets Humidity, like Florida or the general region of the US South, you probably have an inkling of what true ambient humidity should feel like: the air is thick, moist, and you just feel sticky and gross, especially if it’s hot. Have you ever had a day where it was so humid that anything you hung out to dry just…didn’t? 

That’s how tropical climates tend to be all the time

That’s also the main thing that tropical reptiles and tropical plants share: they come from the same place, and it is muggy. as. shit. 

costa rica is wet

You may recognize some of the plants in this photo; I’m not sure exactly what they all were, but this is from our trip to Costa Rica and these were all just landscape plants. It was so humid, and rained so much, these were just used in-ground as decoration. Or they grew wild, either option is plausible. 

See my shoes? They were out and sheltered from the rain so they could dry. 


They never dried out at this spot – it was an open air house with no AC (so no way to decrease humidity), and neither did my socks. I just threw away the socks. 

The critter walking by is a little Coatimundi, and he (and his friends) were regular visitors. Neat experience, but not for the faint of heart. 

muggy costa rica

I share this, and the previous photo, to provide context: Costa Rica is Humid As Shit. We were there in the rainy season, which was super cool on one hand – but I really can’t describe for you how absolutely muggy and humid it was. 100% humidity is a level of humidity that makes you feel like you can touch the air. You took a cold shower not because you liked the cold water, but because a hot shower just felt…silly.

Climates like this are where many, many of our treasured houseplants naturally come from. I saw SO many pothos climbing telephone poles I didn’t even take pictures – they developed huge, fenestrated leaves and were just amazing. Folks from south Florida or Hawaii probably know exactly what I’m talking about; in the right type of climate, these plants climb and grow like weeds. This is part of why they’re popular houseplants: they’re super hardy!

Many of the velvet leaf or big, giant-leafed plants that have become popular in the last year or so aren’t quite so indestructible. Philodendron gloriosum, P. mamei, P. gigas are all species I keep that are in that category of “don’t quite need a greenhouse here but they’d probably appreciate one”. Some species, especially the more delicate Monstera species, need a high ambient humidity level to truly thrive.

Bringing this back full circle to my initial reptile analogy: we keep reptiles and amphibians in glass terrariums, with limited airflow and controlled climate conditions in the form of heat mats or heat lights. To get humidity high enough, adding sphagnum moss, bedding, hiding spots, and layers are needed as well as regular misting of the cage or the use of foggers. Even then, even in these dedicated little cubes of glass meant to keep humidity up, most people struggle immensely. 

As an example, my Amazon Tree Boas (which can be found in the part of Costa Rica we were in!) do best with humidity that regularly is in the 80%+ range for at least a couple hours a day, preferably more. I need to use a full liter bottle of water, as well as sphagnum moss, orchid bark, and multiple hiding areas with additional moisture-retaining bedding to give them appropriate humidity to thrive. Even with all of that effort, if our house has the heat or AC running, I routinely need to provide extra moisture or even block off some of the ventilation to ensure moisture stays in their cages. 

What does that mean for me and my houseplants? They’re not snakes. 

I use the creatures and how much effort they require for ideal humidity conditions as an analogy for how little we do for our tropical house plants, especially at first. These are plants that would thrive with air flow, 80% humidity, and regular rainfall. 

Instead, we have them in our houses, maybe close to a window, maybe not. The more doting among us may mist the leaves every morning, or maybe just water them when the soil looks dry. 

Does that seem comparable to humid jungle conditions? Is it any wonder that new leaves don’t always unfurl properly, or that they emerge deformed? Average household humidity can be anywhere from 40% – 60%, often lower if you’re running some form of climate control and it doesn’t have any type of humidifier built in. Spritzing your plants with a spray bottle, as satisfying as it may be for you, doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot for increasing ambient humidity with your plants. With reptiles, it only works if you add a LOT of spray to the cage, and block off ventilation to keep humid air in. If you’re not doing that for your plants, then a spritz with the spray bottle won’t have much impact. 

What is comfortable for most of us here in the US is far too dry for our rainforest-loving plants. But it’s not like we necessarily need to turn our homes into greenhouses either, do we? 

I mean…unless we want to. 

plant shower

Plant Shower! 

Plants That Shower Are Happy Plants

If your shower is big enough to share some space with a couple of your plants, lugging them into the bathroom with you for a nice steamy sauna on a rotating basis isn’t a bad idea. I usually rotate through 2 or 3 at least each day, with my Dracula Orchid getting a daily shower-watering. If I plan to fertilize or do a seasonal preventative pest treatment, I’ll bring in all the plants from a given area at once (as pictured above). 

The reason for the shower is not because it’s necessarily superior, but because it provides a nice dose of ultra-high humidity – all the steam from your hot shower and the running water adds a ton of moisture to the air, which is exactly what they crave. Using the shower to water the plants is helpful, but isn’t your only goal. 

Benefit 1 for plant showers: flushing your soil 

When using the shower to water your plants, you can (carefully) let the soil get thoroughly saturated and allow the water to clearly flow out of the bottom of the pot. I tend to point the shower head away from the leaves, towards a wall or open spot on the shower floor, one by one I’ll hold the plants in and out of the flow to ensure the soil doesn’t just wash over the top lip of the pot. After a minute or so, I’ll see water clearly running out of the drainage hole, and I tend to let the water run over each plant for a little longer before putting it down and moving to the next. 

What this does is flush out any build up of salts, minerals, or other types of potentially problematic funk in the soil. You want to ensure that the entire pot, and all of the soil, gets thoroughly watered and it all has a chance to get water flowing through it. This keeps the soil from getting overly compacted, and again, washes out the salts and minerals. If you’re regularly using fertilizer, or have very hard water, this helps flush out the stuff that gets left behind. 

If you have very hard water, or your home has a water softener, occasionally (every couple months or so) flushing the soil with RO (reverse osmosis) or distilled water may be helpful for you. Both types of highly filtered water are so lacking in any minerals or deposits that they tend to pull them out of the soil, especially when it comes to salts, which is why you don’t want to use that water for your regular routine. 

Philodendron mamei

New leaf on my Philodendron mamei just a day after a shower helped dislodge the new growth. 

Benefit 2 for Plant Showers: Humidity and Leaves 

Going back to my little analogy about humidity, your home is too dry for most plants to be happy. Many of our less common philodendrons, monsteras, epipremnums, alocasias – they all would much rather be living with a humidity level that would make you deeply uncomfortable. 

The biggest way you end up seeing this play out is in the new leaves. Has your philodendron ever had a leaf where the stem seems to get…stuck…in the body of the leaf, and the stem pushes out through the leaf and it’s all weird and broken looking? 

philodendron mamei

Same mamei, less babying: you can see a broken stem at the top growth point as a result of the leaf getting trapped in the sheath, and the leaf at the bottom made it out, but not without damage. 

The way that this can be (and has been since) prevented is to provide additional humidity while new leaves are being produced, particularly when the leaves are right at the cusp of being released from the protective sheath. 

Regular showers provide the plants with nice “humidity bombs”, but unless you’re providing that level of humidity daily, it’s not likely to have a consistent long term effect. Instead, strategic showers combined with keeping your more delicate plants in clusters to help increase their little area of local humidity will have a better effect. More so than just spraying your plants, keeping a group of them in one area will actually help increase their little area of effect for humidity. Plants breathe, and that adds just a teensy bit of humidity. With 4 or 5 or 8 plants all close together, their little area will be more humid than the rest of your home. 

New leaf care is highly dependent on plant species!  

New anthurium leaves are much more prone to damage as a result of the heavy water impact of a shower, so you should use caution if you’re bringing your anthuriums into the shower. They can, and do, benefit from the soil flushing and humidity, but you should ensure that new leaves aren’t in the tiny-red-baby-leaf stage before exposing them to the impact of shower water droplets. 

Benefit 3 for Plant Showers: Wash Dem Leaves 

In addition to increased humidity for a period of time, flushing the soil, and pretending that you’re in a tropical jungle, a thorough shower on your plants also washes off the leaves. 

This is good not just to make them look pretty, but also to wash off any potential pests or the dust and debris that tends to attract said pests. You can deter many a pest with simple mechanical means: ie, you physically remove them.

And the easiest way to physically remove pests and dusts is with….a shower! 

As long as your water isn’t coming out of the shower head at like, Mach 4, you should be able to hold up the plant to the spray and get each leaf. If the leaves are flexible enough, get the underside as well. 

Philodendron verrucosum

Tips / Tricks for Plant Showers

Not all indoor plants need showers: notably, most begonias probably shouldn’t be dragged into the shower. While they grow in environments that do get rain, your typical shower or overhead watering is significantly more likely to lead to leaf rot and plant death than careful watering of the root base or bottom watering. Tiny plants, such as jewel orchids or seedlings, also don’t really need a shower – they need humidity chambers and consistent, high levels of humidity. I’ve also never brought my string of turtles into the shower either, mostly because it’s never seemed to need it – they drop leaves at the slightest pressure, and do best when left undisturbed and given consistent water. Showers are better suited for large-leaf plants that typically grow in humid climates, or plants with textured leaves that may be more prone to picking up pests. 

Watch your water pressure! If you have super high water pressure, get creative. Blast the side of the shower, or use a flat object to make the water hit your plants indirectly instead. You don’t want to pressure wash your plants, you want that “intense rain storm” effect, so use a bit of caution. If you can’t use water from the shower head, I’d still suggest sticking them in the shower and then filling up a watering can or container and watering them until you see water streaming out of the bottom of the drainage hole. You’d be surprised at what hides in pockets of soil if you never ever flush it.

Do this when no one else needs to use the shower after you. Or don’t, if you want your partner to hate you. Ideally, you’d leave the plants overnight to drain and wallow in their bathroom sized humidity chamber, but plenty of us have lives and can’t remember things like this all the time. I try to leave the plants in the shower to drain for about half an hour, which minimizes drips but does mean the shower can’t be used for anything else for that whole time. Hope you’re not late for work.

If you’re fertilizing or treating your plants, do it after the flush. The point of the plant shower is to wash everything out of the soil. If you’re adding stuff back in, like pesticide or fertilizer, add it after you’ve had a ton of water flowing through the soil. Otherwise you’re just adding stuff in to wash it right back out.

Careful with baby leaves! While the humidity and water helps philodendrons release their baby leaves, that’s not necessarily the case for all plant species. When in doubt, use indirect water or just wait until the baby leaf has grown and hardened off a bit. I have an Anthurium magnificum I can’t listen to my own advice about and all of this poor plant’s new leaves are mangled from showers.

But you don’t have to be TOO careful. Philodendrons in particular seem to benefit a ton from some nice warm water running over the baby leaves, and monsteras seem pretty impervious to the water as well. When in doubt, be careful, but you don’t necessarily have to sit there using a spray bottle in the shower to protect every single new leaf. In my experience, it’s been entirely anthuriums that are susceptible to funky leaf after water hits the baby leaves, and it’s usually just when the leaves are very small. Unless your water pressure is at the level of “cleans paint off sidewalks”, you’re probably fine.

Warm/hot water and watering your plants is fine. Don’t use boiling water, obviously, but the average warm water that you’d shower with and not turn lobster red from the heat is probably fine. If you emerge from your shower the color of a tomato because of the water temperature, you’d probably want to turn it down a bit for your plants. My plants have never indicated any shock over my usual toasty-but-not-too-toasty shower, and the benefits of the shower and humidity seem to far outweigh any issues that could, maybe, or might arise from nice warm water being used instead of typical cold tap water.

Frequency should be regular, but not necessarily often or constant. I find every week or two when it’s very dry inside is plenty, and it drops to once a month when the weather is nice enough to open up the house. Running your heater in winter, especially with central HVAC, will really drop your humidity, as will running the air conditioning. Naturally, this varies depending on your region and style of climate control, so watch your plants and your growing conditions to determine what your plants’ ideal frequency is.

This sounds like a lot of work, Jen. 

It is. Honestly, lugging the plants around and paying close enough attention to which ones need more moisture is kind of a pain. 

Which is why I have hundreds of cacti and succulents, and only a few dozen tropical plants.


Pretty much all tropical houseplants can benefit from the occasional shower. Your pothos, heart-leaf philodendron, your fiddle leaf fig and your hoyas all would appreciate a nice wash every now and then. For the hardier, less finicky plants, a nice flush and shower leaf wash is something that you could do as a spring and fall clean up kind of thing. 

For the harder to care for species, this type of effort starts to be almost required – or at least, can feel like it. If you’ve dropped a mint on a plant, is it really such a surprise that it probably needs some babying to thrive in your home? Many of the more exotic species need a lot more effort than your typical pothos. 

That being said, some of the pricier plant varieties don’t really need this level of effort, such as the Monstera deliciosa varieties. Keeping the leaves clean and soil flushed will help ensure they produce large, luxurious growth and look their best consistently. 

You can follow along with my indoor (and outdoor) plants, as well as silly chicken escapades, by finding me on Instagram: @trexplants!  

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